Mecha-Worship in Giga 1 by Alex Paknadel and John Le

I truly enjoy books that are about what they’re about, i.e. pieces of metafiction that examine their genre or archetypes. Giga, consequently, is a mecha book that is about mecha books, a meta-mecha as it were. Recently, Vault announced that they would be filling 28,000 pre-orders for the first issue. Since I wasn’t able to write about the debut issue before the FOC, I thought it would be interesting to explore it in light of that awesome pre-sale number. 

For those of us still a little confused about how the economy of direct market comics works, that 28k number reflects the initial order for comics shops through Diamond. It doesn’t consider any additional orders on top of that (advance reorders) or subsequent orders of later printings, nor does it necessarily include the total first print run numbers or digital orders. Most importantly, it doesn’t actually include the number of people who will buy the book. Presumably, there are strong shop-based pre-order numbers - the amount of patrons requesting or reserving a copy - that drove stores owners to speculate that even more customers would pick it up off the rack. 

So, the question is thus very clear. If you aren’t one of those fans who have already added Giga to your pull list, why should you pick it up? And, perhaps even more importantly, why should you come back for issue 2? Because, to be perfectly honest, that awesome 28k number doesn’t ensure anything for issue 2. And, as a corollary question, if I posit that this book is meta-mecha, if you’re not a mecha person, what’s in it for you?

There is no shortage of mecha in fandom, but it’s mostly been confined to Manga and animation of both Anime and Western origins. I would contend that most of us are mecha people to some degree whether we realize it or not. Some of the most iconic animated mecha series have become iconic in and of themselves, such as Gundam, and others like Robotech, Voltron, and Transformers are so ubiquitous that their mecha subgenre status might not even come into consideration. On top of those animated classics is the dominant Power Rangers franchise.

Thus, aware of it or not, most of us have the requisite background knowledge to approach both a mecha text and a meta-mecha text, even if, despite that level of knowledge, mecha hasn’t made it to Western comics as much as it has to television. One of the best examples of a westernized celebration of mecha fiction is the recent Mech Cadet Yu, a series that functions as a sort of love letter to series like Gundam and Robotech, and one that prefigures some of the questions Paknadel raises in Giga. And, while reading the first issue of Giga, I very much read one as dovetailing into the other. If Mech Cadet Yu was the appreciation, Giga is the analysis.

Giga is an amalgamation and subsequent dissection of the motifs and themes we often see in in mecha fiction and science-fiction as a whole. It thus exists as both a functional narrative that can be appreciated in its own right and a piece of expository metafiction. Wrapped up in the analysis, and by no means ignored, are the stories of these particular characters and a wider tale of community and connected mythology.

Giga opens with a flashback that sets the scene for the story and setting. It is a somewhat familiar science-fiction concept - a world where high technology seems jammed into an in-congruently developed society - think the type of backwoods survivalist aspects of Star Wars: lightsabers and star ships among desert huts of a juxtaposed science-fantasy. 

Years after their arrival, the Giga, the titular mechs of the story, are essentially dormant, converted into cities and temples for the human inhabitants. Paknadel channels a few different elements of mecha genre work to create this atmosphere. The Giga are visitors (Robotech) and sentient (Transformers). Even years after their arrival, the Giga are still a mystery, an element that further serves to drive their mythology. Their history, thus, is as caught up in myth as it is fact, and Paknadel seizes on the mystery of their arrival and continued existence to allow the Giga to serve as stand-ins for religious figures. They serve as points of worship and reverence. 

There are undercurrents of both rebellion and suppression in the society of Giga. We quickly learn that while most of the world reveres the Giga and their legend, there is a band of Luddites who shun all elements of technology. These bandits seem to be the slim minority, countered by the religious faithful who worship the Giga as divine saviors. Naturally, the Giga are caught up in the power structure, and Paknadel uses this to pull at ideas of access and usage. If the Giga are divine providers of bountiful riches, if society as we know it is contingent upon their existence, if they are the very structure that defines this world, why do they remain mysterious, and, more importantly, why is access to the type of tech they provide restricted. For a society that worships technology, it doesn’t appear to be incredibly technologically advanced. The drama ramps up as we discover Evan, our protagonist, to be in possession of illicit tech, hiding it from a sort of secret police charged with fettering out contraband.

Thus Giga is as much about control as it is anything else. It’s about the nature of not only democracy, but more specifically democratization. Like the Catholic Church held religious scripture just out of the hands of its faithful, the priests of Giga intentionally shroud the mechs in mystery and reject any attempts at both deeper understanding or healthy skepticism. Like various Fascist states (oh, and also the Catholic Church as well) used secret police to stamp out dissent and free thought, the Giga police control the potential access to technology.

I had no knowledge of John Le before I picked up this issue. I like the contrast he brings to the page along with colorist, Rosh. They highlight the texture of the world very well, and allow the natural scenes to gradually blend with the mecha and tech-oriented settings. There is almost a throwback feel to the book that I appreciate, one that connotes the very early 80s anime that the team channels for inspiration. Le and Rosh avoid sheen, allowing the Giga to exist as ancient creatures. They truly make the world seem big, alternating between Giga-infused landscapes and city slums. There is a sense of power behind it all, and it works in concert with Paknadel’s ambitions as a storyteller.

Giga # 1 arrives in stores this Wednesday, October 28. 

Writer - Alex Paknadel
Line Artist - John Le
Color Artisit - Rosh
Letterer - Aditya Bidikar
Publisher - Vault Comics
Cover Artists - John Le, Nathan Gooden (above), Adam Gorham, and David Mack