REVIEW: Monster Pulse Has a Big Heart

cropped image of the cover of monster pulse showing the creation of ayo from bina's body

The webcomic Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter Siddell came to an end on June 4, 2021, after almost exactly ten years of updates. If you haven’t read it in those ten years, here’s why you need to catch up now that it’s done.

Monster Pulse

Magnolia Porter Siddell
May 26, 2011-June 4, 2021

Monster Pulse opens with Bina, an ordinary girl who runs into a strange spirit thing that pierces her and turns her heart into a hulking blue creature, separate from her body. These ghosts are everywhere in her hometown of Antler Pine, turning body parts into monsters that function like the original organ but exist outside of them. She’s soon pulled into the intrigues of a shadowy organization called S. H. E. L. L. which is creating these monsters for inscrutable reasons. Monster Pulse follows the adventures of Bina and her fellow monster-having teenage friends as they try their best to help other kids who fall victim to S. H. E. L. L. and bring down the organization for good.Bina and Abel rescuing some people from ghosts by giving them a ride on Ayo.

The real strength of this comic is the dynamic between Bina and her three core friends, as well as their monsters. Bina and her heart monster, Ayo, quickly encounter Julie, whose hair became an infinitely regenerating dragonlike monster she named Kera; Abel, whose flying eye monster Rixis can see things far away from Abel himself; and West, whose stomach monster can generate different kinds of goop with special properties. Their relationships change and develop as the characters do, the story spanning several years of their adolescence. Julie in particular is the youngest in the group, so her growth is the most noticeable as she goes from an immature preteen to a responsible teenager willing to put her life on the line to save the town. Their relationships develop slowly and gradually as time passes, with the eventual romantic elements feeling realistic and foreshadowed instead of coming out of nowhere.

A character describes the core four of Monster Pulse in a funny voiceover.
The ragtag team that will save the world!

The recurring theme throughout of loving and yet resenting the fact that your life now depends on a creature independent of you is really compelling. Julie and Abel could live if their monsters were killed, but Bina and West’s monsters are vital organs, and West has lost the ability to eat or taste food because his stomach is now a cute little pink thing that walks around by himself. There are rumors that S. H. E. L. L. had developed a machine to recombine a kid and their monster, but none of them manage to go through with it. Their monsters have thoughts and feelings of their own, and they can’t bear to kill them, even though the monsters make their lives harder.West explaining that he wants his stomach back

I also really appreciate the different family dynamics the characters all have. All of the parents, once they learn about the situation, are united in their desires to keep their children as safe as possible, even though the kids believe they need to fight in the final battle. It feels realistic and rare, since a lot of media about kids or teens fighting villains ignores that kids might have parents with opinions. The parents have their own conversations and lives beyond their children as well, and they have different approaches to how to raise their monster-body-part kids. West’s parents don’t seem to try very hard to understand their child, while Bina’s mom trusts her to stay safe while she saves the world. Panels from Chapter 38 in whichWest's parents show concern over their son's safety, and West is dismissive of their concerns.

The art in Monster Pulse is idiosyncratic, slowly evolving over the course of the story until it’s drawn with a thin, clean deadweight line and colored in muted, appealing analogous palettes. The lines and balloons are also colored, making each page feel like a harmonious unit. Porter Siddell is successful at drawing the same cast of characters over a long span of time, letting people grow taller or wearier and change hairstyles while still feeling like the same characters.Page 25 from chapter 29 of Monster Pulse, showing Bina asking Ayo to stay in the basement while she gets ready to do something else.

Monster Pulse finally ended on June 4th, with a final page that recalled a moment Bina and Abel shared in chapter 25. “Even with a hole where my heart should be, I can still feel like this. So I must be okay,” Bina thinks, as she holds Ayo close. It’s a relief that, after everything they’ve been through, the characters we’ve grown to care about are going to be okay.

If you like stories about kids and monsters and saving the world, Monster Pulse is the comic for you!