Looking Back at Titan Comics Monika

With Guillem March drawing a portion of Joker War, the James Tynion IV Batman crossover event (are there crossovers that aren't events now?), I figured I'd take a look at Monika. It's an example of what March could do outside of the confines of the big two American comics companies.

Monika volume one cover via AtomicJunkshop
Monika volume one cover via AtomicJunkshop

Published from Titan Comics in the mid-2010s, written by psychologist, novelist, and translator Thilde Barboni, Monika is an erotic thriller that focuses on two sisters, both of whom find comfort in wearing masks.

Of course, this one's tough to find. Titan published volume one in 2016, and volume two in 2017. There's only the French version on Comixology. In theory, Newbury Comics still sells their exclusive edition of volume one, and In Stock Trades still sells volume two. Who knows if they'll be in stock by the time we publish this piece. May the odds ever be in your favor, I suppose.

Overall, the two volumes of Monika form a pretty neat little package. It starts off erotic (March draws the hell out of a by invitation only masquerade ball for the rich), and then as the story develops, settles into the technological thriller angle. Monika and her friend Theo name their developing android Phillip, after Phillip K. Dick. The translation by Edward Gauvin is particularly good.

A page from Monika volume one via AtomicJunkshop
A page from Monika volume one via AtomicJunkshop

Monika hits a number of obvious thriller notes: Masquerade ball with shades of BDSM, voyeurism, and the liberation of wearing a mask or a different identity. March's artwork here is restrained and almost mysterious, with nice touches, like one character's lipstick matching the color of the shirt of their partner.

March's work here wouldn't be unrecognizable to someone who knows the artist from their exaggerated work on DC properties. However, perhaps the transition to watercolor and more realistic portraiture would take some getting used to.

I wonder how Monika would've done as a single volume, with a release date timed to a particularly large batch of work Guillem March did for Batman. There's a good story here, and in a different world, Titan could've capitalized further on it. Then again, hindsight's 20/20, and we don't know what restrictions the licensors put on the deal.