Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: World War Kaiju by Josh Finney and Patrick McEvoy

I wouldn't call myself a "Kaiju" fan. Sure I watched Godzilla movies when I was a kid, but as an adult I never understood the nostalgia for giant monsters that some people have. 1998's Godzilla was awful, Cloverfield was silly, Pacific Rim was overrated and there was so much hype for 2014 Godzilla that I didn't even bother to go see it in theaters (which was probably a smart move considering the title character is only in 8 freaking minutes of the movie). So in truth I was a tad hesitant about reading World War Kaiju by Josh Finney and Patrick McEvoy, but I am happy in the end that I took the chance.

World War Kaiju is an alternate history of the Cold War where instead of nuclear weapons, giant monsters were developed to defeat Japan. Born from radioactive crystals discovered in the Earth's crust, the two superpowers are now locked in an arms race to hatch the most monsters. The story is told as an interview between an intelligence agent at the heart of it all and an anti-establishment reporter looking for the truth. From the scenes set in the present, you get hints that something really bad happened and Nixon is to blame, but the story ended in 1958, leaving it to the sequel(s) to fill us in.

Kaiju aside, I am not sure if I would classify this story as an alternate history. Sure there were changes, like Tokyo being destroyed instead of Hiroshima and the atom bomb never being invented, but history and society tends to parallel OTL's Cold War. I can forgive that because World War Kaiju is at heart a love letter to Kaiju genre and the bad sci-fi of the mid-20th century, and the art used by McEvoy reflects this as well. We see huckster Martians and hero scientists, along with tons of monsters no doubt inspired from films on both sides of the Pacific. The appendixes in the back are chock full of information and their earnestness makes for some real good humor.

There was a plot hole that annoyed me a little. Turns out the crystals the Kaiju are born from are extraterrestrial in origin. An alien race fought a devastating war with Kaiju and to prevent themselves from ever using them again they dumped all of the crystals on prehistoric Earth. This seems rather pointless considering its established in the comic that the crystals can be damaged and destroyed making them useless for hatching Kaiju. If that is so, why didn't the aliens just destroy them instead of going to all the trouble of transporting them to a distant planet and just hoping no one ever figures out how to use them? Was there no stars or black holes nearby to drop them into? I know it wouldn't make much of a story if the aliens did destroy the crystals and perhaps there is an explanation coming in later issues, but it still bugged me.

Plot hole aside, I believe I can still recommend World War Kaiju. This parody of 1950s sci-fi was an entertaining read and I look forward to seeing book 2.

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update and a blogger on Amazing Stories. Check out his short fiction. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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