REVIEW: Leviathan #1 by John Layman, Nick Pitarra, & Michael Garland

Artist Nick Pitarra definitely draws one of the better Kaiju in recent memory.

By Zack Quaintance — Leviathan #1 is one of those ultra-polished books you can tell is the work of a veteran creative team, one that’s having a damn good time, too. This comic was written by John Layman (perhaps best known for Chew) and drawn by Nick Pitarra, a frequent collaborator of high-concept sci-fi writer Jonathan Hickman. This book is the first of a five-part series, and I’d describe its first issue as a well-executed madcap romp (albeit one that doesn’t come without a toll).

What’s most impressive about Leviathan #1 is how efficiently Layman, Pitarra, and colorist Michael Garland handle the storytelling basics. The book orients us with a confident, almost-stern narration, introducing us to our hero. They quickly make him relatable by showing us he’s a good host who threw a party in which some unsavory guests drank too much beer (we’ve all been there), and they let us know what he cares about most—his would-be fiance Vee. Then they put her in grave danger (a bit of a damsel in distress thing, but, not to worry, without spoiling anything I’ll just say she has some agency). This leaves us as an audience oriented, vested, and incredibly curious as to how our hero will respond.

Now, this is so far a pretty straightforward concept for a comic book, and so it’s also to the credit of its creators that story beats are made so entertaining. Layman’s voice here is smart and self-aware, funny in a meta way that also does work for the story. Our characters know what kaijus are (as any pop culture aficionado would), so much so that the creative team doesn’t need to explain where the titular Leviathan came from or why (not at the start, anyway). They can just write a few funny quips about how it found its way into a cooling tube of a nuclear power plant, or some sh*t, and we’re right back to the action.

Pitarra’s artwork and Garland’s colors are also quite impressive. There is an impressive level of detail lent to the backgrounds, cityscapes, and the monster, and he tweaks his style to be a bit cartoonish with the human form, one that sets an inherently looser tone that lets readers know crazy things can and will happens. Basically, the artwork in this book is rich to look at and also guided by some great choices.

This first issue (of five) seems to hint that there’s more to it than just being a monster story, and so we’ll have to wait until next month for a better idea of the scope.

Overall: In the end notes, the creative makes readers a promise...we guarantee every issue we’re gonna grab you by the throat and throttle you with insane nonstop action until your brains dribble out your ears. ...I’m not really up for all of that (ewwww), but I definitely liked this comic enough to come back for more. 8.5/10

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Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.