Wednesday, October 5, 2011
I'd heard round the grapevine that the IDW Godzilla comic, created by Eric "The Goon" Powell, Tracy Marsh, and Phil "The Green Hornet" Hester, was worth a look, so—having never picked up any of the individual issues from this past year—I decided to check out the 100-plus-page compilation digest, Godzilla, Kingdom of Monsters, to see how this incarnation of the King of Kaiju might fare.
The cover art, by Alex Ross, certainly isn't shabby; it's a painting of a big-ass Godzilla unleashing his signature supercharged heat ray, viewed from a low angle to emphasize the fact that, yep, he be big. Also of interest is a gallery of G art by Powell, Matt Frank, and Jeff Zornow at the end of the book (Frank's work is particularly impressive). Also on a promising note, Hugo Award–winning artist Bob Eggleton has been commissioned to provide covers for the continuing comic series, which can't help but bring a touch of class to the publication...something that IDW desperately needs for this beast.
The art itself, for the most part, isn't bad; the story, however—what little one may discern of it in these hundred pages—is a jumble of occasionally entertaining monster mashes, lame political commentary, and inane social satire...all of about the same caliber as the 1998 Emmerich-Devlin Godzilla-in-Name-Only disaster. We begin with Godzilla appearing out of the ocean and doing some wholesale smashing of scenery and characters. Several "You've got to be #$@%$ kidding me's" later, we cut to a President Obama caricature (President "Ogden") bemoaning the hostile political climate and—now and again—the inconvenience of a giant critter on the rampage in Tokyo. Next thing you know, Anguirus (or "Angilas" to those of us who prefer it) shows up in Mexico, chowing on cattle. Then a baby Rodan pops out of a remnant of the 1908 Tunguska meteor...and he grows very quickly. Next...heavens...a giant egg shows up out of nowhere, and a couple of sinister, mute twin girls named Minette and Mallorie come round and mentally signal each other that they own the egg and they won't let anything happen to it. Just to impress us that they are special, they psychically inflict painful hallucinations on kids they don't particularly like. A larval Battra, a.k.a. the "Black Mothra," hatches from the egg and goes off to mess up some property.
All the while, a few human characters, mostly pointless, flit in and out of the drama, most ending up underfoot of a big monster within a few panels. One of them, in desperation, rigs himself up in an explosive vest, and in a particularly ignominious end, goes "pop" on Godzilla's nose. Just so there will be someone to stand up for these helpless monsters, we have a Lady Gaga clone ("Lady Yaya"), who stages benefit concerts to support your local daikaiju. And let's not forget the cast of "Jerseyfied," who use the giant monster phenomenon to attract as much attention to themselves as possible. Big sigh.
To be sure, there are a few amusing moments, such as when Angilas destroys the newly constructed wall along the Texas-Mexico border, but by and large, I found myself longing for the superior quality of Marvel's "Godzilla vs. S.H.I.E.L.D." storyline of the late 1970s—which I thoroughly detested in its day, though in retrospect, at least it was relatively clever. IDW's Godzilla tries to be clever with merciless tedium, and one longs for an intriguing character or two upon whom to focus, if not identify with. The political figures certainly don't cut it, and while we're introduced to a rather enigmatic military man named Woods, we get little in the way of clues to his ultimate significance; overall, by the end of the book (to be continued), he hasn't really been much fun. So far, the most noteworthy characters are the two psychic twins, and that's only because they're clearly dark at heart and more than a little weird.
The art, as I mentioned, is adequate, and some of the monster renderings are quite good—though occasionally the page layouts appear dashed together and don't do the discerning eye any favors. Godzilla appears to be based primarily on the Heisei-era (1984–1995) suit design, while Angilas is something of a hybrid, with traits from both the late Showa-era (1954–1975) and Godzilla: Final Wars design. Rodan is clearly patterned after the Final Wars costume.
I may yet give the series a bit of a chance, mainly because it's Godzilla, and once I start a story, good or bad, I often feel some small compulsion to see it through, at least for a time. To be fair, the comic series itself has by now progressed far beyond this initial story offering. Still...I can't say I'm holding out much hope. To paraphrase Astronaut Fuji in Monster Zero...they'd need to do something pretty spectacular for me to change my mind.