Comics Catch Up: MonkeyBrain’s “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World”
Approachable (mostly) all-ages story.
Comforting magic tropes that ground the world in a magical reality that quickly makes sense to readers.
Catch up on our current favorite creator-owned title from MonkeyBrain Comics, “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World”.
Get all the details before #6 hits Comixology soon, and check out an EXCLUSIVE sneak peek below!
Man, I love Twitter. For more than five years now it’s been a great way for me to stay in touch with friends, colleagues, former students, etc. It’s also a fantastic resource for talking about comic books, which as you may have figured out, I’m rather fond of doing. A couple of months ago I started
hearing reading more and more about a title from MonkeyBrain Comics, “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World“, that had two elements that I don’t usually find in the comics I read regularly: a young female protagonist and magic. Old school magic, guys. Amelia Cole has a wand! (More on that in a bit.) There are spells and demons and travel between worlds. How had I missed this? And did you miss it, too? Get caught up with “Amelia Cole” below. Spoilers, etc.
Written by Eisner-award winners Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride, “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World” is delightful and approachable urban fantasy. It’s aimed at readers 12+ and up, but my 7 1/2-year-old read the first five issues with no problem. (More on that later, too.) In issue #1 we meet Amelia mid-battle with no exposition, save for her declaration that fighting a demon wasn’t part of her original agenda for the afternoon. In rapid succession she defeats the demon, breaks her wand and tries to meet a friend for coffee before discovering she isn’t in the magical realm (the one with the demons) after all. Oh, gotcha. Two different dimensions accounted for, neither of which is the unknown world in the title. And there seems to be a rift between them.
Amelia heads back to the magic world via a portal door she conjures with the assistance of some bright, fiery curlicues by artist Nick Brokenshire. Like the story, Brokenshire’s panels are sweet and approachable and packed with detail. Amelia’s aunt’s house especially is crammed full of great knickknacks on shelves and in corners. Amelia’s travel between the two realms has weakened the barriers between them. (Don’t you hate when that happens?) Aunt Dani and Amelia have no choice now but to close off the unmagical realm for good, but Dani sacrifices her life in the process. Before she dies she reveals that Amelia isn’t from either of the known worlds, and so at the close of the first issue of “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World” our heroine heads through another mysterious door portal to the third realm. It’s a one-way trip.
(This is the kind of first issue that leaves the reader wanting more answers without an overwhelming pile of questions, you know? I think that’s one of the reasons why “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World” worked as a story for my son as well – he was able to dive right in like he can with his kids comics and not have to stop frequently to figure out what the heck is going on. Brokenshire’s clean lines help with that focus, of course, but ultimately Knave and Kirkbride are telling a pretty straightforward story here. I keep using the word “approachable” and I mean that in a very good way. I’m all for intentionally esoteric or cerebral comics that make me work hard, but a lot of times I just like to read for the fun of it. “Amelia Cole” is absolutely full of fun.)
So this unknown realm that Amelia is stuck in has both magic and science, a combination of the previously known worlds. Her first order of business is to conjure a friend in the form of an (accidentally) eight-foot tall golem made of spare parts. She names him Lemmy, and he is awesome. Seriously, if there was some sort of online petition to make Lemmy an action figure I would link to it here. Amelia uses her magic to rescue a helicopter pilot and discovers that not everyone in this world has magic after all. Worse, it appears to be illegal to help non-magic folks so she draws the attention of local authorities and the mysterious, cape-wearing Protector. He destroys her wand before disappearing, but Amelia is still able to magic herself an escape route. Cue foreboding music.
At the start of issue #3 of “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World”, our heroine goes to work. No, it’s not what you think. She and Lemmy get a job (jobs?) as a super (supers?) in a small apartment building. She hides for a while, assuming the cops are still looking for her, but ventures out when she sees Mike and George – friends from issue #2 – walking their dog outside her building. I like these guys. It’s simple: they’re our “in” with the new world, and because they like Amelia, we like them. (Props to Knave and Kirkbride for featuring a gay couple in completely regular circumstances, by the way. Can’t wait til that’s not A Thing to notice in creative media, but until that point it’s background, no-big-deal portrayals like this one that normalize it.)
While out with her new friends, Amelia and Lemmy rescue a truck driver from a terrible accident (lots of transportation woes in this realm) and our heroine gets a new wand. Sort of. She pulls a wrench from Lemmy and is able to use it like a wand before teleporting all four of them to safety. I like the rule in this magic world that wands can only come from family members. In addition to the “mystery” of the unknown realm as a whole, we also now have the “Amelia Cole and the Quest for the Wrench-Wand Origin” subplot. Unfortunately, the Protector and his magistrate boss have also noticed Amelia’s meddling. This can only end badly.
Issue #4 of “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World” gives us some insight into the rights of the mages vs. non-mages in the new world, and it ain’t pretty. The Magistrate and The Protector may have the law on their side, but as Amelia herself states, the law is wrong. (This probably goes double when the law is clearly in cahoots with scary-looking demon things.) I did find myself wondering at times how Amelia got to be so feisty. Without much context her proclivity for finding trouble…everywhere…can be a little less Nancy Drew and a little more Scooby Do. But it’s never farcical, just convenient. As she learns more about her own history, I hope we learn more about her.
Amelia and The Protector sort of work together in the next issue, though not for long and not without some messy results. Was he spying on her (again)? I wasn’t sure, but I do enjoy their banter. The Magistrate’s demon council wants to replace The Protector, so I suspect he and Amelia could find themselves on the same side sooner rather than later. Or they would if he isn’t ordered to end her. Oops. Before that, though, we learn some more about what the denizens of the unknown world know about other worlds (got that?) and how much is different from Amelia’s own experience.
At the close of “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World” #5, Lemmy bursts into Amelia’s apartment followed shortly by The Protector. The former is there to protect, the latter is there to kill. Yikes. The only way this would be more cliffhanger-y is if Amelia was literally hanging off a cliff. I’ve been pouring over the Amelia Cole tumblr since Nick Brokenshire occasionally posts tiny teasers while he works on #6. You should check it out for more details until the issue is available via Comixology. In the meantime, D.J. Kirkbride and Adam Knave shared this exclusive teaser of an inked page 1:
The conclusion to the first volume of “Amelia Cole and the Unknown World”, published by MonkeyBrain Comics will be available via Comixology soon. Follow the series on tumblr or Twitter for all the latest details.