Friday, September 11, 2015

REVIEW: Godzilla in Hell #2

Art & story: Bob Eggleton
Review: Will Dubbeld

With the exception of the god-awful 1998 movie, I tend to love all things Godzilla.
Kaiju in general, really. Gamera runs a close second in the race for rubber-suited Japanese men capturing my heart.
The original 1950s movie was actually a pretty legit piece of postwar Japanese cinema, but most of us really fell in love with Godzilla as a cipher for professional wrestling among giant monsters.
Probably on Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps on KTMA in the Twin Cities.
Possibly as a sleepy-eyed dude and a couple of smartass robots cracked wise during the movie.
In any case, from renting Godzilla 1985 on VHS, to chasing down issues of the old Marvel Godzilla comic, to wishing I still had the cheap Godzilla toy that spat sparks from its mouth, it's safe to say he's been a fairly big part of my nerd life.

Godzilla has always struggled a bit in the comics, though. From getting hunted down by Dum Dum Dugan and occasionally rasslin' Red Ronin (because the Shogun Warriors were busy that day), to fighting Charles Barkley (because no shit that happened...), I've always had a hard time fully committing myself to Gojira funnybooks. Either the art hasn't sold me, the story was weak, or f'n seriously, Charles Barkley?!!! I think one of the main problems with Godzilla comics is the property is much more effective as a 90-minute movie. The action is much more effective (read: humorous) on screen, and the comics tend to bog themselves down with bad character arcs. Granted, there were actual human people storylines in the movies, but aside from the first couple of films, who cares? It's always some irritating brat named Timmy or Kenny, a doe-eyed cute girl, and some combination of nerdy inventor and/or suave neckerchief guy with a smooth ride.
Enough already, make with the Godzilla vs. Jet Jaguar already.*
Then along comes Godzilla in Hell.

I'd poked through some of IDWs other Gojira books but none of them piqued my curiosity until this one.
Godzilla has died and went to Hell?!!! Presumably for crimes against Japan?!!!
I had no idea, but I needed to find out. I didn't know if this series was the direct result of another books climax, like the Smog Monster finally k-o’d the big guy, or what. Frankly didn't care, either.
I was just really hoping at some point Godzilla would fight Satan because how rad would that be?
No Satan yet, but issue 2 finds Godzilla facing demonic representations of some members of his rogues gallery.
A twisted hellscape city serves as a battleground with Rodan.
Then an immense ice cavern over a frozen sea sets him up against Anguirus, then a storm-tossed ocean with Varan...
Etc. Etc. Ad nauseum, almost.
Herein lies the problem with Godzilla books. There's no dialogue among the main characters other than, "Grrrr!", "Hrowwwlll!", and perhaps the occasional "Skreeee-onk!"
Interjecting human characters into the books provides cohesion and dialogue, but who cares about those guys?
Hence the Kaiju Catch 22.
I'd pretty well lost interest by the time King Ghidorah showed up.
Monster Zero, if you will . . .

Some very nice exposition and descriptive text accompanies Godzilla’s through Hell, providing passages like, "Indeed, this pocket of Hell is a wasteland of doomed ships. Ones of sordid histories, horrific deeds and incidents...from all times, all places, trapped in a tomb of ice."
Eggleton nails the 19th century prose here, in an almost proto-Lovecraftian way that is reminiscent of a Coleridge, Blake, and/or Poe.

Flowery prose aside, a series of 2-3 page kaiju fights didn't exactly leave me waiting with baited breath for the next scene. The art, however, is goddamned gorgeous. Fully painted and inspired from 18th-19th century artists, these panels pop out and kick you right in the Tokyo Tower. Name dropping John Martin, Gustave Dore and J.M.W. Turner as influences in the afterward, Bob Eggleton invokes apocalyptic scenes of Biblical judgment and natures fury with a masters touch.

High marks on the art indeed.

Godzilla in Hell is a 5-part miniseries featuring a new creative team at the helm of every issue.
Hopefully one of these teams tells me exactly why Godzilla is in Hell, but in any case I'll still hold out in case there's a throwdown with Satan at some point.

*note: I'm pretty sure Godzilla and Jet Jaguar didn't actually fight at any point. I really just wanted to name-drop Jet Jaguar.

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