The pitch for Zander Cannon’s new series “Kaijumax” is so simple that it’s brilliant: a prison island where all of the mega-sized creatures you’d see in Japanese monster movies are held captive. In “Kaijumax” #1, Cannon introduces us not only to the island in which the monsters are held but quickly expands the cast and begins to carve out social strata among its inmates. They may look larger than life but, at their core, they’re as human as the rest of us.
Cannon uses a new inmate to the island — Electrogor — as our viewpoint character. This is critical, because it’s through his eyes that we get to see everything for the first time. Electrogor’s stumbling through the different power circles on the island is akin to so many other prison dramas; even as Electrogor makes decisions that seem to be for the best, both he and the reader quickly learn that you can only trust yourself even among your fellow monsters. Cannon walks a fine line in that regard; Electrogor comes across a little pathetic at times but, at the same time, you can see how such a rank newbie falls for some transparent ploys.
More importantly, I like how Cannon quickly introduces an almost overwhelmingly large cast in “Kaijumax” #1. There are a lot of different characters rolling onto the page here, and Cannon gives all of them a little bit of focus. I’ll admit that the four bio pages at the back of the comic helped me keep some of the main characters straight, but I’m also eager to learn more about all of the other prisoners. What’s great is that Cannon gives each one not only a different personality but a different visual style, with designs inspired by insects, apes, lizards, and some where you’re not even entirely sure what they are. The creature design is really crisp and smooth; Cannon draws the book digitally and it’s a great choice for him. We’re getting inventive and creative character designs that come across as fully polished from the very start. Add in some strong colors — who knew that pastels could work on a Japanese monster comic? — and you get a fully realized look for “Kaijumax” #1. Even the sense of scale comes across here; I like how, every now and then, we see the miniscule human guards and they look almost like fleas in comparison. And before you start wondering, we do see how the teeny tiny humans are still able to maintain law and order here in this first issue.
“Kaijumax” #1 is slightly silly with some strong drama. We learn that Electrogor is more than just a rampaging monster; he’s someone with a real drive and backsground. Presumably, we’ll learn about more of the characters over time; I’m especially looking forward to seeing more about the cringing Creature from Devil’s Creek. With even little details thought through, like the creatures using “Goj” instead of “God” (once you realize why, you’ll laugh), it’ll make you want to learn more about the strange world of “Kaijumax” that Cannon has created. This has a ton of potential and, more importantly, it lives up to that in this first issue. I’ll definitely be back for issue #2.