Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred is a young adult graphic novel published by Tor Books. It’s been out for a while, so I’m sure there are other reviews of this out there. I just wanted to add my two cents for new readers who may have never heard of this comic book before.
The story is set in the near-ish future. It follows a young man named Robin Plotnik, as he goes onboard a starship in space to be a mechanic. But the surprise? His boss is actually a gorilla! Mac, his boss, is part of a race of gorillas whose intelligence had been accelerated to help the human race. That’s a good thing, because nearly 3/4 of the human population had been killed in a surprise alien attack. The starship Robin and Mac work on is actually a battle ship preparing for war, in case the aliens strike back.
If you’re expecting a lot of action…don’t. This story has occasional action sequences, mostly in the training exercises between the fighter pilot squadrons. But this story is more slice-of-life, following the day-to-day adventures of Robin as he grows up far away from home.
With that said, this is still an enjoyable read. I really grew to love the characters – the female fighter pilots of Barbarian squadron, the gorilla janitor who knows all the ship’s secrets, the commander of the ship; everyone is fun to read about and they’re very well-rounded. You can see their excitement, their anger, their frustration at bureaucratic rules enforced on them on the ship, the ways they blow off steam.
What surprises me is how well the artist handles difficult subjects like race. As the book progresses, you can see how relations between humans and gorillas can get intense, but not so intense that you stop reading the book. The artist handles the subject in sometimes off-handed ways, like when Robin talks to Mac about historical figures in the gorilla community. That’s pretty masterful.
So Tim’s writing is great, but his art is stellar. I love the character designs, especially Mac’s because he has a shirt that just says NO CRAP, which is a perfect reflection of his personality. Tim also draws amazing space ships – in between chapters he actually has really cool diagrams breaking down the ships and their component parts. And even though you expect a carrier space ship to be really minimalist and boring, Tim’s is wonderfully drawn, with high arches, a casino, a theater, and even growing trees and bushes. The environments are drawn so well that you just get absorbed into the book.
If I had to complain about anything, it’s the fact that I want more! The artist, Tim Eldred, is working on a sequel last time I checked, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I hope it comes out soon, though: I read about the history of the book, and how it had gone from publisher to publisher before FINALLY being published in its current form. Let’s hope for the best!
I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of young adult sci-fi comics. Get Grease Monkey on Amazon and give it a try!
P.S. Yes, the link above is an Amazon Affiliate link. If you clink that link and buy the book, I get a portion of the sale, and that’ll help pay for keeping this blog running. However, I’m only going to offer Amazon purchases for books that I like. I won’t sell you a book if I don’t like it. Fair enough?