Carlos & Miguel Valderrama’s Giants #1 Follows in Massive, Familiar Footsteps, But Shows Off Kaiju-Sized Skill

Comics Reviews Carlos & Miguel Valderrama
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Carlos & Miguel Valderrama&#8217;s <i>Giants</i> #1 Follows in Massive, Familiar Footsteps, But Shows Off Kaiju-Sized Skill

Giants #1
Writer/Artists: Carlos & Miguel Valderrama
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

giantscover.jpeg In Giants #1, Dark Horse VP of Publishing and editor Randy Stradley contributes a backmatter column that gives readers a peek not only into the creative process, but also at the vital role a good editor plays in the creation of comics. It’s almost worth reading his insights before checking out the rest of the issue, to identify the places where Stradley’s feedback shaped the fun, fast-paced story that brothers Carlos and Miguel Valderrama have built.

Giants #1 feels like the lovechild of Pacific Rim and Akira, a dystopian future dominated by surly teenagers and kaiju—the Japanese film genre defined by giant, rampaging monsters. It would be easy for the leviathans to completely overpower the story through sheer scale alone, their immense size and the danger they pose to the humans making it hard to give them anything less than a full page of attention. The Valderramas have framed the kaiju as the center of this dystopia, with its human characters forced below ground, under threat of what appears to be a constant winter. The kaiju are the giants at the root of the story, dwarfing any other concerns.

Giants #1 Interior Art by Carlos & Miguel Valderrama

Beyond the big beasts, Giants focuses on Gogi and Zedo, two young people who belong to one of the gangs that run their cramped underground neighborhood. The red jackets that they wear are likely a callback to Katsuhiro Otomo’s iconic cyberpunk manga Akira, as are the warring gangs and the irreverent, confrontational way they speak. Walter Hill’s The Warriors also shines through Gogi and Zedo’s compatriots, but concocting young, dystopian gangs is a difficult feat without echoing previous benchmarks. After messing up an attempt to steal valuable resources from a rival group, Gogi and Zedo are asked by their leader to head above ground and gather more materials. In this context, Ambernoir is an explosive fuel that appears to be something like real-world ambergris, a byproduct of the massive creatures that rule the surface—something that’s not terribly hard to find, but volatile enough to be dangerous. The near-constant threat of explosion heightens the urgency of Gogi and Zedo’s quest.

Giants #1 Interior Art by Carlos & Miguel Valderrama

An inherent risk underlies Giants: the nostalgia for the media that came before and similarities to other popular stories can overwhelm what’s on the page. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the Valderrama brothers’ first American outing. The kaiju legacy hasn’t historically displayed much wiggle room for innovation, but it’s the kind of genre fluency that links stories into a tradition. Gogi and Zedo are funny and sharp, and the danger they face feels weighty and real. The art, which is attributed along with the story to both brothers, is particularly worth noting. Backgrounds are gratifyingly detailed, and the monsters feel hefty and interesting. The scope of their designs is massive, and the Valderramas have put a lot more thought into their hulking alien invaders than many of their contemporaries. Well-done expressions and body language doesn’t come at the cost of interesting action sequences, and while it’s a common tool in the colorist kit, the shifting color palates between settings are well executed. This first issue has set up the Valderrama brothers to hit the ground running in 2018, and as Stradley’s column proves, they’ve got a great team at Dark Horse helping them make Giants the best it can be.

Giants #1 Interior Art by Carlos & Miguel Valderrama