Zander Cannon launched Kaijumax to critical acclaim and an Eisner Award nomination for Best New Series in 2016. Five years later, Cannon returns with the sixth season of his comic book blend of prison movie plots and tokusatsu conventions. Somehow, even after five seasons, Cannon has found another fresh angle for this genre mash-up while maintaining the high quality of writing and art that fans have come to expect from him. All of this bodes well and suggests that Kaijumax: Season Six will be another excellent read for fans of the series as it nears its grand conclusion.
Kaijumax: Season Six #1 opens with three pages revealing a coordinated alien invasion of Earth by a handful of allied intergalactic threats. Cannon employs identical layouts for all three of these pages, speaking to the methodical planning behind the attack, before pulling out Kaijumax's signature title page style to refocus its narrative on the inmates.
The alien invasion angle allows Cannon to explore penal military units, where prisoners are encouraged or forced to employ the violence that likely got them imprisoned in the first place in the name of protecting the same people and society that keeps them locked away. In Kaijumax's case, the kaiju are allowed to volunteer or not, which allows for discussion among the group about whether they should be fighting to defend the system that keeps them imprisoned. That's a system that still has a group called "the Escaped Kaiju Murder Squad" in the field (they'll get around to changing the name, the warden assures them).
That throw-away joke is a perfect example of how Cannon walks the line between comedy and relevancy. He's wise enough never to try to turn his satire into allegory, which would threaten to make Kajiumax into something reductionist in nature. And yet, there are enough specifics in the divide between hero and kaiju to draw attention to certain truths about our reality. It's all right there in the core concept. In the broadest sense, Kaijumax speaks to how society sees and treats law enforcement as heroes and prisoners as monsters while using humor to illuminate the nuances and truths baked into that system.
It's infused in Cannon's cartooning as well. Vital to making this story work is Cannon's ability to humanize these larger-than-life characters through his artwork. While typically depicted in gleaming grandeur or looming dread, Cannon renders these heroes and monsters with simplified character models that allow for more expressive emoting, even when dealing with the masked or mech-piloting heroes. This expressiveness enables readers to connect with the character on both sides of the series' divide on a level that a more traditional depiction wouldn't allow.
Kaijumax: Season Six seems prepared to deal with themes of truth, consequences, and redemption. Electrogar is desperate to reconnect with the daughter he was forced to leave behind after being imprisoned. Whoofy is trapped in a psychological cycle, misbehaving—or not behaving at all—because he believes he can only be destructive. The Cryptids are trying to reclaim past glory after the species riot they instigated left them outnumbered and under-gunned. Matsumoto is still working through the shock of losing her career after admitting to past wrongdoings. Laying down these narrative threads, Cannon ramps up the tension and sets up the alien invasion arc as a story that could damn or redeem any number of these characters. These personal redemption arcs nicely parallel the literal, transactional redemption—in terms of crimes expunged and sentences shortened—being offered to the prison inmates
Kaijumax: Season Six #1 gets things rolling for what's shaping up to be a turning point season in the Kaijumax saga. Cannon's considerable skills as a satirist and a cartoonist are on full display as he settles in for a story about owning and overcoming past mistakes through action. It works because Cannon is uncannily gifted at humanizing monstrous and godly beings and infusing his narratives with the perfect amount of real-world resonance. Kaijumax looks to continue its tenure as one of the best series published in comics today.
Published by Oni Press
On April 28, 2021
Written by Zander Cannon
Art by Zander Cannon
Colors by Zander Cannon with Jason Fischer0comments
Letters by Zander Cannon
Cover by Zander Cannon