PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

The Monolith #1

Ryan Paul

Palmiotti and Gray have set out to explore the issue of power and disenfranchisement within the alienated and excluded communities of American society, and their metaphor, the Monolith, is a truly apt, and truly frightening, proposition.

The Monolith #1

Publisher: DC Comics
Contributors: Phil Winslade (Artists), Chris Chuckry (Artists), Nick Napolitano (Artists)
Price: $3.50
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray
Item Type: Comic
Length: 44
Publication Date: 2004-02

One of the unpleasant truths about modern America is that it has been built on the blood, sweat, and suffering of untold masses. Chinese railroad workers, African slaves, Native Americans, Irish, Italians, Jews, and millions of others worked, and died, for the infrastructure of this country.

The success at reaping the rewards of this labor varies from group to group. Some have managed to assimilate into the largely WASP culture that continues to dominate after two centuries of statehood. Other groups, perhaps most notably Native Americans and African-Americans, have to a large extent been exempted from the largesse of modern society. While reducing any so-called "racial" or "ethnic" group in a broad statement is dangerous and perhaps even derogatory, the fact remains that a large portion of both peoples, as well as subsets of just about any other group you can mention, have been "ghetto-fied", placed in a system of largely self-perpetuating poverty and disenfranchisement.

With the gap between the highest levels and lowest levels of society gradually widening, and that lowest level becoming ever larger, more and more Americans are joining the disenfranchised, which creates a paradox in an allegedly democratic society: the largest segment of society is seemingly the least powerful. But, what should happen if that group awakens to the reality of the power that it wields? Enter The Monolith, a new ongoing series by 21 Down writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.

Alice Cohen is a young junkie living in the slums of New York. She lives day to day, trying to score and avoid a vicious thug named Prince, who has few compunctions about using force to get what he thinks he is owed. A third-generation American, Alice is offered what so few in the ghetto ever get: a way out. Her grandmother, a Jewish immigrant from Prague, has left Alice an inheritance and a new home, and in return, Alice must leave her old life behind, and take charge of a terrible and awesome power.

That power is the Monolith, a golem created during the depths of the Depression from the collected rage and frustration of the poor, huddled masses. The creature was a way to strike back at the gangster petty capitalists that ran the streets and controlled opportunities, the raw power of the diverse and disgruntled people who suffered daily in factories and sweatshops for less than pennies. Now, reawaken in modern day New York, it is a chance at redemption for Alice and those like her: the cast-offs.

The Monolith represents everything that is both terrifying and empowering about democracy. It possesses incredible strength, enough raw power to crush nearly anything in its way. Should anyone ever truly mobilize the currently disenfranchised classes in the U.S., they would be a force to be reckoned with. But as that old comic book saying goes, "With great power comes great responsibility". What terrified the Framers of the Constitution was the specter of mob rule, of a country in which the majority is unchecked and runs rampant over anything or anyone that dares oppose it. The French Reign of Terror comes to mind as a prime example of the democratic experiment devolved into a violent dictatorship of the many.

And so the Monolith is everything that terrifies the elite about the masses. Created by a Rabbi, a young girl, and an immigrant Chinese worker, it is a force neither inherently good nor evil. Rather, it is power -- political power, military power, economic power -- in need of guidance. Like any tool, it is subject to the morality of its user, but as another saying goes, "Power corrupts". How can anyone expect a junkie to responsibly control such a monstrous force? How can anyone expect any group of people, who have been kept undereducated and alienated, to responsibly take part in the greater issues of society?

Some would say it is impossible, and would prefer to keep such power out of their hands. But by even posing the question, and if nothing else, The Monolith poses that question, Palmiotti and Gray acknowledge that such an attitude is at best naïve and at worst reactionary and elitist. If the democratic experiment that is the U.S. is to succeed (and believe me, we are still firmly in the stages of experiment), then everyone needs to both accept and understand their power. Palmiotti and Gray have set out to explore the issue of power and disenfranchisement within the alienated and excluded communities of American society, and their metaphor, the Monolith, is a truly apt, and truly frightening, proposition.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.