Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kaijumax, Season One: Terror and Respect by Zander Cannon

I tend not to give up on things, so in my head Zander Cannon is still in the middle of a really long hiatus from his early and excellent fantasy series The Replacement God. (Yes, that hiatus is now twenty years long. But Mage: The Hero Denied was finally announced recently, so decades-old thought-dead things I really like do come back.)

For everyone else, he's more likely best known as the artist of Top 10 and Smax in Alan Moore's most recent stab at a superhero universe, back in the early Aughts. And his most recent solo book was the dark adventure Heck, which I liked a lot: Cannon is a real talent, both as a writer and a draftsman, so I wanted to see more from him.

So why did it take this long for me to get to his not-all-that-new-anymore ongoing series? This collection -- Kaijumax, Season One: Terror and Respect -- is nearly a year and a half old at this point, and a second series has had time to come out and get collected since then.

Well, I was looking for it. I wanted to poke through it in person before buying it, and I'd never seen a copy in front of me. Finally, I just broke down and ordered it through the library -- have I mentioned that I have a NYC library card these days, and that system has a ridiculously large number of books that they're happy to deliver to a location less than a block from my office? And so, now, I've finally read it, and am almost caught up with Cannon.

The title explains the premise: this is a world full of giant monsters (kaiju, in Japanese), of many different types, and they seem as hard to kill as in most monster movies. So there needs to be a place to put them after the army, or Ultraman, or whoever, has stopped them from destroying the other half of Tokyo and more-or-less captured them. That place is an unnamed Pacific island, now just called "Kaijumax" -- a maximum-security prisoner for monsters, guarded by guys and gals in Ultraman-style super-suits that let them instantly grow to monster size for smackdowns when needed.

So, yes: it's a prison story about giant monsters. In comic-book form. Cannon's afterword notes that many people would find all three of those things silly, but he loves all of them, so sucks to their assmar. (He's somewhat more polite and felicitous in his phrasing.) But a reader does need to be ready for that -- Cannon isn't joking or goofing around; there are silly things here but they're taken basically seriously, in a world where they're not as silly as they would be in ours.

As usual in a prison story, our focus is on the new guy -- the innocent guy. This time, it's Electrogor, a sea-dwelling giant monster who was trying to find food for his two kids when he ran into a human ship and things went bad. He never attacked a city, he never tried to destroy much of anything. But he was found, and caught, and now he's in monster prison. And those two kids are outside, and the best case is that they're still at home and getting really hungry. Electrogor wants to be helpful and nice and get out quickly...which never works in a prison story.

He learns better, more or less, and plenty of other things go on around him in the six issues it takes him to learn what he does. Terror and Respect has an ending that fits that "Season One" note -- not a real end, but a good place to break for the summer, to come back for more stories with a somewhat different emphasis.

Kaijumax is another fine comic from Zander Cannon, and I hope it's a huge success: the season structure means it can't run forever, right? And that means, once it's a massive crossover bestseller and millions are lining up for the next Zander Cannon joint, the time will be right for that Replacement God revival!

Well, a man can dream, can't he?

This is a fun series: serious but not self-serious, with vivid characters, interesting dilemmas, and a quirky and unique world. I'm going to enjoy it for as many seasons as I can get.

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