Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, July 23, 2007
      ( 7/23/2007 09:15:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"I'M GONNA CATCH ME A GIANT KILLER ROBOT!" – Recently, Starz Action channel played host to a quartet of nineties era Godzilla movies (Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah, Vs. Mechagodzilla, Vs. Space Gorilla, Vs. Destroyah), introduced by Steve Van Zandt in an affected accent. Over six hours of building tromping action: yeah, I set the recorder for it. I'm thinking, though, that at least one of the minds behind the new graphic novel Monster Attack Network (AiT/Planet Lar) was sitting at home and marathon viewing these babies the day they first aired. Clearly, these are people who appreciate the beauties of a big ol' monster foot coming down on some fleeing unfortunates.

Written by Highwaymen team, Marc Bernadin & Adam Freeman – and drawn with a heavy predilection for the big black brush stroke by new-to-me Nima Sorat – M.A.N. is a comic book tribute to monster rampage movies. Set on the wealthy tropical isle of Lapuata, the book follows the workings of a group of men and women hired to fend off the island's periodic monster attacks, a fairly regular occurrence that island inhabitants see as part of the price for living in a global economic powerhouse. (Where the monsters come from is never explained, nor does it need to be.) It's the Monster Attack Network's job to chase off each attacking creature rarely, we're told, killing 'em), then rebuild ("And repave. And re-upholster. And re-spackle. And re-wallpaper") each trashed-out area. From the very first monster attack depicted – a flying beastie named Gygax that we only get to see as a shadow and a giant eye peering into an office building – it's clear M.A.N. has found a need and filled it.

The book's two main characters are Nate Klinger, a hypermuscled block of a man who is M.A.N.'s operations manager, and Lana Barnes, a shapely exotic beauty and new M.A.N. hire who, it is obvious to both Nate and us, is hiding a secret or two of her own. (For one thing, though her name's plainly Anglo, she quickly has to own up to being Lapuata born.) Klinger is aptly described by another character as built for "standing on top of a wall, pushing herd animals onto Saxon invaders." Though relatively new to the monster attack biz, Lana proves equally capable, hopping on top of an attacking giant slug to ride it out of the city, for instance, without once having her fulsome breasts pop out of her improbable dress. Nate has his odd tingling suspicions about the lady, but obviously these two heroically shaped figures are meant to work together.

The plot of M.A.N., such as it is, revolves on a sudden increase in island monster attacks that naturally proves to be human instigated. Soon as the story's maniacal mastermind is introduced, readers'll immediately suss much of what he's up, and, to Bernadin & Freeman's credit, they don't work overtime to mask this fact. They know what we wanna see – more giant monster attacks, not a lotta talky pages filling us in the villain's motivation – and giant monster attacks is what we get, right down to the inevitable "mecha" monster assault by the bad guy in a giant robot. ("Now that's one [expletive] with too much money," Zeke, the profanely amusing second-in-command observes.) In stories like this, plot mechanics are largely secondary to the specifics of fight and flight in the face of monstrous stomping doom.

That noted, our two scripters prove as adept with snappy word balloons as they have in their current Wildstorm Highwaymen series, even if they do stint somewhat when it comes to fleshing out the secondaries. Sorat's stylized gray-scaled art blends both Jack Kirby and Mike Mignola with the somewhat more weighted art of a Paul Pope, though at times it's a little too loose and choppy to get the job down. (When the giant slug crashes into a theatre showing a monster flick, for instance, it's not always clear how the sequence is supposed to work, particularly when Sorat cuts to two moviegoers blissfully unaware that the monster attack's taking place.) Still, the large panel of a humongous Harryhausen-esque cephalopod perched atop a skyscraper is as engagingly out-there as any of the giant monster comics Stan Lee & King Kirby used to serve up back in Marvel's pre-superhero days – which is as it should be. Gotta love them four (or is it five?) tentacled giant cephalopods . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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