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Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters Review

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.

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Filed under: Comics, Movies, Tokusatsu, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Luthor Review

What the fuck kinda' 'roids is Superman on in is picture?...

Let me just start this review off by making it clear that I’m not all that familiar with Brian Azzarello’s writing.

My brother has told me (on numerous occasions) that I’d probably enjoy 100 Bullets, but to date I have yet to crack open an issue.

My only firsthand experience I have in reading Azzarello’s work, was his and artist Lee Bermejo’s more recent graphic novel, Joker.

I was deeply impressed with Joker.

From a visual standpoint, Bermejo’s painting and pencils served to give the story a striking, cohesive, and altogether unique look that in many ways make it one of the handsomest comics on the stands.

More importantly though, the writing was strong throughout.

The dialogue was sharp, with all the various character’s “voices” and diction coming across in the text boxes as if they were being read aloud by the cast members themselves.

The one aspect of the storytelling that really made it all work though, was the decision to cast an associate of the Joker’s, Johnny Frost; as both the narrator and main character.

Writing from the Joker’s perspective is one of those things that requires an insanely talented writer, either that or it’s just plain impossible.

The character is simply too impulsive, crazy, and altogether unpredictable, to the point in which reading his thoughts would probably as difficult a struggle as the process of writing them.

By using Johnny Frost as our ambassador into the Joker’s world however, Azzarello effectively gave us a ground level look at the seedier denizens of Gotham city; all while avoiding any of the confusion that may have resulted from trying to get inside their heads.

For Luthor however, Azzarello; once again teamed with Bermejo, chose to cast Lex Luthor as both the narrator and central character.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, this didn’t settle with me.

Lex Luthor is not really one of my favorite characters in the DC universe.

Most of the Superman stories I’ve enjoyed over the years barely included Luthor, and for the most part I think of him as a character that is doomed to be portrayed in the same fashion over and over and over again.

The Joker lends writers a degree of flexibility that makes him an intriguing figure to explore.

Sometimes he’s batshit crazy, sometimes he’s surprisingly lucid, sometimes he kills people with fish.

He’s a playground of insanity that writers are free to play around in and add to on a whim.

Lex Luthor however, is kind of one note.

He hates Superman, he’s rich as fuck, he has an ego, and occasionally he has goofy homoerotic moments with Supes that most of us would probably prefer to forget.

Outside of a brief stint as a red-head with an Australian accent, the only real difference between Luthors that I’ve read, is that sometimes he wears power armor, and sometimes he wears a power tie.

The version we get in Azzarello’s Luthor, is of course of the power tie variety.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

On the contrary, I prefer power tie Luthor.

What I don’t particularly like about the Luthor featured in, uh, Luthor; is the fact that despite the whole story being presented through his thoughts, he never really develops a clear voice.

Luthor’s voice in Luthor is written using vocabulary and pacing that is meant to appeal to the reader as being provocative and “deep.”

Sadly, as I made it through the first few chapters of Luthor, I became disenchanted with Luthor’s supposedly “heady” ruminations.

While I won’t post any spoilers here, the basic plot of Luthor involves Lex Luthor enacting a plot to eclipse the fame of, and potentially deface the heroism of the alien being known as Superman.

Using a variety of seedy connections, and equally seedy methods, Luthor establishes his own brand new defender of Metropolis, a super-woman named Hope, making a media darling of her in the process.

Long story short, Hope stands as a living metaphor for Lex Luthor’s aspirations, Superman fights Batman (briefly), and Lex Luthor whines and schemes for 90% of the book.

Luthor isn’t a bad story, nor is the writing anything less than average; my main issue with the whole thing is the fact that the center of the plot, our vehicle by which we explore the entire universe Azzarello has created for his story, is just not all that interesting to read.

Far be it from me to demand outstandingly cerebral writing and plotlines from my comic books, but I found Luthor’s voice to be more tedious than “deep.”

Tedious, and redundant, most likely due to the story’s original publication as a series of issues as opposed to a graphic novel format.

It’s funny though, most of the dialogue and storytelling outside of the stuff coming directly from Luthor’s brain and mouth is pretty solid.

In particular, Azzarello’s playboy-to-the-extreme version of Bruce Wayne is fun to read, and wholly believable given the way he is presented to us.

Much like Batman in Azzarello’s more recent Joker graphic novel, Superman and Clark Kent have almost no physical presence in the story.

In both stories, the characters are spoken of, hinted at, but rarely seen; giving them a sense omniscience and menace uncommon to both characters.

While the story is told from Luthor’s perspective, and it indeed makes sense to do so, I found myself smirking at the sight of Lee Bermejo’s flame-eyed and uber-pissed Superman.

Go ahead and call it blasphemy, but I’m one of those guys that still thinks of Christopher Reeve whenever he pictures Superman.

Seeing Superman portrayed as a total beast of superhero is both a striking visual, and a unique perspective on the character, but personally; I just couldn’t take it as seriously as I did in the case of Batman in Joker.

You look up badass in the dictionary, and I’m sure you’ll find an image of Lee Bermejo’s rendering of Batman from Joker.

Speaking of Lee Bermejo, his art is just as fantastic, if not moreso than was the case in Joker.

Bearing a borderline photorealistic style, Bermejo’s greatest panels are the ones that are painted.

