Note: Review copy received from author.
Title: Men+Monsters Volume 1
Author / Artist: Aero Zero
Publisher: Aero Zero
Genre: Bara / Gay Monster / Erotica
Released: October 2018
A tetraphile knight, his monster lover, and their robot companion go on an adventure to mend the rift between monsters, humans and robots with every sword they have.
Now, long term readers of the site will have seen me mention before in book reviews that I’m not really an erotica reader. The same applies to comics; though I’ve owned a few doujinshi over the years, it’s just not a genre that I go out of my way to collect. That is in part due to a lot of examples of the genre that I’d read coming across as placing the more X-rated moments as more important than the plot. I don’t object to that per se; smut without plot clearly caters for its target audience, but I’m simply not part of that target group.
I mention this because MEN+MONSTERS actually handles this in a way that’s far more balanced. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly a lot of erotic scenes, but it doesn’t slip by without plot. The key characters – Lex, Silas, and Akilas – are a long way from being one-dimensional, for one. Yes, they have their prominent traits, but they also have their overall goals, as well as some nice growth in terms of their relationship with each other. Meanwhile, the world around them feels nicely fleshed out, with prejudices and common worldviews integrated into the landscape as the story moves on.
In terms of the erotic moments, the comic takes an interesting approach to the yaoi genre. It fits into the bara end of things, with the characters being buff and overtly masculine in appearance, but doesn’t feature a set top/bottom relationship. The characters all appear to be switch, and the concept of a polyamorous relationship is treated as just something that the characters do. It’s a normal part of their lives, and nobody really bats an eyelid. In both instances, that’s really quite refreshing as polyamory is still quite misunderstood, and yaoi characters often sit more comfortably in one role or another rather than moving between them. Throw in that the characters engage in a wide range of sexual practices and you have a real smorgasbord of kink here. And the best part? It’s all consensual. The often used yaoi trope of one character forcing themselves on another and that somehow leading to love is nowhere to be seen here, which is such a welcome thing.
The story is also well placed to take advantage of the current popularity of monster manga and anime. Much like with series such as Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid and Monster Musume, this is about our human lead (Lex) and his relationship with monsters. Instead of top-heavy ladies though, we have colourful, muscular males that can transform into far more beastly forms. What that does mean though is that the same rules apply here as do with the aforementioned series, meaning that if you felt uncomfortable with the likes of Miia or even Tohru, this will not do anything to reduce those feelings. If you don’t have any issue with monster characters though, there are some interesting designs on show here.
And therein is one of the strongest points of the series: the art. Aero has done a fantastic job with the character designs, and the way they use colour makes things really stand out. This isn’t a typical manga style piece, but nor is it one that fits squarely with commercial Western releases. The tones are softer, but with a lot of vibrancy. At times, it feels almost like a water colour piece. Lex in particular is given plenty of attention in terms of facial expressions too, which really helps elevate the softer moments between the characters.
So, where does this all leave the series as a whole? Well, if you’re looking for some Male-Male erotica that’s both consensual and kinky, and you don’t object to monsters, this will be an easy 5 out for 5 for you. If the non-human humanoids are not your thing, you can certainly drop that score a little bit, though the art itself should be a clear selling point regardless.