Last year, while attending PAX West, we dropped by the Oni Press booth. They had some discounted comics for sale, and since I’ve only read their Bryan Lee O’Malley books, most of it was new to me. I picked out the first volume of The Sixth Gun and a funny little book called I Was the Cat, both of which I still haven’t read, and then I asked which book he’d recommend. He chose Kaijumax, because it’s hilarious and different from anything he’d come across.
He was correct! This is a very odd book. It takes place on an island that holds a maximum security prison for Kaiju monsters. I’m still a little confused as to whether Kaiju is the term for the monsters themselves or the film genre, but it’s basically your Godzillas and Mothras mixed with Orange is the New Black. When he told me the book featured Kaiju, I stared back at him blankly for a while, which I think lost me some major geek points. After he explained it, I vaguely remember hearing the term before, but it’s definitely a part of geek culture that I don’t know a lot about.
Thankfully, being a Kaiju newbie doesn’t get in the way here. There are gangs and racial tension, drug smuggling, corrupt prison guards – everything you’d expect from a prison drama. Zander Cannon takes those known clichés and mixes them with monsters and the result is surprisingly fresh. He does very clever things in mixing the two styles. The included picture, of the monster’s gym equipment, is a good example of that.
This comic gets surprisingly dark at times as well. The illustrations are disarmingly cute, so when these things happen it really sneaks up on you. The main drama centres around a monster who was just admitted and the fact that his children are still out there, unable to feed or protect themselves. It’s a completely bizarre premise that happens to be grounded with somewhat relatable issues.
Cannon wrote and illustrated this himself, so you’re getting one person’s (extremely bizarre) vision, which I think gives it a nice personal touch. I will probably pick up the second volume at some point, to see where this story goes.