LEVIATHAN #1 by John Layman, Nick Pitarra, and Michael Garland
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
LEVIATHAN #1 wastes no time in bringing the monster to life. John Layman's humor shines as Nick Pitarra and Michael Garland bring forth a vibrant comic filled with grotesque and politically pointed details!
88 %
Delightfully Grotesque

From Godzilla to the Bible, monsters are important figures of destruction in culture. John Layman’s newest comic, LEVIATHAN #1, draws on themes from both religious behemoths and Kaiju, giant city-destroying beasts of Japanese horror films. Nick Pitarra’s intensely detailed artwork with bright colors by Michael Garland lets readers crash through LEVIATHAN #1 in pursuit of the the flaming monster. Pitarra’s artwork verges on the grotesque, adding a satirical element of monstrosity to the human characters and their civilization. Unsettling and exciting, LEVIATHAN #1 smashes readers expectations.

John Layman and Nick Pitarra talk Giant Monsters and LEVIATHAN!

Summoning Kaiju

In a recent interview with ComicsVerse, John Layman said LEVIATHAN stemmed from his appreciation of Kaiju monster movies. The Japanese genre features gigantic beasts storming civilization. Humorously, Layman connects LEVIATHAN to the Kaiju genre as well as religious dooms-day rhetoric. Indeed, the term “leviathan” appears repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible and refers to a monstrous creature. As a result, Layman’s first issue establishes that his monstrous LEVIATHAN will play with established narratives about monstrosity.

LEVIATHAN #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Layman continues to successfully twist the Kaiju genre in LEVIATHAN #1. Instead of emerging from the test tubes of a mad scientist’s lab, the comic’s giant red iguana-like beast is summoned by an unlikely group of bored party-goers. Protagonist Ryan Deluca and his girlfriend hilariously flounder in their efforts to escape the leviathan’s rampage.

And thanks to Nick Pitarra, the rampage is quite something. As the comic progresses, it is almost as though the leviathan has disrupted the very panels of the comic. What begins as concise and relatively orderly quickly turns into a fantastic mess. Pitarra skillfully evokes chaos and insanity, matching Layman’s mood perfectly.

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Monstrosity and The Grotesque

While Pitarra’s leviathan is an almost cute — if totally destructive — monster, his human characters verge on the grotesque. With bulbous heads and unflattering hair, readers may feel as though they are seeing too much of humanity. Indeed, Pitarra is unafraid to show acne, sweat, and blood. The artwork in LEVIATHAN #1 may remind readers of Underground Comix artist Robert Crumb. Although Pitarra’s artwork is — thankfully — less frighteningly sexual than Crumb’s, LEVIATHAN #1 offers an appropriate venue for grotesque bodies to come into contact with a force of destruction and desolation.

LEVIATHAN #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Michael Garland’s colors add grit to the comic’s city-scape. Indeed, without Garland’s help, Pitarra’s details might be lost. Luckily, with Garland’s expert colors, the grotesque details in Pitarra’s work stand out. From bizarre advertisements in the backgrounds to the bulging bumps on a nerdy teen’s face, the humanity in LEVIATHAN is totally exposed. Although the artwork does not necessarily help readers relate to the comic’s protagonist, it certainly creates an ambiance fit for a monster.

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LEVIATHAN #1: Political Satire?

Generally speaking, comics that use homeless people with mental illnesses as punch lines are problematic at best. Layman’s reference to “Ol’ Hobo Jenkins” feels too immature to be satire. Moreover, as much as someone proclaiming “the end is near” fits the genre, casting this person as unkempt and feral is disappointingly tired and harmful. However, when Layman turns his attention to the contemporary political setting, LEVIATHAN #1 hints that the series might offer more satisfying satire after all. Indeed, Layman and Pitarra do not conceal their distaste for the Trump Administration. Pitarra exaggerates Trump’s narcissism and inability to appropriately respond in emergency settings. A deranged caricature of Jared Kushner seems to make all the decisions. Layman and Pitarra’s sense of satire calls into question the idea of monstrosity. The comic seems to ask who is the real monster destroying the country?

Maybe seeking out political satire it is asking too much. But monsters, like the Biblical snake or Frankenstein’s Monster, do tend to figure as metaphors for humanity’s evils. Hopefully coming issues will elaborate on the true nature of the leviathan and what exactly the comic’s protagonist can do about it!

LEVIATHAN #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

No Ordinary Monster, No Ordinary Comic

One thing is for sure, LEVIATHAN #1 is no ordinary monster story, and Layman is sure to bring surprises to the series. The Kaiju genre, as unwieldy as it may be, gives Layman and his team room to explore (and demolish) tropes as they see fit. While LEVIATHAN #1 gives small glimpses of the monster, hopefully upcoming issues will highlight Pitarra’s monumental interpretation of Layman’s leviathan.

Get your copy of LEVIATHAN #1 here

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