by Zander Cannon
Series: Kaijumax #1
Also in this series: Kaijumax Vol. 2: Season Two
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: February 24, 2016
Genres: Graphic Novel
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE! On a remote island in the South Pacific lies KAIJUMAX, a maximum security prison for giant monsters. Follow doting father Electrogor as he stands up to the cruel space-superhero warden! See corrupt guard Gupta manage his illicit uranium-dealing empire and pay off his gambling debts to the Queen of the Moon! Watch Mecha-Zon battle his own programming when the monster he was created to destroy shows up on the pound! These stories and more will assault you from every angle in the cesspool of corruption that is KAIJUMAX.
Trigger warnings: rape
The thought of a prison full of Kaiju (Japanese movie monsters, like Godzilla) was fascinating. I don’t know much about Kaiju, so I’m certain there were several in-jokes I missed, but I was able to follow along even without that.
This first collection of issues starts with the arrival of a new group of Kaiju to the prison, including one named Electrogor. While some of the other Kaiju are career criminals, he was captured while trying to get food for his two kids – apparently he was gnawing on the Trans-Pacific cable – and it’s through his eyes that we are first get introduced to the prison.
There’s a lot of smart and hilarious parallels to prison life, from using waterfalls as showers and weightlifting skyscrapers, to prisoners getting high off uranium, to the mech Kaiju preaching about the “Cloud” and nonviolence. The art is absolutely beautiful, cartoony and inked with bright colors, and the characters are widely expressive. It’s a weird juxtaposition, though, because this is at heart a gritty prison story, full of various gangs jockeying for position, corrupt guards, and prison rape and its consequences. Based on the art, I was not expecting it to be so dark. Watching Electrogor’s transformation from a single dad just trying to provide for his kids to the “mon” he’s forced to become in the prison was simultaneously horrific and sympathetic. There’s so many plot lines going on that it was initially hard for me to keep track of everything that was going on, but I think that may have been due to my lack of familiarity with the source subject matter.
I’m not usually a fan of prison dramas, but I finished this book desperate to know what happens with Electrogor and Whoofy, the not-too-bright son of a gang leader, so I will definitely be picking up the next one! If the thought of a gritty prison drama mashed up with Japanese monster movies sounds appealing, then you will definitely enjoy this!