I never thought I’d say this about a Godzilla comic, but goddamn this comic was preachy.
Godzilla, and indeed many giant monsters over the years, have often carried with them an air of social/political commentary, be it cautioning the world against the use of nuclear arms, or the dangers of bureaucratic obfuscation I.E. The Host.
While these messages aren’t always at the forefront of things, the symbolism that crops up from committing a giant radioactive dinosaur from the South Pacific to film or print is undeniable.
While Godzilla is one of the more malleable pop-culture characters in all of history, serving as a symbol of everything from nuclear deterrence to a hero to all children; I never thought I’d see him used the way he was in IDW’s Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters.
I’ve been watching Godzilla films since the cradle, and naturally I grew up reading Dark Horse’s Godzilla comics during the early 90’s.
While no other Toho monsters or characters were featured in the Dark Horse comics, with the exception of a few less than stellar issues here and there, I found that these comics paid homage to the spirit of Godzilla about as well as anyone could ever hope.
Pictured: Godzilla preparing to surface amid the Spanish Armada. God I loved these comics...
Perhaps more so than anything else, I found myself blown away by the writers and artists of Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters’ complete lack of respect and understanding for the character.
Over the course of 4 issues, I found myself utterly flabbergasted at the writer’s inability to satisfy even the least of my expectations for a Godzilla comic book.
Despite the book’s claim to being the first American comic to license the rights to use monsters from Toho’s stable other than Godzilla, a claim I don’t dispute; the fact of the matter is, within this first collected edition the writer’s did little to flex their muscles in this regard.
That is to say, despite featuring 4 monsters within as many issues, with the exception of a few pages at the very end, there was no interaction between any of them.
You see this cover? IT'S FULL OF LIES.
I’m sorry, but as much fun as it can be to watch Godzilla step on buildings, or watch Anguirus bounce around in the desert; at the end of the day we all pay to see the monsters fight and/or team-up.
The fact of the matter is, right from the start Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters paints itself as a tongue-in-cheek comedy.
I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference in the form of the Western mind being unable to treat a larger than life character like Godzilla with any sort of seriousness, but personally I found this interpretation and use of the character to be horrible misguided.
The way Godzilla and the other monsters are used in this story, as mobile natural disasters and calamities that are talked about (endlessly) and cut away to rather than given any sort of spotlight; it’s as if you could have made the exact same comic without paying out the nose for the licensing fees.
Or without featuring any monsters whatsoever for that matter.
Sadly, the entire book seems to be more interested in playing itself off as a pop-culture satire rather than an homage or addition to the legacy of Godzilla.
Allusions are made to the Godzilla mythos, in the form of a pair of psychic French twins that are clearly supposed to be an “evil” version of the Shobi-jin, who are featured in exactly one panel, as well as the use of Anguirus’ “soccer ball” maneuver from Final Wars as an odd form of locomotion; but at the end of the day pop-culture asides make up the majority of the page count.
While the names are changed, Barack Obama, Lady Gaga, various news anchors, and the cast of The Jersey Shore are all satirized, and quite exhaustively at that.
Pictured: The Jersey Shore in comic form... I've never watched the show, but sadly, now I can say I've read a comic featuring them.
Why anyone would think a comic based on a pop-culture property would feel it wise to make said comic a send-up of other pop-culture properties is entirely beyond me.
Sadly, these caricatures serve as perhaps the closest thing the entire book has to actual characters, as outside of numerous joke characters, I couldn’t name a single character with any sort of depth or longevity; including the monsters.
If that weren’t bad enough, the story, or what little there is outside of talking heads mulling on and on about the monsters instead of us actually seeing them in action, is horrible disjointed and tonally unbalanced.
While most of the story is devoted to watching Obama be profane AKA “funny,” or watching short-lived joke characters/stereotypes get picked off by the monsters, there are in fact a few serious moments here and there that fail to illicit any sort of emotional response due to the goofy events that sandwich them.
For instance, there’s one scene where a Japanese fisherman becomes a suicide bomber in an attempt to kill Godzilla that could’ve meant something to me, had his character been featured in more than 5 panels, and had the story not been mired in referential pop-culture humor.
... And this added to the story, how?
Perhaps the weirdest instance of unwarranted seriousness though, is the addition of perhaps the only character in the entire 4 issues, a decorated U.S. soldier.
This character is supposed to be solemn and worldly, but really, I’d imagine he sounds like me or any other whiny, 20-something year old boy that tries to speak out about the “serious issues” in life.
Trust me, there’s a reason I don’t write about politics/world events on this blog…
That is to say, his character is used, for whatever reason, to condemn and damn the vapid consumerist youth culture propagated by spokespeople like the Jersey Shore folks.
While I see the validity of his and what I’d assume is the writer’s viewpoint, the fact of the matter is, I have no fucking clue what place this sort of preachy-ass bullshit has in a Godzilla comic.
Wrong fuckin’ time, absolutely wrong fuckin’ place my friend.
While I’m sure the team behind Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters was indeed hoping to build some sort of legitimate story with the license, in my eyes they absolutely failed in that task within what should’ve been a more than reasonable 4 issues.
Whatever success they go on to have with subsequent stories won’t change the fact that they seriously dropped the ball with their first book.
Despite all the flaws in the plot and characterization, I feel I should make mention of the less than stellar art.
While the covers are absolutely fantastic, (included in fold-out form in the collected edition) the interior art by Phil Hester is of a monochromatic and almost mosaic-like style that isn’t my favorite.
I suppose it doesn't help when rendering of Anguirus squishing hillbillies counts as the "best" scene in the issue.
The inking lacks character, and while many of the monsters are rendered well, much better than the humans anyway; there’s very little life to be found in their posturing and framing… Especially when the script doesn’t allow them to do anything outside of molest buildings.
Excuse me, “destroy” buildings.
In all, the intensely black shadows and monochromatic style of the art seems better suited for a noir story than a tongue-in-cheek monster story.
It’s sad really, as if you’ll recall, I was actually quite excited for Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters.
Oh well, at least now I know that if I ever want to read a Godzilla comic, my best bet is to save my money and dig up my old Dark Horse issues.
Filed under: Comics, Movies, Tokusatsu, Uncategorized, Anguirus, Barack Obama, comic, Dark Horse, Godzilla, IDW Publishing, Jet Jaguar, Kingdom of Monsters, Lady Gaga, Megalon, Phil Hester, review, Shobijin, The Host, The Jersey Shore, Toho, Tokusatsu