Kaijumax Season 2#5
Going Home is never easy
Writer/Artist: Zander Cannon
Release Date: Oct 12, 2016
Reviewed by Roger An on Friday Oct 19, 2016
I've been a huge Zander Cannon fan since Top Ten, where he collaborated with Alan Moore. I particularly liked his Top Ten mini-series: Smax, which brought one of the main characters back home to his haunting past. In this week's issue of Kaijumax, our main protagonist Electrogor finally makes it back home. Electrogor looks like a godzilla sized isopod with radioactive eggs on his back. Ever see a photo of a deep sea giant isopod? Season One was about Electrogor's capture and orientation to the Kaijumax prison. (Kaiju is a Japanese term for Godzilla-like giant monsters, and the films they inspired.) When Electrogor is incarcerated, he tells his children, Vogo and Torgax to hide. We haven't found out what's happened to his children since last year.
For those new to Kaijumax, don't let the bright colorful cartoonish art of cute giant Japanese monsters fool you into safety. This is a dark, gritty, dare I say, adult comic with crushing drama, and intense emotional pain, hidden under the surface of cuteness. In the late 90s, I never missed an episode of HBO's prison drama: Oz (1997-2003). Oz was unflinchingly graphic, while bringing humanity to its most despicable and monstrous of prisoners. Main characters died left and right, and you never knew what was going to happen next. On the show, guards misbehaved as much as the prisoners. In Kaijumax, the human guards all have powers like Ultraman. They can hit a badge, and transform into an armored giant, powerful enough to subdue any Kaiju.
So Kaijumax is like Oz with cute well-designed Japanese monsters. The first volume referred to as Season 1, covered prison rape, the pain of losing your children because of incarceration, and the blurry lines between the guards and prisoners. Season Two has just upped the ante with its latest issue. About a decade ago, when the History Channel had good educational content, I saw an interesting documentary about how America was the first nation at starting prisons. Before this country was founded, criminals were never incarcerated for the long-term. You were flogged or hung. What birthed American prisons, was the Quaker idea that prisoners could be rehabilitated. From the get go, prisoners were abused. The Quakers wouldn't allow their prisoners to speak, and this left the system rife for torture. They got rid of the no talking rule, but this system of long-term incarceration was exported worldwide.
When we read about the abuses and dysfunction of today's sprawling industrial prison complex, our society is forced to confront many uncomfortable truths. How successful are we at rehabilitating criminals? Why can't we guarantee a prisoner's right not to be raped? How many more criminals are created when children grow up without their incarcerated parents? What kind of damaged human beings are we re-introducing back to society after they've been abused and tortured while jailed?
Like Oz, I believe Kaijumax accomplishes a crucial social goal by asking these admirably hard questions, through the allegory of giant Japanese monsters being imprisoned for the crime of just existing. How many humans are in jail, for just existing in harsh circumstances beyond their control?
I've communicated all the info you need, to decide whether you want to purchase and read this issue. From this point onwards, I am going to talk about plot-points that may be spoilers, so don't read below the SPOILER SPACE graphic, if you don't want to ruin any surprises!
The end of Season One, showed Electrogor and the Green Humongo's daring escape from maximum security prison. We follow a former guard Jeong, who's been traumatized by the violence of his job, and his partner: a female giant robot named Chisato. Chisato's creator, Dr. Denki has just died, and his family gathers around them. While I greatly enjoy Chisato and Jeong's storyline, I was on the edge of my seat, for every panel of Electrogor's journey. I'm not going to talk too much about Chisato and Jeong's plot in this review. Perhaps in another review. This issue to me, is about Electrogor.
Electrogor in Season One had suffered prison rape, beatings from guards, and getting dragged into the prison drug trade. He's a single Dad who just wants to get back to his kids, who were left alone in their cave, when Electrogor was arrested. (abducted) It seems that as a giant monster in this world, it's demeaning and dehumanizing to obey the laws. Past issues show that staying out of jail, looks a lot like slavery or indentured servitude at best. As a reader, you really want the monsters to just step on these atrocious humans.
The colors are muted as Electrogor returns home to his cave entrance. He's greeted a Fin Fang Foom-like monster named Gigantoceratops, who flashes a gang-sign-like gesture at him before scooping up a handful of puffins as snacks. Gigantoceratops eludes to some female monster having taken over Electrogor's home, which elicits a great feeling of dread in a reader. You can't help but feel your heart in your chest as you wonder: What the hell has happened to Electrogor's children!?
5 cruel pages later, as we see Chisato and Jeong's relationship progress to a level beyond just being cop partners, Electrogor slowly enters his cave, and sees disturbing clues. Claw-marks on the wall, broken toys on the floor, and a dismembered hand. This evoked painful memories of an Oz episode, when the main character finds his child's hand in a mailed package. I look closer at the panel of the monster hand, and don't believe it's the hand of one of Electrogor's children because it has many tatoos.
Zander Cannon cuttingly chooses the next page to flashback to happier times when Electrogor was happily coming home to bring food to his children. We didn't have many details on Vogo and Torgax in the past. We now find out that Torgax seems to be the older child, and looks out for the younger Vogo. The colors are muted again for the next panel, which lets us know that we're back in the present. And a despondent Electrogor hears a noise.
We flip the page, and see Vogo hiding behind a stalagnate (a cave column or what happens when a stalagmite meets a stalactite.) Electrogor pulls one of his radioactive eggs from his back, and offers it to his child. Vogo cautiously steps out, and greets his crying father. Vogo looks battered and disheveled. That caused me chest pain.
I'm a father, and this scene hit me really really hard. On the next page, we cut back to the family drama of Dr. Denki and his Mecha-Godzilla-like creation: Mechazon, who is Chisato's older brother. But my mind is on Electrogor. I want to know where Torgax is. I want Electrogor to find his older child, and whisk his whole family away to safety. Away from the authorities that are chasing him. Away from humanity. But this is a prison drama. I don't know what new depths of suffering, the author has planned for his characters, but I'm thankful for that one beautiful moment of a father/son reunion.
[COOL UPDATE: I wanted to thank creator @zander_cannon & publisher @OniPress for re-tweeting this review on 10/19/2016!]
If you enjoy top notch creative cartooning interposed with dark searing human drama, deep empathy and hard questions for our society, Kaijumax is a book you have to follow.
If you'd like to support this site, please purchase one of these graphic novels through the Amazon referral links below. The Kaijumax Season One graphic novel is fantastic. The complete Oz series is an assured binge watching experience for a tough viewer that can appreciate the philosophical points made by the unflinching horror of prison. Steven Gerber's "Hard Times" is also an excellent superhero comic mashed up with prison drama that pushes the genre to an interesting place. Thanks for reading!