Friday, August 17, 2012

Shockingly good: Godzilla - the Half-Century War#1

Here are two selling points: Godzilla and James Stokoe. To the former... I have a passing interest in Godzilla from the movies, but I consider myself a casual fan; I haven't really enjoyed any of the Godzilla comics I've sampled. The the latter... I haven't read any of Stokoe's books despite the rave reviews surrounding Orc Stain (by the time I changed my mind, the early issues were sold out).

However, people on the internet have been talking about IDW's Godzilla: the Half-Century War, so here was a potentially good point to jump into Stokoe's work and find out what I'd been missing. I was prepared to be unmoved by this comic, but I was not prepared to fall head-over-heels in love.

Even a lightweight Godzilla fan such as I can see how much love Stokoe has for the franchise. My favourite Godzilla films are Godzilla 1985 (1984) and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002). I find the worst part of a Godzilla film is usually whatever plot the human characters are involved in, but these two pictures have very good human plots with characters you actually root for as they stand up against Godzilla (as opposed to yelling at the screen, "Eat them all Godzilla! They're too stupid to live!"). Similarly, Stokoe's Godzilla: the Half-Century War is grounded from the perspective of Ota Murakami, a hapless tank crew member who finds himself living through the events of the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956).

Stokoe is a... what, quadruple threat? Writer, artist, colourist, letterer. His Godzilla is loaded with details, but it doesn't overwhelm the characters or the action. Appropriately, some of his cues are from manga (ie, facial expressions, some dialogue balloons). As a minor fan, I certainly appreciated the "krsh!" sound effect as Godzilla powers up his atomic breath...

...But where I caved in was the depiction of Godzilla's roar. It seems Stokoe drew it in the same shape as the wave pattern from an audio recording of Godzilla roaring in the films. This is... wow. Oh, wow. How often do I get to see something done with the language of comic books that's new to me? Something I haven't seen done before? Outstanding.

Godzilla: the Half-Century War will only run five issues, but promises to feature different versions of Godzilla from over the decades. I'm committed to seeing this one through; beautiful art, lettering, colours and likeable characters; I only wish this were an ongoing series! Once again, IDW has a winner in my eyes; the sooner the industry starts taking cues from them, the sooner we can get back fun, quality books of merit across the line.


Colin Smith said...

Agreed 100%. It's a lovely, lovely book. And as you say, an on-going book of the quality of this would be high on my list of must-buy titles. It's a shame that Orc Stain is currently being left in limbo, otherwise I'd back up every recommendation you've read about its quality. Still, no-one needs an unfinished series when it so cries out to be completed.

Michael Hoskin said...

I was pleased to see this book is already on your Golden Age list, Colin!

When I find a decent collection of Orc Stain, I'll try giving it a go. It does worry me to see how much attention the internet gives to the phallic imagery... I hope there's more to the comics than that.