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Thursday, March 26, 2009

GIGANTIC issues 1-3

One of the biggest influences on my imagination since early childhood, an influence that holds considerable sway some four decades later, is the work of Japanese special effects maestro Eiji Tsuburaya, the guiding hand behind the best of the Godzilla series (and other ancillary monsters) and creator of seminal Japanese superhero Ultraman. Tsuburaya's works featured a staggering array of giant monsters (daikaiju to us geeks for the subject), especially as seen on the classic ULTRAMAN television series (1966), a show that gave eager kiddie viewers a strong weekly helping of enormous city-stomping creatures that were inevitably blown to smouldering chunks of foam rubber by the equally-ginormous titular heroic space alien.

Ultraman lets fly with his devastating Specium beam.

As a kid I simply couldn't get enough of that stuff and my love for it has remained true, but most takes on the genre have left me cold since Toho Studios' relaunch of the Gamera franchise with 1995's superb GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and its first two sequels (1996 and 1999, respectively). But now, from out of nowhere, Dark Horse Comics gives us GIGANTIC, that rarest of the rare American spin on the Japanese giants genre, and I'm glad to say it's one hell of a good comic.


The series' first issue sets things up quite nicely: humankind is revealed to be a race manipulated by vastly advanced extraterrestrials who engineered us for primitive superstition (i.e. clinging to the notion that there is a god), violent traits, leading to endless and pointless warfare. Why? Because it makes for good television, and consequently the Earth has been "the greatest show the galaxy has ever seen" for the past five thousand years. Skip ahead to modern day San Francisco and the sudden materialization of a gigantic alien that appears to be a fusion of the biological and the mechanical (and bearing the red and silver color scheme of Ultraman, with a little gray to shake things up). This sudden arrival in the middle of a heavily-populated area results in numerous casualties, and the body count grows when a pack of flying, plasma weapon-wielding green monsters show up in hot pursuit, causing a melee that destroys a decent chunk of the city when the red and silver giant unleashes an energy signature on the level of a tactical nuke.


That's just issue #1 and that's all I can say without revealing a hell of a lot; the two subsequent issues go a long way toward explaining just who's who and what the hell is going on, as well as including a plot development that as of page 10 of issue #2 changes human history for good and awakens mankind to its status in the universe. That action of course leads to a reprisal from technologically-advanced and highly dangerous forces, and when powerful aliens who don't give a flying fuck about whether the human race dies or not use the Earth as what amounts to a gladiatorial arena, all bets are off.


There are many comics projects out these days that read as though they were written with a movie deal in mind, and while I don't know if that was the intent with GIGANTIC, but I can tell you flat-out that it would make for a spectacular big-screen monster smash-'em-up. Definitely an American spiritual descendant of what Tsuburaya was putting down, writer Rick Remender and illustrator Eric Nguyen really get the genre and are obviously having a blast with what they're doing, and that sense of fun fairly radiates from the page. Simply put, GIGANTIC is the tits and I heartily recommend it to any like-minded readers. I'm not quite sure how you non-giant monster folks out there will take to it, but check it out for its brisk pace and virtually non-stop action. And if you know any fans of stuff like Godzilla movies and the adventures of Ultraman and his ever-expanding family of alien heroes from the Land of Light in Nebula M-78, do them a favor and send them the link to this review.

1 comment:

Deacon Blue said...

Ultraman! Damn, I was trying to remember the name of that show just the other day and kept thinking "Ultron," which I knew was wrong. (My fourth-grade year was marked by pretending to be Ultraman during damn near every free-play session in the classroom.)

You've just done my brain a lot of good by getting it off that data search.