(w) John Layman (a) Nick Pitarra (c) Michael Garland
With the trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters dropping recently, there’s been in uptick in interest regarding giant, building smashing monsters. Filling that void for the time being is Leviathan from Image Comics, and two of our newest writers share their thoughts.
Jason Jeffords Jr. – Buildings beware! The Kaiju are here! Leviathan is the byproduct of Ryan Deluca forgetting to restock beer for a party and leaving his “guests” bored and thirsty at his house. Taking this opportunity to do some good ol’ summoning (because who wouldn’t?) an acquaintance (aptly named Goth Jimmy) sets this epic into motion, but is Leviathan a stomping good time, or the dying roar of the early 2000s Godzilla? The answer courtesy of writer John Layman, artist Nick Pitarra, and colorist Michael Garland is an emphatic “yes”.
As easily as a 400 foot -geez that’s big- goliath throws a building across a baseball field, John Layman did the same clocking a homerun in the writing department. Most Kaiju-fare consist of building-smashing and philosophical questions. With the first issue of a planned five (and hopefully more), a couple common elements are present: buildings and romance. Staying out of spoiler territory, but both of those don’t survive, which is great. The whole twenty pages are fantastic, drawing me in like a Mothra to the flame. With this being the first issue we don’t get much in the way of character development but what we do get is character moments that show us how each act and react to the destruction happening around them.
Personally I feel Ryan Deluca and Johnny Burns are the most relatable -that we’ve been introduced to- due to being just regular guys on a trip for beer that get caught up in monster mayhem. With a pace that keeps running and quick smart witted dialogue it makes the read fast but fun and fulfilling. With a gigantic monster looming in the background, and a small insert page of the government (and great president cameo) making plans for future issues, it does well to keep an aura of light heartedness and self-awareness keeping the reader engaged and desiring more.
Pitarra’s art brings a certain spark that would reanimate the dead. There were multiple times I’d have to stop reading just to fully comprehend the many minor details of the art. Even the simplest of objects are detailed to the umpth degree bringing the images to life. With many visual jokes and depth after reading just once I went back and “read” the art. If the inks are the spark then Garland’s colors help bring beauty to this monster of a comic. With vivid, lush colors it helps bring the panels and monster to life. With most entertainment in life art is highly subjective, the whole picture is fantastic but the one piece that some may not like is Pitarra’s faces. I believe the art is gorgeous -as said above- but I can believe others if they say they can’t take it at “face” value.
I hope with the next few issues Layman and Pitarra keep up their Kaiju game because nowadays it’s a monster eat monster world. Plus there are questions that need answered. Will Johnny Burns be back? Why did “Goth Jimmy” have the items to summon it? Why would you summon it? Has movies taught you nothing? I mean hell, they even have a kaiju marathon going on in the beginning.
Memorable quote: “Nuh-uh, Ry. Black guy always dies first dies first in the horror film.” – Johnny Burns
Final Thought: With a monster like this who needs friends? This is one Kaiju Comic that will make a cityscape tsunami in your hand (in a good way).
William Rice – Leviathan #1 is the comic book equivalent of an AC/DC guitar solo. I’m talking about over-the-top, stadium shaking “Hells Bells” meets “Highway to Hell” meets the hormonal kaiju-fueled wet dreams of my now distant and confusing youth. It’s as rock ‘n roll as they come, and really (REALLY) fun. It’s a hilariously nihilistic spectacle that delivers on a few different levels with zero hint of pretense, though – much like a 350 foot lizard – you can see exactly what’s coming from about a mile away.
“Kaiju,” if you aren’t familiar, is Japanese for “strange beast” or “monster” and is typically associated with Japanese films featuring skyscraper-sized monsters fighting to the death. These films includes cheesy classics like 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, 1968’s Destroy All Monsters and a host of other titles. However, kaiju filmmaking isn’t all just rubber suits and miniature set crushing – it’s a response to the horrific psychological uncertainties of the atomic age, with a fair number of moral ambiguities and lingering questions about the future of humankind. Sometimes the featured monster appears to punish us for foolish, humanistic misdeeds, and sometimes it appears to save the citizenry and play hero. The story of kaiju film is also the story of the Japanese outlook on nuclear energy after World War II – conflicted for good reason. Leviathan presents us with a similarly ambiguous and existential terror, reshaped for maximum impact, and aimed at modern consumer culture.
Leviathan is a uniquely American view of kaiju. And I mean that literally; look out for appearances by The Orange One himself and lackey Jared Kushner ordering a full-scale nuclear strike from the White House nursery. Apart from the pointedly idiotic cameos, Leviathan asks us to measure our own reaction to disaster in the melting pot, and suggests several points of view from which you might evaluate the destruction, the same way 24-hour info-tainment bounces from one talking head to another. What do you do when the monster breaks loose? Are you the sleazy cameraman vying for the best angle? Are you the fearful priest who finally sees the coming of The Beast? Are you the hobo screaming bloody apocalypse in the street?
The premise of Leviathan is as amusing and easy to follow as any old-school kaiju film – big city plus big monster equals big entertainment. Unfortunately, a simple premise often lends itself to predictability. If you’re looking for a comic book that breaks new ground with an innovative approach to storytelling, this isn’t it. But not every comic book has to be the next Watchmen, either. Leviathan #1 delivers on the promise it makes right on the cover: a kickass monster is hungry to squish the guts out of dopey morons like they were toothpaste tubes. I can’t wait to see more.