Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters (2011)
By: Tristan Jones on March 31, 2011  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Credits
Art: Phil Hester
Writers: Eric Powell, Tracy Marsh
Publisher: IDW
The hype and anticipation of Godzilla's return to comics (along with the comic debut of the rest of Toho's menagerie of monsters) has been almost as big as the guy himself. The marketing campaign that accompanied this first issue alone has been one of the most exciting and also riskiest moves in comic book history - retailers were given the opportunity to sell exclusive variants featuring their store being trampled by Godzilla if they ordered 500 copies (Impact Comics in Canberra was the only one in Australia to participate) - and with The Goon's Eric Powell co-writing and IDW's increasing number of well produced licensed comics, it would be fair to have expectations set fairly high. The end result is disappointing, but not enough to make me write the series off yet.

I'm going to tell you now that not a lot happens in this comic. Godzilla rocks up very early on and does what he does best – tramples Tokyo and gets fired at. That's pretty much it. The focus is mainly on Godzilla for the whole issue, with a couple of brief sequences detailing the Japanese and American governments responding to the crisis. From what I understand, this is going to be a maxi-series and I have a feeling that we're really only focusing on Godzilla because he'll end up being our anti-hero for the story, but I'm reviewing this as a single issue, and with that in mind it really isn't enough.

Everyone knows Godzilla. Kids who haven't seen a Godzilla movie know who Godzilla is and what he does and admittedly, when you're watching a Godzilla movie, you're generally just waiting for the monsters to rock up and fuck shit up in a style only they are capable of but for some reason, in spite of the fact that we're basically jumping right to those moments, it just doesn't feel as substantial as it should.

This first issue is twenty two pages long – the size of a standard comic book these days – but you've read it in a matter of minutes, even if you stop to look at the art. As much as I love Godzilla and as forgiving as I am of the movies, I honestly feel that there's a substantial difference between the two mediums and that this didn't quite cut it. That's not saying that it won't as the story progresses, but again, as a single issue, it wasn't quite worth the cover price in my mind and a lot of that comes down to the fact that we're being shown things everyone already knows. Godzilla doesn't need a twenty-two page introduction; the people on the ground might if we were focusing on them a little more, but we aren't and again I'm torn over how to treat this as it says to me that bigger things are coming in the subsequent issues and that the focus will be on those, but there's still a nagging part of me that needed more to this issue than what there is.

It's unclear to me at this stage what the tone of the book is as well. The dialogue pushes on terrible in a few places, but if it were in one of the films – particularly from the later Showa series, I probably wouldn't have a problem with it. A couple of lines, including one that's repeated a few times in the book, were almost cringe worthy, and not quite what I expected from the man behind The Goon. There's a distinct possibility (one that I am pretty sure will eventuate) that once the tone is set, none of what I've brought up as problems will matter anymore, but again, that lack of certainty isn't going to hold a lot of readers over to see if things do change. I can think of three people right now that likely won't see this through to issue two based on this issue, and I know there a lot of people out there more ruthless than them when it comes to comics.

Phil Hester does a solid job on the art. It's not mind blowingly cool, and there are one or two odd moments here and there in terms of design choice but Hester's Godzilla does look pretty badass the whole way through. He manages to nail what I like to call "Godzilla moments" (even in non-Godzilla films or comics), where you see the monster at a distance and get a great idea of just how monstrous and afraid of this thing anyone should be. I think Hester is a great choice of artist (particularly after his great work on Robert Kirkman's shortlived Antman book), it's just that the lack of focus on anything right now besides Godzilla doesn't really give him a lot of room to shine yet, and one can't help but think of how this book might look if Eric Powell himself were on art duties and find themselves left wanting.

As a Godzilla fan, I'm super excited that not only does the company that has done such great work recently with Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, Transformers and so many other licenses has the rights to not only my second favourite giant monster (the top spot will always belong to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for me) but the rest of the Toho monsters as well; it's just a huge shame that this first issue was so lacklustre. I'm not going to write this one off yet though, as I have a feeling it's going to be a little like the '76 Kingswood I had as my first car - didn't get off to the best of starts, but once that thing was on the road and you had all your mates in there with you, it was an absolute blast!
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