Collects: Gigantic #1-5 (2008-10)
Released: April 2010 (Dark Horse)
Format: 128 pages / color / $17.99 / ISBN: 9781595823267
What is this?: A giant, exploding robot appears in San Francisco and, well, explodes, part of an alien reality show.
The culprits: Writer Rick Remender and penciler Eric NguyenI’m not sure what got me excited about Gigantic, but I wrote myself a note before the first issue came out in November 2008 to pick it up when it came out in trade paperback. Remarkably, I remembered to do so when the trade came out a year and a half later.
Gigantic — which seems to be designed to appeal to fans of kaiju (those giant monsters who often fight in Japanese movies) — features a giant robot that appears in San Francisco, crushing innocent passerby. Then, in the resulting fight, the eponymous robot seems to explode, killing more people. It turns out that the person in the robot suit is actually an Earthman, and Earth is just a giant reality show for some feckless aliens. … Kane Blake, the man inside Gigantic, was kidnapped by the aliens as a child; his family was the focus of one of the reality programs, and in space, he entered gladiatorial combats and became more famous. Now he’s escaped and come back home.
I think the log line I read for Gigantic was more brief. I certainly can’t remember what it was that interested me.
The rest of the plot is hitting spliced with less interesting developments. The villains of the piece are stereotypical television corporations; the aliens behind these corporations are more telegenic than Mojo from the original Longshot miniseries, but they aren’t anywhere near as interesting. The aliens curse, of course, and not very well — “farge” for the other f-word (probably), “glorking,” etc. Although sometimes they curse in good English as well. For some reason, alien weaponry has no visible effect on Gigantic’s armor, but a chainsaw — which I’ve seen defeated by wires inside trees — rips right through it. Kane’s brother, Scott, should take medication to control his emotions, which swing wildly with every shocking revelation and tend to drive most of the plot the aliens don’t. About two-thirds of the way through the book, writer Rick Remender uses the plot twist from Total Recall, and somehow Kane isn’t quite as convincing as a heel as Arnold Schwarzenegger. And for some reason, the evil mastermind thinks making an Earthling into the Leader is a good idea.
I know I nitpick about plot; it’s a flaw hardwired into my body. I can’t help it. The little things I pick out about the plot, while annoying, aren’t the book’s major flaw (well, the Total Recall and stereotypical evil television execs might be).
The problem is Kane — Gigantic — isn’t a very good hero. His presence kills dozens if not hundreds, making him a mass murderer. He cries about it. When Earth needs saving from its own self-destruct sequence, he can’t save it, and he doesn’t seem to care about preserving the life of the person who does stop the countdown. He’s manipulated by his employers at every turn; his true self is supposed to be as big a villain as his employers. His final victory comes when he explodes once again, with the actual heroism being done by his brother and the kid with the big green head.
Gigantic does punch things, and he does provoke a panic by revealing the presence of the aliens. But that’s not enough to make a good hero.
There are some good things. I liked the Iconoclast, another fighter who claims to be highbrow in his style when actually he is only a bombastic gladiator whose popularity is fading. The scene in which the flying saucers around Earth were revealed was a nice one. But those nice moments were few and far between.
The art from penciler Eric Nguyen occasionally had me scratching my head during the fight scenes. There was a problem of distance as well. For instance, when Gigantic’s brother bursts through a barn … door, I think (I hope to hell it’s not a wall), Nguyen has the tractor covering too much ground and running over an attacker; if the attacker wasn’t paralyzed, it should have been able to sidestep the tractor easily. Also, sometimes the brother’s farm seems near the San Francisco Bay and occasionally seemed far away from the city. Ironically, Nguyen’s art does have a sense of scale when it comes to the size of the robots and monsters scrapping with each other; the destruction is appropriately large, and the punches look large and powerful.
I don’t know whether to blame Nguyen for the Japanese writing on the covers or not; given that very little of the book takes place in Japan, it seems misleading and an attempt to make readers believe Gigantic is more kaiju than it is.
Gigantic begins with a senseless slaughter and ends with a sappy ending we’re supposed to feel good about. But both feel arbitrary, and I never really felt engaged with the book, its plot, or its hero.