Thursday, December 06, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #340: Kaijumax, Season Three: King of the Monstas by Zander Cannon

The third story arc for Zander Cannon's quirky giant-monsters-in-prison series returns the focus back to that prison, after the Electrogor-on-the-run plot of the second "season." (Cannon is putting out Kaijumax in discrete six-issue clumps, collecting them, then coming back a few months later for the next one -- it's the classy-cable-show model applied to comics.)

In case you're saying "giant-what-in-prison?," have some links to Season One and Season Two. If you don't want that much detail: yes, giant monsters. Yes, prison. Yes, some implied and/or metaphorical racial issues from this being a series created by an American for an American audience. And, yes, it does all work better than you might expect.

So we come to Kaijumax, Season Three: King of the Monstas with some backstory. But our focus this time is mostly on Whoofy, supposed head of the Japanese kaiju because his father Ape-Whale was before him, and with the Creature from Devil's Creek, bottom critter on the totem pole of the Cryptids, a gang planning a coup against the kaiju's dominance.

Both are sad sacks, both are deeply in trouble, both don't seem to have any way out of their troubles. Even more, both are being manipulated  -- knowingly and not -- by others for their own ends, as a major riot-cum-power-struggle among inmate groups brews, and one of the guards carries on a dangerous relationship with one of the very worst inmates. And Electrogor is back, with his son Vogo, to shake up things even more.

The elements are very prison-movie: the weakling with one big valuable piece of information, the returning guy with something to protect and someone to take revenge on, brewing race wars fomented by charismatic tattooed crazies, junkies and their sneaky ways of getting drugs into the facility, a hidden murder in the past. But it's all among giant monsters, so the gangs are cryptids and kaiju and robots and so on. And the drugs are radioactive. And the prisoners are mostly five stories tall.

Cannon draws it all with style, giving a lot of body language and expressive faces to his monsters -- you can see it in Whoofy and the Creature on the cover. His colors (credited as "assists by Jason Fischer," and I don't know what that means) have a lot of brightness in the background, but his characters are usually in shadow -- they're in a world that has light, but they're in the darkness themselves. Cannon does a lot of subtle things like that, and a lot of nutty things like a Hamilton-esque rap musical about monsters and monster-hunters.

There is nothing else like Kaijumax, in comics or out of it. And something this special, this actually unique, is a treasure to be savored.

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