Oni Press’s Kaijumax is surprisingly dedicated to its premise of a maximum-security prison for giant monsters, and builds on its world in tongue-in-cheek but piquing ways.
The debut issue of Kaijumax set up a snarky, cartoony, but engrossing universe in which kaiju are a global concern, one that’s being dealt with in the best and most logical fashion: a kaiju prison patrolled by giant, super-powered men in tights. It was a devoted love-letter to the cinematic genre, but issue #2 goes beyond mere homage and starts to make its own way as a goofy prison drama that manages to create tension within such a ridiculous universe.
The first issue introduced protagonist Electrogor, a single-parent kaiju recently incarcerated who desperately needs some way to get his energy pods to the outside world, where his children are stowed away on an island beyond prying human eyes. But instead of extending this tear-jerker into the second issue, creator Zander Cannon chose instead to focus on the Ultraman guard Ajit Gupta. A great move, since he’s already capitalizing so hard on the reader’s emotions with Electrogor’s design: eyes wide and watery with concern, tiny little T-Rex arms, it’s easy to forget that he’s an electricity-powered thunder lizard who sent a message to the entire prison when he tried to go head-to-head with Gupta in the previous issue.
Through Gupta, we get a better look at this expanded universe through his crooked dealings with the kaiju underworld, both inside and outside the prison. Gambling rings, smuggled kaiju drugs (which include smogstacks, electric generators, human virgins), even monster empires from the stars–the universe of Kaijumax basically just doubled in size, and to those for whom Pacific Rim 2 can’t come soon enough, that is fantastic news.
Like I said in my review of issue #1, the magic of the series so far is in the details, from the kaiju contraband, to their specialized slang (“You don’t know what I redking want”) to names of the gangs (Crips = cryp(tids)s). It’s positively dripping so far in kaiju lore, and you can just feel the love Cannon has for his subject matter. The writing is properly inspired (“We don’t gotta be battling, using our special moves on each other, do we?”), the pace of the plot is spot-on so far, and most surprisingly, he’s shown a lot of restraint with the monster showdowns. ‘Cause, you know, if it was me, it’d be giant robo-mantis on mystic scythe-wielding raccoon action all day long.