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All Flee!
Writer: Gavin Burrows
Artist: Simon Gane

As a youth, I was horribly perverted by the Godzilla movie franchise. Far too many Saturday afternoons were wasted on the original series (which turned the big G into a superhero of sorts) and the relaunch that came with Godzilla 1985. Even the giant turtle monster Gamera became familiar through Mystery Science Theater 3000. Perversion, I say!

But the dai kaiju (aka giant monsters) have become all but extinct to American audiences these days.

Stigmas against our rubber-suited pals are too numerous to list, yet I think the philosophy that “computer effects can do anything” (damn you, Lucas) is largely to blame. CGI creatures, though much cooler looking than the average rubber suit, just aren’t given the personality required by the material, and it’s personality that kept people coming back for more. The storytelling was always B-level, but there was something entertaining to be found in those cheap costumes and bad scale models.

All Flee! takes the genre, transfers it to the friendlier comic book medium, and asks the eternal question “Say, aren’t giant monsters people, too?” This one-shot, made up of three short stories (one of which isn’t actually giant monster-related), centers on an aging Godzilla-type monster named Lenny who teaches the Classical class at Monster Finishing School. His students are an odd collection of giant cyborg apes, mutant velociraptors, irradiated insects, gillmen, and werewolves with no respect for the proper techniques of metropolitan destruction.

Things only seem to get worse when the giant brain-in-a-beaker principal tells him they’ll be adding Contemporary Trampling to the curriculum, and he’ll be the one welcoming the new professor to the school. The lovely new LADY professor, that is…

One of the first things I have to say about this book is that it’s stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. The plotlines are the cute but harmless standards we’ve suffered in countless indie titles. Character development is at a minimum, the dialogue usually isn’t witty enough, and I’ll be damned if there’s a theme lurking around.

But it’s a book about gags and hardly anything else. It doesn’t try to explore the monsters’ motivation for stomping on our meager cities or eating us like circus peanuts. They break off pieces of our buildings and tote them away like souvenirs because THEY’RE MONSTERS. They live on Monster Island, where tribesmen sacrifice beautiful young women. They bat at circling bi-planes. They hatch little baby monsters from eggs or industrial accidents and start the whole crazy thing all over again.

Why? Well, why the hell not?

Unfortunately, the book lives and dies by its gags. The monster students’ lame attempts to be gangsta are way too hackneyed to be funny. Even when they just act like kids, it feels like filler. And then the rasta-giant spider… well, okay, I kinda liked him, but the scene where he refuses a fly sandwich is just one example of the really confusing shifts in continuity: are the monsters giant or human-sized?

The scale is all over the place. One minute, Lenny’s 40 stories high. The next, he’s riding a bicycle across a footbridge. To have scenes where he’s teaching class in the middle of a human city or living in a cave make sense, but then showing that monsters have their own buildings which are many “monster stories” high… I mean, aren’t you in low orbit at that point?

For a couple of light, funny, giant monster stories, the book works well enough, but the creators should know they can do a lot more. There’s personality here, true. Just not as much as you find occasionally on The Powerpuff Girls or that Barbra Streisand episode of South Park.

Still, with Godzilla turning fifty this month, it’s nice to have something new come out in his honor. *wipes away tear* And God bless.


Jason Schachat

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