By Jason Karlson
"We Humans don't care if these creatures are metaphors for man's scientific hubris- they need to be contained!"
For a concept over sixty years old, Japan's giant monster movies have proven to be like the very Kaijui they feature, pretty resilient. Originally meant ostensibly to reflect the tragedy of nuclear attacks, specifically the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the not-so-subtle metaphor of man made atrocities and the nuclear nightmare presented as pop culture monster movies still somehow manages to resonate with audiences today. While the genre is still thriving in Japan it's also interesting just how far it's influence has spread since its original conception, inspiring big budget movies like Pacific Rim in the states, from creators who grew up with these movies.
Kaijumax is a title I've been excited about since it was announced and shortly after reading Zander Cannon's first independent graphic novel, Heck. Just like his previous work, Cannon brings in a stunning high concept. Crossing the Kaiju genre with prision tropes, the story starts with a group of freshly captured monsters being brought into Kaijumax, the high security island prison for all of the worlds monsters. The facility is watched over in part by an Ultraman-esque character, although here he's a not a hero dashing about saving the world but serving as the prision's zero tolerance warden. Among the fresh meat dragged onto the island is Electrogor, confused, lost and worried for his children. More of a beleaguered working father then a menacing force of nature.
Just like the films it lovingly pays tribute too, Cannon's story also wears it's pretty obvious "man is the monster" metaphor right out on it's sleeve placing it front and center on the second page with Electrogor declaring "Y.You all…You're the monsters!!" . Cannon really makes us feel for the plight of these creatures, especially Electrogor as he struggles to learn the unspoken rules of the prison, all the while worrying about his kids getting hurt or being imprisoned alongside him.
As with his previous work, Heck, Cannon's his art deftly skirts the line between the cute and the menacing. For every bit of implied prison abuse, there's something equally light and fun presented like the Kaiju inmates workout equipment crafted to resemble the high rise buildings they are used to destroying before their imprisonment. His love of Kaijus is evident on every page. Each one of his captured creatures is unique but instantly recognisable as a different staple from the various monster movies being given homage. From the group of giant sea monsters to the large mecha kaiju, here taking on the part of an evangelical group, each is created with such care and detail that we will hopefully see more over the course of the next five issues.
Ridiculously fun and gorgeous to look at, Kaijumax's first issue runs with is brilliantly bonkers high concept while giving us some real drama and wonderfully realised characters that you will find yourself quickly relating to.
We know only two things for certain of Jason Karlson; that he was born on the wagon of a traveling show to Latverian parents, and that tales of his origins are wholely fictional. His writing style is pithy and insightful, with hints of oak and red berry, finished with earthy tones and somber notes. If he were to describe himself in a single word it would likely be self deprecating. He occasionally tweets over at @marfedfolf and rambles on at marfedblog.wordpress.com.