Comic Review: Kaijumax Season Three

Kaijumax Season Three - Zander Cannon *****

Living volcano monsters - that's a new one on me. Seeing things differently, even if it is in the rarefied genre of Japanese kaiju monster movies, is however just what you can expect from artist and writer Zander Cannon in Kajumax, now up to volume three in its collected editions. The same problem that Cannon applies to other rampaging giant lizards also applies to living volcano monsters; not just how you stop them in their tracks (lava flows?), but what do you do with them once they've been 'decommissioned'? Well, you put them in prison obviously, into holding craters on the maximum security prison island of Kaijumax.

Season One and Season Two, collecting the first twelve issues of the series, introduced some of the main players - or former players - who are now adjusting to a life that doesn't involve crushing cities and squishing their inhabitants. Life in prison is no walk in the park for its inmates, they're an ugly bunch of violent offenders, as you can imagine. Many of the tropes of familiar prison dramas apply in Kaijumax however; gang tensions between different factions (the cryptids from other dimensions don't get on with the Japanese earth-origin monsters no-one likes the mecha bots and I'm not entirely sure where living volcanoes fit into the picture), so you may need to carry a concealed shiv, you'd better watch your back in the showers (waterfalls in the case of kaiju monsters), and of course, there are inevitably prison riots and prison breaks.

All these familiar situations take on a different light when applied to monsters of course and Cannon's treatment manages to be inventive, original and funny, but there's a darker side to it all as well that grows as the series progresses. As there is a science-fiction character to Kaijumax, it means that there is also a lot more to the series than it being a monster prison drama, and it has a much broader and just as imaginative outlook on the world outside, with operations taking place in other dimensions, with casinos on the moon, and - as we found out when Electrogor and the Green Humongo made a daring prison break in Season Two - the human (squisher) world is not a welcoming place for reformed monsters on parole trying to hold down a job and make a regular 'honest' living.

Proving that there is much more mileage yet in the idea, Kaijumax Season Three: 'King of the Monstas' turns its attention back to a couple of characters who only had a minor role in earlier seasons, and for fairly good reason; they're not the most monstrous of monsters. One is Woofy, the crybaby son of the legendary monster Ape Whale, who Woofy has been bullied and manipulated into killing by a tiny figure known as Li'l Boy, leaving him in a position of authority in the prison that is is quite incapable of managing. The other is the Creature from Devil's Creek, or Daniel as he is familiarly known, a rather timid character for a supposedly monster-sized Satanic goat. Bullied by different prison gangs, Daniel considers turning informer on an unsolved historical crime. Despite their timidity and ineffectuality, they may yet prove to be monsters you don't mess with.

It's one of many criminal activities taking place on Kaijumax, dangerous ones when you consider the scale of the creatures in the prison and that their drug habits involve the consumption of uranium. On that front, there's another potentially troubling relationship that has been formed between one of the inmates, Zonn, who is effectively ruling the prison, and Dr Zhang, one of the superpowered wardens and medical officers on the prison island. With tensions rising between the different gangs heading towards a 'Species Final War', there's more than enough going on to keep Kaijumax the series going, and still heading in a darker direction.

I don't want to get too deep about this and read too much into it, but just as Zander Cannon has clearly thought through a working order for the aftermath of the rampages of monsters in Japanese kaiju films, so too he tries to get into the heads of these monsters to find a little bit of motivation about what makes them tick. Yes, that can be found in the parallels that can be made to the monsters of Kaijumax and American street gangs - something that is very evident in the language and slang used - but Cannon has a way of scaling it up and always creatively taking it to another level. As Hellmoth philosophically muses to the Creature from Devil's Creek at one point, "The sun on the grass, the sound of rivers, the sting of a slap to the cheek, the gentle pop of someone's trachea. The violence of war, the ecological collapse. I love it. You know why? It's there. It's real." Kaijumax keeps it real.

Kaijumax: Season Three is published by Oni Press on the 29th May 2018

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