Project Monarch – Michael Avon Oeming & Victor Santos (Dark Horse Comics)

By the end of the first chapter of Project Monarch, you’ll feel as though your mind has been splintered into a thousand different pieces and projected through the Lewis Carroll’s infamous looking glass, by the time you reach the conclusion of the second instalment you’ll know that you’re not in Kansas any more and by the time the third and fourth acts have come to close, you’ll be unsure of which of the many tangled webs it spins, if any, to believe.

But that, was and is, Oeming and Santos’ intent with this masterclass in prestidigitation that explores the underlying, fundamental truth of all conspiracy theories. That nothing is what it ever seems to be, and no matter how deep you dig, the truth is always stranger than the fictions we make up to try and explain it. The problem is, that truth is always a lot more boring and staid than the fantasies concocted to make us feel more comfortable about the inescapable destiny that Orwell knew to be true. Some animals are more equal than others, and most of us will always be beholden to, and canon fodder for, a class system built on greed, selfishness, secrecy and the continuation of the eternal status quo that is the be all, and end all of existence.

In Project Monarch, Avon Oeming and Santos have constructed a beguiling and enticing fable that’s the four colour equivalent of an acid trip that explores, and at the same time deflates, the mythology of the Illuminati, “lizard people”, aliens, the Bilderberg Group and more, while ridiculing the idolisation of big screen entertainment, slavish devotion to celebrity, the dreams that we’re told that we should aspire to and the way we sometimes unquestioningly devote ourselves to movements, like Scientology, that claim they can and will, for a price of course, provide the answers that we’re looking for, while exploring the notion that faith is as individual as we are, and can be found in the strangest of places. Even in a piece of toast that bears more than a passing resemblance to Jesus.

Of course, there’s every chance that I might be reading more into this book, that is as artistically mind bending and detailed as the many tentacled plot that captures and whispers sweet nothings into your imagination, and that everything that I’ve just told you about Project Monarch is entirely a product of my own twisted take on the tale, and it could just be a simple story of a once famous director battling his ex-wife via their offspring to control the flow of information and truth being force fed to the public. That’s something that you’ll have to decide for yourselves, because the greatest trick that the every great conspiracy manages to pull off, just like the devil, is convincing the world that it doesn’t exist. Strap yourselves in and hold on tight, because Project Monarch is one hell of a ride that you’ll never forget… Tim Cundle

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