It often feels like independent comics live or die by their concept, as the right narrative hook can leave readers captivated enough to follow months or years worth of storytelling. From the jump, that's exactly what drew me into AfterShock Comics' The Kaiju Score, a four-issue saga of criminals pulling an impossible heist amid the backdrop of a giant-monster attack. By the end of The Kaiju Score, it felt like a unique contradiction was in place – there was enough closure to definitively end things there, but enough meat on the bone to potentially spin out another wild story. This week's Kaiju Score: Steal From the Gods #1, which kicks off the second volume of a larger narrative, tackles that dichotomy with incredibly intriguing results. While it's a bit of a slow burn, this issue shows how to convincingly raise the stakes for a high-concept story.
Set well after the events of The Kaiju Score, Steal From the Gods centers on Michelle, the safecracker who subverted every "token female character" trope to become a major player in the original heist. As she tries to establish a new, monster-free status quo for herself and her new team of accomplices, she gets offered the opportunity to carry out another outlandish score – one that might involve literally stealing from the body of a kaiju.
From the very first panel, Steal From the Gods uses those narrative stakes in some clever ways, making the tension incredibly otherworldly and personal. The very crux of the team's mission feels like a worthy escalation of the circumstances surrounding The Kaiju Score, and simply allows for more opportunity to explore the idea of humans and giant monsters existing alongside one another. The way Steal From the Gods builds out monster lore will surely draw comparisons to the various successes and failures of Pacific Rim and the Monsterverse movies, but that's not necessarily a bad comparison. If anything, this issue avoids its predecessors' mistakes by putting its heist story and tropes front and center, instead of burning out on its monsters way too quickly.
Putting Michelle at the center of Steal From the Gods' narrative is also an inspired choice, as we get an even more comprehensive and satisfying peek into her psyche than in the original series, even through to the back matter of the issue. While the things Michelle is grappling with—particularly, the decision to stop pretending to be something they're not—certainly aren't anything new in genre media, there's something about exploring them within the backdrop of a world of gods and monsters (and with a protagonist who isn't a straight white male) that feels genuinely delightful. The way James Patrick's script unfolds also manages to be accessible for both new and returning Kaiju Score readers, providing a jumping-on point that isn't always guaranteed in a sequel series. Admittedly, the issue devotes so much real estate to Michelle's story that the members of her crew seem undercooked by comparison, but the very concept of this comic following a compelling side character proves that the narrative can and probably will develop them further.
A lot of what gave The Kaiju Score its distinct flavor was Rem Broo's art, with outlandish facial expressions and angular body features that helped sell the average and absurd elements of the series. Luckily, Steal From the Gods keeps that aesthetic flair in full force, while still allowing for distinct details. Every element of the issue is able to possess a distinct and frantic energy, whether in drawings of an ancient monster fight, a high-octane car chase, or in the way a character sits in a chair. Broo's color work somehow manages to get even better than it was in The Kaiju Score, with uses of pinks, purples, and oranges that dreamily support Michelle's story without being stereotypically feminine. The lettering from Dave Sharpe perfectly compliments it all with blocks of dialogue that feel as tightly-wound as the issue's events.
Kaiju Score: Steal From the Gods provides a solid look at how to establish a lateral sequel series, playing into readers' expectations just enough while bringing unique stakes and intriguing emotions along the way. Admittedly, this week's first issue still feels like it's only scratching the surface of what the larger Kaiju Score mythos has to offer, but it leaves open a wealth of possibilities for the future issues to get there. What matters is that James Patrick, Rem Broo, and Dave Sharpe continue to collaborate absurdly well, and still offer one of the most clever fictional worlds within AfterShock's arsenal. If The Kaiju Score is any indication, the journey its characters are about to embark on will go haywire – but hopefully, the comic itself won't come close to doing the same.
Published by AfterShock Comics
On April 13, 2022
Written by James Patrick
Art by Rem Broo
Colors by Rem Broo0comments
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Rem Broo