Comic Review: Giant Monster (Steve Niles, 2005)

Okay, right off the bat, what kind of title for your giant monster story is “Giant Monster”? It’s like calling a western “Western”, or kung fu story “Kung Fu” (okay, bad example) or your scary movie “Scary Movie” (okay, worse example). It’s reductionist to the point of parody, and I’m a little surprised that Steve Niles didn’t at least go with “Steve Niles’ Giant Monster” ala John Carpenter’s Vampires or something to give it distinction. These were my thoughts at the cover page, and as such, I went into the book a little apprehensive.

giant-monster-steve-niles-hardcover-cover-art

The first half or so of Steve Niles’ 2-issue comic miniseries Giant Monster is off-putting like that. It starts with Don Maggert, an astronaut on a solo mission (huh?) into space, while narration boxes explain about his battle with alcoholism (which never really comes up again) and marital strife .He’s attacked by some mysterious goop (never explained), which explodes his capsule and sends him hurtling to Earth, to become, y’know, a giant monster.

giantmonster

I expected this to be the same type of tragedy as the episode of Ultraman featuring Jamila, another astronaut-turned-humanoid-giant-monstrosity, but as a hero, Maggert lacks much pathos as he spends most of the run eating humans in the most gruesome ways the artist could render (NB: Niles is most famous for the vampire gorefest 30 Days of Night, and the level of graphic carnage here is comparable) and internally whining about his wife cheating on him. The story picks up pace, however, as Maggert’s wife is brought in to talk him down, and I was fully on board at the point where a cyborg Nazi scientist reveals that he’s constructed a giant robot to fight Taggert with:

giantmonster Nazi bot

That fun, zany element redeemed the comic in my eyes, and had me wondering what might have happened if it had more than just two issues under its belt.

The interior art by Nat Jones wasn’t particularly to my tastes, as the inks were very scratchy, almost like a woodprint, with an mute color pallet to emphasize the horror aspect of the story, I suppose. The frames in between panels are black for the same reason, which effectively illustrates the pervasive darkness in 30 Days of Night, but all it accomplishes here is maybe confuse the comic readers who’ve been trained to associate black borders with flashback sequences.

I’d say that the comic is worth reading (it’s short, so not much of a time commitment), but hardly worth the $25 price point for the collected hardcover edition. The two individual issues published by Boom! Studios are still easy to come by (even with the generic title) in print and available digitally, so unless you find the trade for a decent markdown (e.g. it used to be up for free on Comic Book Resources), that’d be the best way to go.

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