"You can't just read a god's thoughts and not expect consequences." Some Thoughts on Giga # 2

Everyone I know who read and enjoyed the first issue of Giga came away with a similar feeling: intrigue. In the debut issue, Paknadel and Lê tap into an original premise within the confines of a familiar genre, and they set up a world that has seemed to pique the curiosity of many readers. It’s hard enough to do that in a debut issue without clunking around between world building and character development at the expense of plot pacing. But Giga 1 did nothing but make me eager for the second issue. I have the feeling Paknadel is layering elements of theology, metaphysics, and sociology in such a way that this series is going to end up having some compelling implications.

Issue two opens in a similar manner as issue one, with a flashback to an important event in Evan’s life. Before we discuss the content of the flashback, I think it’s wise to highlight this storytelling choice. In a short time, Paknadel exposes portions of Evan’s backstory, enough that he can trust readers to draw some inference. It’s time well-spent because it both eases the reader back into the world and maximizes page real estate. 

But, the content. 

We open the issue to find Evan talking with a friend who has promised to change his life. Excitement abounds until Evan realizes said life-changing event is a pair of prosthetic legs.

(I want to acknowledge now that there is still consistent debate on terminology. There are certainly broad-sweeping trends and official/clinical nomenclature, but individual self-determination makes us understand that different people view definitions and labels differently based on their experience or worldview. For instance, I know both Autistic persons and persons with Autism. In general, I have been taught to use people-first language; therefore, I’ll be using the term “people with disabilities,” not disabled, nor differently-abled. I have heard arguments for and against each term, and I’m not necessarily sure what is right myself outside of honoring each individual’s choice to define themselves on their own terms. While always valuing that concept, I think it tracks to generalizations as well. Thus, I feel people-first language honors the individual as much as a generalized term can.)

In a few short panels, Paknadel and Lê expose ableist language toward disabilities, specifically the way people with disabilities contrast with the expectations of people without disabilities. I've had this concept on my mind since reading Vivian Chong and Georgia Webber's exceptional Dancing after TEN. I appreciate the way Paknadel handles the concept. There is a misguided view associated with “solving” disabilities as if people with disabilities are broken and need fixing. Who is to say what the standard for all people should be? Or, rather, who is to say there needs to be a standard for all people. Paknadel handles this idea with nuance and truly expresses Evan’s humanity. I say that as someone who is conventionally able-bodied. I’d be curious to hear from a person with a disability. 

Via the flashback, Paknadel introduces the idea of neuromancy, a concept he returns to later in this issue. It’s in this concept that we begin to see how Giga differs from the typical mecha book. We’re familiar with mecha as part of a highly developed, futuristic society. It’s the distinction here that makes Giga unique, and Paknadel deliberately taps into the “high tech/low culture” motif that defines cyberpunk. (Obviously, “neuromancy” is also a window into the genre). The paradox of Giga is that the disconnect between tech and culture is such a wide chasm that the Giga themselves take on a divine supernatural status. Thus, when a god dies, it shakes the whole community. 

Following the flashback - and I stress that it is another quick glimpse into the past without specific resolution at this point -  Paknadel and Lê return to the core narrative, picking up a few frames from where the first issue ended. Evan, cornered by the cult-like Luddite Dusters, finds himself saved by an unexpected source. Despite this save, he’s looking at some severe punitive consequences from the various authorities that rule the world of Giga, unless of course he plays ball by rewiring equipment to help with the investigation of the dead Giga.

Paknadel continues to explore the different elements of the Giga society, specifically the hierarchical components of the world and the mythology surrounding the Giga themselves, inserting small but important details like the fact that the dead Giga decomposes like an organic being and smells of death. We learn more about the church of the Giga, receiving more readings from the Book of Assembly and again confronting the Order of the Red Relay in the visage of Father Crowquill, a slimy overseer positively Borgian in his characterization,”sometimes a problem can’t be solved unless one flirts a little with damnation.” Pakandel toys with the religionization of technology with titles for clergy like “your accuracy” and the pseudo-supernatural mysteries associated with said tech. Most fascinating, though, is the way he tweaks typical Western religious mythology - our God/gods tend to resemble us physically and emotionally - while also incorporating the traditional Vatican-style authority and the existence of an evil counterpart, The Red King.

I’m growing very fond of John Lê’s art. Bringing a vibe that feels influenced by 80s cartoons and 2000 AD, he incorporates little touches that integrate well into the story, like Evan’s locks that look almost mechanical, or the way he adds humanity to the eyes of Evan’s bot, Laurel. He also produces a few splash pages that show off his attention to detail with precision illustration of Giga attributes, down to the sunken faces of the dormant mechas. One particular splash page captures the essence of the series as a whole by employing the agony of integration with technology. Along with Rosh, whose colors accentuate Lê’s shading, this page reminds me of peak Vertigo, like something that could have come out of a Morrison/Case Doom Patrol series. The art team truly articulates the dichotomy of the series, the rural agrarian world with, oh yeah, robots as cities. 

Did Giga 2 deliver on the promise of Giga 1? I would say yes. The few answers we have serve to only spur more questions. Consequently, the world of Giga contintues to grow, and Paknadel and team slide into a well-established episodic format. 

Giga # 2
Writer - Alex Paknadel
Line Artist - John L
Color Artist - Rosh
Letterer - Aditya Bidikar
Sensitivity Reader - Danny Lore
Publisher - Vault Comics