Review: Kaijumax #1

The good folks at Oni Press have, in my experience, the ability to pick up some of the most unusual and quirky comic titles to add to their catalogue and Kaijumax most definitely fits comfortably in that category. Have you ever wondered what a Kaiju (Monster) super-max-prison would look like? And how would this already out-there concept look rendered in bright, primary colours and a very cartoonish style? Well look no further because that’s more or less what you’ll find in this comic. The question as always is: how good is it?

See our preview of Kaijumax #1 here!

The Basics:

“Welcome to Kaijumax, where the worst of the worst monsters are safely locked away from the human world, whether they be villains, anti-heroes, eco-parables, or nuclear metaphors. Electrogor is ripped away from his family and struggles to determine whom to trust, which gangs to avoid, and when to take on the big man to show you aren’t to be trifled with. Also: the nation of Mecha!”

Sound cheesy? It is. So is the blurb at the back which states: In a maximum security facility in the south Pacific, a family Mon with a history of violence learns that if he wants to survive, he must inspire terror and respect.

The Good:

The biggest plus for this book is its utter lack of pretension. It does not try to be cooler, or deeper or more clever than what it is (so far at least) – which is basically a by-the-numbers prison story with a protagonist who “Really doesn’t belong in here!!”

Except in this case it’s a gigantic monster with explosive electrical powers. And to raise the stakes, he is a single Dad to a pair of little monsters who are waiting for him at home.

The concept is the real hook. The way that Cannon has shown the diversity of the cliched prison story-line translated to a monster-prison is quite fun. Going page by page I found myself looking at little details, like a “shiv” made out of the hull of a tanker-ship and little pop-culture-ish references that you might miss. There’s even a monster-slang to the language that takes a wee bit of figuring out but credit to the writing that it doesn’t ever seriously confuse as to what it is referring to, making it easy to follow and not get stalled while reading to figure it out.

It’s a surprisingly light and easy read, partly due to the non-gritty (thankfully) and mostly simplistic choice of artwork. It’s nice in the sense that it’s not mellow content, with a Dad wrongly imprisoned, his starving kids alone at home, a possibly crazy and quite harsh Warden of the facility with his own Giant Mecha-like super-suit and monster-gangs within the prison – but I wouldn’t feel amiss handing this comic to a non-adult. That’s rare with a lot of comics these days and so I give this due credit for that.

Art-wise I really liked that Cannon ran with the concept here as well, including monsters with prison-tats, bandana’s, cliques and even a robo-mecha crew and one with a religious/spiritual bent trying to be “above the fray”. Also, the sheer variety of monsters on display thus far will be quite pleasing to fans of the mecha-kaiju world.

The Not-So-Good:

While not the greatest comic I’ve read recently, this is also not a flawed one as such. It knows what it is and doesn’t try to be more.

The glaring weakness for me is that if I look past the entertaining aspects and the artwork, the basic story itself, at least in this first issue, feels so utterly cliched. From the way the prison-scenario and interaction between characters plays out, to the types of people our “hero” meets, down to his “standing-up-to-the-man” for no apparent reason in some kind of doing-the-right-thing moment – it all reeks of cliché, cliché and more cliché.

Now that in itself is not a bad thing, but somehow it all feels like a waste of the basic concept to make it TOO human in terms of the behaviours. I don’t know how else to say that really. A concept like this, where so much effort has been made to create their own slang, their own culture, I would have liked to see a little more effort to make them similar to us in some ways, sure, but also give their behaviour with each other something, anything different.

The Verdict:

A light, fun read that I did in fact enjoy.

If you are a fan of kaiju based comics and movies, most definitely pick this up because flaws and all, it is a fun and quite unique little comic and I still see potential for it to get better as it goes along.

For others, it’s fun, it’s a change and it’s something new and different. It’s what attracted someone like me who likes to dabble and if you feel you are an open-minded sort who likes to do that, it’s a better choice than many new comics that you might come across.

Story Score: 5 Out of 10
Art Score: 7 Out of 10
Overall Score: 6 Out of 10


 

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