Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe #3
 Dave Chipps
Pencils: Mozart Couto Inks: Mike Sellers
Language: English Release: 1996
Publisher: Dark Horse Pages: 32
Colors: Art Knight Cover: Yuji Kaida
Monster Appearances: Aliens, SDF, & Misc Appearances:
Gamera, Viras, Zigra N/A
Nicholas Driscoll

After Gamera issue 2's plunge into an unapologetic gonzo zone, with plot contrivances popping out of every crevice of Gamera’s tortoise shell, and our villains positively gobbling the scenery, it was hard to imagine the next issue topping the previous in sheer silliness. Best of all was the alien bio-weapon retrieval lady who could speak in only pigpen ciphers, thus condemning readers to the tedium of decoding (keep your notes tucked in the page if you ever want to reread the book, kids!). Still, when we last left off, Gamera had just been paralyzed by everyone’s favorite gargantuan goblin shark Zigra, leaving us on an effective cliffhanger, with a hint that soon Freena, Zigra, and Gamera would have a big three-way throwdown come next ish.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way things played out. But, on the plus side, the plot gets weirder!

We start off with Lutz dreaming (and possibly naked) in a French prison in Paris, which gives an opportunity to bring back ever-so-briefly the much-missed Asagi in his dream long enough to berate her klutzy replacement. In other words, that cliffhanger we were left on is going to be resolved in flashback later in the issue, thus draining any hint of suspense we might once have had, since now Lutz is far, far away from the scene of the battle. But first we get to go back to Gusano and nutbar scientist Greta Karbone, who is still under the influence of Viras and is now sporting gut-splittingly hilarious tentacle-like dreadlocks. Viras is now kaiju-sized and snacking on killer whales while directing Greta to yoink Asagi’s magic stone in order to take over the turtle titan’s mind. Meanwhile, Mayumi, who we last saw stranded on Karbone and Gusano’s monster isle, is now in Paris, having been sent by the United Nations’ Supermonster Task Force (first time this group has been mentioned, and the last) to interview Lutz because he might know something about Greta and Gusano because Lutz saw Zigra, and Zigra might be a member of that dastardly duo’s monster army. (The chain of connections is terribly tenuous, but writer Dave Chipp had to think of something.) Lutz shows Mayumi Asagi’s rock, and Gusano appears just at that moment to steal it. Moments later, just after Gusano pilfers the precious stone, Mayumi and Lutz are teleported out of the prison by Freena, who wants to ask Mayumi if there are any other supermonsters hanging around earth that she can take for her business. Just then, as they are talking, Viras bashes into their cloaked ship (Freena must have been flying very low), followed quickly behind by Gamera, who is trying to protect Viras from the military attacks. Yes, friends, Gamera is now under control by Greta Karbone, who is hanging off of the side of a building for some reason. Will the earth be reduced to rubble? Can Gamera escape? Will these comics get any more off-the-wall? Tune in next time!

Through the process of writing that synopsis and reflecting over the unabashed lunacy of Gamera issue 3, I have to say, I’m a bit of a fan. The story borders on Gyaos-guano insane and falls apart if you glance at it sideways, but with the right perspective, it’s a lot of fun. The writer is clearly having a grand old time (especially when Freena shows up again, but more on that later), and the action comes so fast it’s hard to be too upset when none of it makes a molecule of sense.

Alright, there are numerous ways the plot could be improved. All throughout, it’s hard to know how much time actually passes between each increasingly improbable event. There is no character development whatsoever—for example, though Gusano is disturbed by Greta’s increasing mania, he does nothing to stop her, and little to even question her, even with so many lives at stake. Many of my main objections are noted above in the synopsis—the crummy flashback, the sudden appearance of the UN Supermonster Force, the fact that Mayumi apparently is the UN’s gopher for worthless monster missions (even when she should be recovering from a kidnapping!), and the ludicrous stream of coincidences that barely keep the plot limping along. Honestly, though, this sort of plot pretzel is relatively common in giant monster stories, which are frequently on the brainless side. Nevertheless, Gamera issue 3 pushes it—especially with Freena.

As in the last issue, when Freena first arrives, here again she speaks for a page in nothing but the pigpen cipher. By this point, I was getting pretty good at decoding the stuff after working through the dialogue and other text from the last issue, so the inconvenience didn’t bother me as much. However, here Dave Chipp adds an extra obstacle to complicate understanding: Several errors in transcription. The text of Freena talking to herself is as follows, directly transcribed:

“C’mon Zigra baby! You gotta stii be in onf piece!”

“Lets take a gander with this doohickey”

“Son of a biscuit! Nothin but bones!”

“Now my job aint worth a plug nickel!”

Errors aside, I suppose some folk might find themselves irritated by the heavy use of outdated slang. Freena continues to speak in such colloquialisms through the rest of the comic, although mercifully minus the pigpen cipher. I’ll come out and say it, though: I loved it. I love old-fashioned slang, and the fact she was speaking in classic drawl made the decoding somewhat less painful. Sure, it’s a lame joke, but it’s a lame joke that made me grin. Far as I’m concerned, yesterday’s slang is the bee’s knees, and I’m not pullin’ yer chain.

The art from the familiar team of Mozart Couto and Mike Sellers (with colors by Art Knight, which is a great name) is as strong as in previous issues. The monsters look pretty solid, and character designs are admirably consistent. However, on one page, there is an odious art fart that had me bewildered. When Gusano steals the stone from Lutz, apparently the panels are put out of order in the book, among other problems. In one panel, Lutz is wearing one outfit, in the next he’s wearing Gusano’s uniform and getting hit with a cell phone, and in the next he’s chatting like nothing’s happened again. I went over the panels again and again, trying to make sense of them, and I don’t know what happened, but it’s a mess. Still, another fantastic cover, this time by Yuji Kaida again, makes up for a lot, and Kaida’s Gamera looks stunning—though a more interesting background would have been nice.

Gamera issue 3 is an acquired taste, but so is the entire series. Sure, it does not fit the “mature” tenor of the Shusuke Kaneko Gamera trilogy of movies, and opts instead for an almost kiddy charm that refers back to the Gamera of old. Most fans, being older, probably disliked this Gamera comic, and younger kids wouldn’t have been interested having never heard of the monster. But for a certain set who enjoy their monsters goofy just as much or more than when they are serious, and who can overlook significant flaws, there is still a tender nugget of turtle meat goodness to enjoy here, if you are open to it.