“Teach me, dear creature, how to think and speak;
Lay open to my earthy-gross conceit,
Smother'd in errors, feeble, shallow, weak,
The folded meaning of your words' deceit.”
– The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Set presumably in the early 1960s, the story revolves around Grue, a monster “born atomically” and living beneath the waves off of the coast of California in the hull of a wrecked nuclear submarine. With only a bunch of wisecracking crabs as company, Grue used to enjoy hunting down and feeding upon young hormone-intoxicated couples as they engaged in nocturnal trysts on the beach but ever since he discovered pages from Shakespearean plays rolled up in cola bottles floating in the ocean, his existence seems incomplete.
Irrevocably changed by the Bard’s iambic pentameter, Grue sets out to find the person who is behind the bottled Shakespeare and, just maybe, discover his own Juliet.
The black-and-white illustrations were just masterful – it never ceases to amaze me how elite artists can convey so much with so little. Panel after panel, writer/illustrator Case skillfully develops numerous peripheral characters (like gung ho policeman Henry Craw and his inept protégé Larry), conveys complex emotions, and creates undeniably rich atmospherics.
Although Dear Creature was visually compelling, it’s the narrative that made this graphic novel such an unforgettable read. Here’s a perfect example. Grue vows to stop killing and consuming humans – with little support from his invertebrate friends.
Grue: “The only patient spirit I’ll meet is they that cast these telling bottles into the brine! As with the more I read, my bloodlust doth recede, so shall a contact with its source defeat the urge withal… I’m sure of it!”
Crab 1: “Uhy…”
Crab 2: “Prom night is coming.”
I loved this book, especially the ending. Stylistically, it brought me right back to the days of my youth when I used to love watching B-horror movies like Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and The Blob – except in this story, the monster doesn’t eat the girl, he gets the girl! Dear Creature was a fabulous read that gives all of the human monsters out there (myself included) hope that even in a world obsessed with superficiality, anyone can find true love, even if you’re a radioactive sea mutant…
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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