Pullbox Reviews Miss Medusa’s Monstrous Menagerie- In a freaky world, they’re not so bad…

  • Miss Medusa’s Monstrous Menagerie #1
  • Unlikely Heroes Studios
  • Created by
    • Paul Hanley (writer, background illustrations, & colors)
    • Matt Frank (illustrator)
  • Additional Colors by Rob Cloma
  • Letters by Matt Krotzer
  • Additional “artistic flourishes” by Jon Kutzer
  • Ringleader, Laurie Foster

In a world full of “Mythics”, be they troll, goblin, insectoid, or lycanthrope, signing up for the circus is a little bit different. When Sharon Scherfenberg arrives for her appointment with circus manager & ringleader Gina “Miss Medusa” Tatapolous, it’s with a little case of the nerves. First, Sharon has never strayed far from her hometown, much less traveled far and wide with the likes of the muse Calliope or Belinda the singing Wasp-Woman of Sussex. Second, Sharon just isn’t used to being open about her family’s real background, coming as they did from a dwarven kingdom under the Bavarian mountains with the clan name of Stillevolk.

But, much like Mary Tyler Moore, Sharon is full of moxie. She’s clever, she knows and understands people, and she’s highly motivated to seek out this new stage of her life. Motivated by what, we’re not sure of right now, but working for Miss Medusa’s Menagrie is bound to give her all of the challenge she could hope for. May the great Ray Harryhausen have mercy on her soul.

Y’know, just around the time you believe you’ve seen just about every iteration of a circus story you can think of, someone out there throws you a curve. The folks at Unlikely Heroes have done that very thing by putting out the scenario of a traveling circus operated by beings of myth and legend. Populated by a host of interesting, occasionally hilarious characters, Miss Medusa’s Monstrous Menagerie is another example of why this publisher is turning out to be one of my favorite indie publishers running.

The creative team of Paul Hanley and Matt Frank have collaborated on a deep dive into the myth and lore of multiple cultures across the globe, but the folk they’ve come up with are anything but monstrous. Hanley has gifted his troupe with a collection of personality traits, quirks and all, to fill the Menagerie with an atypical assortment of “monsters”. As we’re run through the introductions, it becomes pretty obvious that there won’t be any maniacal monologuing or rampaging behemoths… except for one fire-breathing serpent but that’s just show biz. In fact, Miss Medusa herself is more foul-mouthed fast-talking business manager than infamous titan and collector of heroic statuary.

On the other side of the tent, Matt Frank has pulled from Hollywood classics of stop motion animation for his character designs. As you’re flipping through this book, running across sword-wielding skeletons, stone colossi, and smiling minotaur, you might feel some inkling of recognition. You’d be spot on as the book actually has a dedication to the work of the classic special effect maestro Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, and the original Clash of the Titans). Frank has taken it all in and used the inspiration as a base to concoct a cast of characters that had me scanning the backgrounds of every page to be sure I didn’t miss anything.

Across the board, from writing that carries sharp wit to a visual style that demands attention to the finer details, Miss Medusa’s Monstrous Menagerie is off to a great start. Its opening issue comes out strong, and there’s a lot of promise in those pages. As a fan of Super!, another fantastic and left of center title from Unlikely Heroes Studios, I kinda think I’ll be sticking around to check this one out. With one day left (as of the writing of this article) on a very successful (ie: “crushed”) Kickstarter campaign, I just might get the chance.

Final Score: 12/13

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