In the case of both books, Bermejo painted a large number of the panels, however the ratio seems to be somewhat higher in Luthor, most likely a result of it’s gradual release schedule as opposed to the “all-at-once” format of Joker.

While I favor the creativity in the design, and the darker color palette of Joker, Bermejo’s renderings of the towering skyscrapers of Metropolis, and it’s delightfully fashionable citizens are still some of the best comic art around.

Additional kudos to colorist Dave Stewart, as some of the weather phenomena and night scenes really stand out thanks to his work.

While his angles and panel layouts may not be the most intricate or unique, Bermejo’s character art is his strength, and Azzarello wisely keeps his story grounded so as to allow his artist to shine.

Anyway, I really don’t know where I’m going with this review anymore.

Like I said, Luthor is a pretty enjoyable story, particularly if you happen to like Lex Luthor as a character; (I don’t…) but bear in mind there are some pretty heavy-handed (and redundant) metaphors, as well as some instances of “big words for the sake of big words” that you’ll have to get past to find said enjoyment.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you’ll try before you buy unlike I did!

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Azn Badger’s Friend Mencius Started A Blog!

"Monkey sips master's wine!" "Drunken maid flirting with the master!" "Down the hatch!" "Waterfall!" ~ Actual Chinese proverbs.

So, you remember my buddy Mencius?

The guy that made that awesome Minecraft parody comic that I…  Honestly didn’t “get?”

Well, as fate would have it; he recently went ahead and started a blog of his own called Another Sunny Morning.

For those that don’t trust in-paragraph hyperlinks, (I understand.  I’ve lost loved ones to hyperlink-ing too…) please note that there is also a link to the blog listed on the “Links” column on the right.

For the truly dense and/or retarded, this is my not so subtle way of saying CLICK THE FUCKING LINK, EX-LAX.

Moving on, despite the title I assure you it’s not some coffee house, namby pampy, hipster-doofus-y poetry corner blog.

Pictured: Hopefully not the kind of imagery that posts at Another Sunny Morning will evoke.

At least I hope it isn’t.

If it is imma’ have to break ‘ole Mencius’ thumbs or some shit…

*Ahem!* Anyway, as thanks for all the publicity and promotion he gave to me by allowing me to post his comic, which he shamelessly whored out to the masses across the internets via Reddit; I feel it’s only right that I do what I can to send a little bit of traffic his way via my some shameless promotion of my own!

That being said, his blog is very young at the moment, and given what I know of him; he probably couldn’t give 2 shits as to how many people actually visit it, but do us both a favor and check it out anyway.

He’s honestly a terrific, insightful, and fun-loving writer, such that many people I’ve known over the years have seen fit to have him edit their work.

That’s more than I can say for myself, as my grammar, use of tenses, and sense of sentence structure are just about on par with a wombat.

An illiterate wombat, that smells of basil and turpentine…

That's the one...

Anyway, that’s me vouching for/promoting my buddy’s blog.

Sorry for the shitty post, work kind of fucked my writer’s brain for the day.

Either that or I got home earlier than normal and am itching to play some Demon’s Souls

Let’s just pretend it’s the former rather than the latter.

This post has been brought to you by the formidable combination of laziness and writer’s block.

ANOTHER SUNNY MORNING

Filed under: Games, Kung Fu, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Minecraft: Survival Multiplayer (Guest Post)

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first (well technically second…) guest post on the Azn Badger’s blog!

After months of not-so-subtly prodding at my friends to give me a hand/break in posting on this blog EVERY FUCKING DAY, one of my closest of pal’s has finally stepped up to the plate and allowed me to post a comic of his!

Anyway, the author of said comic is listed as “red13,” however because I’m a dick, and like to treat my friend’s like shit, I will henceforth be referring to the contributor of this comic as “Mencius.”

That being said, the comic in question is an homage/parody/play on the online PC game, Minecraft.

I myself have not played Minecraft, nor know anything about it, but I can definitely fake it by throwing Wikipedia quotes at you!:

“Minecraft is a sandbox building[1][2] game which allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world. It is currently in development by Markus “Notch” Persson on the Java platform. The gameplay is inspired by Dwarf Fortress, RollerCoaster Tycoon, Dungeon Keeper, and especially Infiniminer.[3][4] Minecraft was developed for about a week before its public release on May 17, 2009 on the TIGSource forums, where it gained a considerable level of popularity. It has been continually updated since then, and while still an alpha release, it has garnered hundreds of thousands of sales and critical notice and acclaim from many reviewers.”

There, you now know just as much as I do about Minecraft!

Anyway, my buddy Mencius made this comic (for fun, not posterity) based around the basic premise tha- Oh, fuck it, I’ll just let him explain it:

“Minecraft will see updates to its multiplayer where players can take damage – leading to the inevitable creation of servers which give players a bit more of a challenge than they’re used to. This comic is about what I imagine a part of Minecraft’s future will look like.”
… I don’t get it.
Enough jibber-jabbin’ and talkin’ wise an’ otherwise though, let’s get to the comic, shall we?:
(Please open the image in another window or download it.  The comic is too large for the post width of my blog, so it has been condensed somewhat.)
Hope you all enjoyed it, please remember to thank my buddy Mencius for his contribution to the blog!
Seriously man, thanks a lot, I just snagged Demon’s Souls tonight, so I definitely don’t need the extra stress of having to pound out a blog post for tonight…

Filed under: Games, Movies, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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