Superheroes in general are often associated with engaging in constant and unending battles against one foe or another with little in the way of reason behind them, while giant kaiju-style monsters often aren’t held in much higher esteem thanks to their overall penchant for destroying large cities, but doing little else. So one wouldn’t expect a superhero vs. kaiju comic to come across as anything resembling high art, but creators Cullen Bunn and Steve McNiven don’t seem to care that “Monsters Unleashed” #1 isn’t going to win any awards for literary excellence. Recognizing that not every comic has to serve the purpose of challenging readers’ intellects, Bunn and McNiven deliver the kind of story that instead allows their minds to take a rest and simply enjoy the big-budget action.
To wit: A giant unidentified monster swoops down and attacks Boston, and the Avengers arrive to battle it. Meanwhile, another attacks London, and the X-Men show up on the scene; you get the idea. And that’s perfectly fine, as laid out by McNiven, and embellished by Jay Leisten and colorist David Curiel, all these flying, crawling or slithering creatures are exquisitely grotesque, and an issue full of them is enough to make this comic worthwhile. There’s seemingly no limit to McNiven’s imagination, which bodes well for the rest of the series as he designed a number of the monsters to be illustrated by subsequent series artists Adam Kubert, Greg Land, Salvador Larroca and Leinil Yu. Creatures are who at least moderately more familiar also make an appearance, and McNiven’s skills do justice to these pseudo-classic characters, as well.
The cities, monsters, and heroes who battle them read as though Bunn drew the matchups from a hat, but the thrills are so much fun that no one is really going to care which behemoth Spider-Man is facing off against, or that it’s even Spider-Man in the first place, or why the relatively ineffective Spidey is even involved in the fray at all. Bunn’s story might be simple, but it’s not careless; he does provide some semblance of a reason as to why these monsters are being unleashed, and after an issue’s worth of monstrous fisticuffs, there is a moderately surprising cliffhanger ending. The characters aren’t all interchangeable, either; one in particular is shown to have a key role that promises to be expanded on in coming issues.
McNiven’s cover is laid out as though it’s composed of carefully placed Colorform images, and plays a little loose with the actual events inside the issue, but like his interior art and the story it renders, the symbolic, splashy image is just too cool not to like. It perfectly conveys what every reader should do before cracking open “Monsters Unleashed” #1: put away the thinking caps, and instead pop the cap off a bottle of soda and grab a bag of Twizzlers, because this comic is the sequential art equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie.