(Note: I know Brandon Dayton peronally. We first met on Twitter then in person at APE. But I spent real money on this book so darnit it's getting a real review.)
The most immediately and prepetually striking thing about Green Monk is its format. The book is small, like a 4x6 card, with but one panel to a page --- two in view at any one time, as demonstrated in this photo from the artist's website:
I'm struck by how different a reading experience it was, as opposed to having those same panels on a larger page, say, eight in view at one time. That format would read much speedier. As is, Green Monk forces a deliberate page: panel, move eyes, panel, turn page, panel, move eyes, panel, turn page and so on for a hundred and twenty or so pages. It's slow. Which makes the physical experience of reading is justaposed with the metaphysical speed of the story, which collision plays out in interesting ways. The battle scenes feel slowmo. The contemplative scenes seem genuinely contemplative. The overall effect is thoughtful.
(I think Dayton could have made the violent and horrific elemetns much more visceral and, because of the slow, deliberate pacing, the effect would not be to the amygdalae but to the frontal lobes --- more thoughtful meditation on violence than Saturday matinee.)
So the question begged is this: Does Green Monk provide enough to meditate upon to justify its meditativeness?
Green Monk does take some stabs at depth. Parts reminded me of old Eastern European tales or perhaps a Bible story from Judges or Chronicles. The main character is, after all, a monk, and he does discuss religion. But while the words push us towards depth, its when we step aside and the story enters its long wordless sequences that the book is most successful both as story and in depth.
And so while the pictures could be more visceral, the words could be more restrained.
But I make this observation from a place of impression. This is Brandon Dayton's first book and it's a keeper. To kvetch about minor points like "I didn't like the sudden Disnefication of the villager" or "I didn't like the surprise lines in that one panel" miss the point, viz. how little there is to complain about for a first book.
The real comment we're most apt to make upon finishing Green Monk is this:
That was pretty good. I can't wait to see what Dayton does next.