Code Monkey Steal Heart
Greg Pak, Jonathan Coulton, Takeshi Miyazawa, Jessica Kholinne, Simon Bowland
Pak Man Productions, 10 Print JoCo, Monkeybrain Comics
Code Monkey Save World is a comic inspired by the songs of Jonathan Coulton (Code Monkey, Re: Your Brains, and more), featuring a literal coding monkey who must rescue the girl of his dreams (not a monkey), from a world teeming with zombies, robot slave-masters, and Punkey, a pony/monkey hybrid that tested well with women 18-35 — until they saw it.
Right from the beginning, there’s a lot going on, and all of it is funny. As mentioned, many of the ideas in the comic are based on Coulton’s music, from the titular code monkey, to his evil CEO on Skullcrusher Mountain, to the zombie infestation in their office in Columbus. Do yourself a favor and put one of his albums on while you’re reading the comic (available on Comixology), and really sink in. That’s what I did, and I chuckled the whole way through.
The story begins with a day in the life of Charles, a monkey with a gift for computer programming. However, because he’s “just a monkey,” he is often seen as inferior by his boss, his peers, the barista at Starbucks, the EMTs, his CEO… you get the picture. Many of the jokes revolve around the fact that, despite how amazing it is that a monkey can talk, order a latte, fix a website, and give a suggestion on how to get a stain out of a shirt, he is treated like a run-of-the-mill monkey. I was worried that the running gag would go stale after 24 pages, but every time Charles did something impressively human and was overlooked for his species, I was giggling. I don’t know what it is about monkeys, but man, they are funny.
And adorable. Takeshi Miyazawa (Runaways, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane) brings this cartoony world to life. The effect is heightened by Jessica Kholinne’s (X-Treme X-Men, Voodoo) gorgeous, rich colors. It felt like reading a Saturday morning cartoon circa the 1980s in the best way possible. Charles is quite an expressive scamp: his frustration at clearly intellectually inferior people talking down to him, his love-sick puppy-dog eyes when talking to Matilde, and his fear as the giant robots swoop in to destroy the office are beautifully rendered. Each panel is full of bright, zany humor, reinforcing the wacky world Charles and company live in.
While most of the ideas come from Jonathan Coulton lyrics, Greg Pak does a great job interpreting and blending them into a cohesive, if a bit packed, story. I’m sure that when presented with the sheer volume of Coulton’s work, Pak was challenged to really dig deep and find a way to make Code Monkey Save World feel like an homage rather than fan fiction. The story flows well, and Pak’s choices to explain some elements (like who the leader of the robot army is in relation to Charles’ CEO), while letting other concepts speak for themselves (like what happens to managers who don’t know how to work) are well-made. As a result, the comic is punchy when it needs to be and manages not to get bogged down in the “why” of things, in order to be–what is looking to be–an epic romp across the country and through space.
I enjoyed CMSW greatly, and I’m pretty sure that even without knowing Coulton’s songs well, the comic stands strongly as its own entity. Currently only available digitally, it reflects Coulton’s love of the internet, where he garnered a lot of his popularity. The whole package of art, words, and song is a delight, and I am definitely looking forward to finding out who the mysterious man in the moose sweater is, and how it all ties together. As GLaDOS would say, “This was a triumph. Making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.”