Premise: Dear Creature is a graphic novel starring Grue, a sea monster living in the remains of an atomic submarine who is the only one of his kind. His inclination is to feed on young lovers, with sarcastic crabs urging him on to eat his leftovers. But when he starts finding pages of Shakespeare in soda bottles he learns the flowing language and begins to yearn for finding the person sending out those pages as his kindred soul. He finally finds her, but Giulietta is an agoraphobic recluse living in a broken dry dock boat with her sister and nephews, afraid to go out into the world.
Our poetic sea monster goes to her and she immediately opens her heart to him until she discovers that he had something to do with the death that Joe, her nephew, is being blamed for. Her sister, Zola, wants justice for her son, and Henry is a policeman who will do whatever it takes to follow through with that, even if it means giving up his badge. Grue is captured and Giulietta is put in an institution until the conclusion of the story that you’ll just have to read for yourself.
Themes: The most obvious theme in Dear Creature is the passion of romantic love and the extent one is willing to go to for it. Grue must overcome his monstrous desires to close the gap between him and Giulietta (as in Shakespeare’s Juliet), but it means facing his past deeds and the obstacle of their obvious differences.
Our poetic sea monster must make a moral decision and choose between succumbing to his hunger or becoming the more civilized and loving being that he wishes to be. With Giulietta being his motivation, he uses the inspiring language of Shakespeare to express his desires to her while the scavenging crabs urge him on to his more base inner cravings.
You would think that this story is all about Grue and his inner struggle, but Giulietta, who is considered crazy by just about everyone, is actually the character who makes the most impact on people’s lives. Giulietta is the one who reached out to Grue with Shakespeare and changed him from a monster to a poet. Giulietta goes with Zola and Robert to come to America and finds a love for poetry with him, but she stays with Zola after Robert never returns, and holds out for her sister to eventually help her find a husband. As she explains to Grue:
“My bottles brought you and Zola got a husband. That’s all I wanted.”
Pros: It wasn’t until I got to the end and I read the humorous Invertebrate’s Guide to Iambic Pentameter that I realized that Grue was actually speaking in iambic pentameter the entire time. It was done so fluidly that I had to go back and reread more of his dialogue to make sure. It makes me appreciate the subtleties in this story, with interesting characters and beautiful language to match the stunning art. My favorite parts were of the crabs playing the part of the devil on our hero’s shoulder, pressing his buttons to get him to kill, but mostly irritating him at all times. They brought humor to the dark side of Grue’s nature as a sea monster.
Cons: I loved the illustrations, but after seeing the cover I wanted the entire thing to be in color. This isn’t really much of a con because the whole thing has the look and feel of an old newspaper comic, but I just liked the color palette of the cover enough that I wanted more.
Recommendations: Dear Creature is an enchanting visual story that said many profound things in so few pages, and it even left me with a greater appreciation for Shakespearean poetry. It is odd to use so many different words to describe something, but this story is dark, romantic, humorous, and inspiring all at the same time. There was just a true sense of humanity in every character that I hope to see more from Jonathan Case.