"Please, Mr. Crow! This is not the time for you to go into one of your long-winded screeds regarding the sand-dollar!"

Sock Monkey: The “Inches” Incident #1 (of 4)

It’s always a treat to get some new Sock Monkey, and this debut issue of the newest miniseries (as ever, from Dark Horse, 19 pages of story, $2.99) does nothing to alter that truism. Just opening the book up to see how writer/artist Tony Millionaire’s ever-lavish art fills the page is sure to sent the constant reader tippling over with joy, not that Sock Monkey has any of the conspicuous consumption of Maakies - though actually, given the plurality of approaches Millionare has explored over the series’ lifespan, it’s become a bit difficult to predict exactly what every new Sock Monkey might bring. But then, that’s half the pleasure of such hand-crafted objects.

This particular miniseries (and from the looks of it right now, it does appear to be a single, continuing story, which isn’t always a given with these comics) arrives drawing heavy inspiration from Millionaire’s own Billy Hazelnuts, his Fantagraphics graphic novel from earlier this year. The art is less heavily realist than Sock Monkey can get, strong on Millionaire’s stylized human figures and lovingly personalized drawings of mighty ships and lapping waves and beasts of the sea. A razor-toothed whale-like leviathan battles a kraken in one sequence, and it’s packed with all the winsome marine stylization one might expect from a vintage comedy adventure strip; I found Billy Hazelnuts (excellent book, by the way) to be reminiscent of the brawling antics of comedic strip action heroes like Popeye, and indeed here we have Millionaire briefly inserting a familiar-looking sailor man into the action, as part of Captain Oyster Joe’s mighty crew - they’re so mighty, that when swallowed by a sea monster they seize control of the beast and use it as a new, organic vessel, their heads peeking out the blowhole to keep their bearings straight.

You’re probably wonder how Sock Monkey fits into any of this, which is fair enough - the premise of various Sock Monkey tales tend to all be slightly different from one another, but all involve the titular animated doll and his stuffed friend Mr. Crow having curiosity-fueled adventures. Here, the boys’ ominous doll friend Inches has inexplicably spirited them off to sea, so they must make due with stealing bits and pieces of things from Oyster Joe’s ship to build a way back home. “Phantoms and specters! It’s enough to set the skin a-crawling…” mutters the superstitious Joe, though everyone eventually runs into some far more tangible trouble to deal with. There's multiple threats, whimsy and creepiness, and all the fine dialogue you've come to expect:

"I've battled mermaids, jellyfish, and giant squid! ...and I'll be hanged from the highest yardarm before I let a haunted toy monkey sail away in my best egg skillet!"

Another very nice comic for you to buy. It even sees the return of the back-up bonus page, which is always a treat. Go and read this.