COMIC BOOK REVIEW: WORLD WAR KAIJU BOOK ONE: THE COLD WAR YEARS / AUTHOR: JOSH FINNEY / ARTIST: PATRICK MCEVOY / PUBLISHER: 01 PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Just as cinema has been graced by masterful kaiju (we won’t insult you by translating) film tributes from the monster-loving directors Guillermo Del Toro and Gareth Edwards, with Pacific Rim and Godzilla respectively, it seems that the world is ready for monsters to reign once again. After all they always were cooler than superheroes weren’t they. So with that said here is the Kickstarter-backed, World War Kaiju Book One: The Cold War Years and if you love this whole genre, then you may have just found the next big thing. Not to be confused with Max Brooks’ multi-interview structured, more novel approach in World War Z (although the main plot here is built around an interview), this graphic novel uses its artistry and genre respect to power the story and the results, despite the apocalyptic cover, offer far more than a big radioactive lizard (never heard that one before) twatting buildings.
A line of the opening disclaimer reads, “Any likeness to known monsters, celebrities, and political figures (living or dead) is purely intentional and used for the purposes of homage and parody” and boy is there more here than meets the lidless eye. World War Kaiju is a stunningly realised introduction into a revised socio-political history, stemming from 1945, where the atomic bombing of Japan never happened but the kaiju (or more specifically Ryujin- also known as fat man) did. And the central narrative sees a straight-talking, anti-establishment reporter named Keegan; meet a veteran CIA Agent called Hampton, who has a mind-blowing scoop for the young reporter. The world in which this book takes place is equal parts real (real life presidents and figures are depicted and mentioned) and fantastical (monsters involved in soviet paranoia). This world is rendered via the multilingual artistry (which regularly swaps from style to style) and a scientific McGuffin that blends the genetic angle of Jurassic Park with the cautionary meaning of of Ishirō Honda’s (who is credited- among Eiji Tsuburaya, Schinichi Sekizawa and Willis O’Brien) Gojira.
Speaking of which lovers of the genre will be in their element gleefully picking sub-plots and illustrations apart for their references. Some are blatant (Flying insect kaiju Mohdrah for instance) but the better ones are the more subtle references or indeed the sly satirical swipes (there is a whole joke that is clearly referencing Godzooky). Within this fantastic series of illustrations and crazy conspiricist storytelling you will find references to films like Mechagodzilla, Attack of the Crab Monsters and even Night of the Lepus, as well as a play on many factors of the genre- from the cultural madness surrounding the success of characters like Godzilla to the cheesy aspects of many kaiju film backstories. The plot is heavily scientific and yet easily accessible and committingly created for fans, who will be eager for more once that ‘end of book one’ marker appears (and when it does, the plot appears to have reached fever pitch). From the musings on historical events/people to the revisionist narrative and ideology, World War Kaiju feels dizzying in its aspiration and spirit.
You can feel the beating heart beneath every page and envision the many battles depicted, especially the heated battle of Razor Beak and Mohdrah above New York. While you will be able to read through it quick enough, there is still plenty of reason to revisit and scour all the terminology and the “project anvil” report (come fact file) that makes up the last few pages. There is action, conspiracy and sheer lunacy at work in Josh Finney’s text and while certain lines of dialogue or gags feel a little jarring, upon reflection this is usually done with specific effect. For instance an alien sub-plot spontaneously takes on a TV advert in delivery and while this is weird, it is one of many pokes at the modern world (in fact it feels Robocop-esque in approach).
This book quantifies real cultural and historical animosity and makes it into the fabric that binds a story of Atomo-genetically created monsters. It is unlikely that this graphic story will become as culturally revolutionary as World War Z but this is a whole different breed of storytelling and one which, through love, intellect and swagger has spawned a potentially wonderful series, that could well become a real embraceable one for fans. World War Kaiju Book One: The Cold War Years is a must for followers of all things kaiju and you are unlikely to see a more ideologically stuffed and yet adoringly created book released this year, bring on the wars…
Expected Rating: 8