Godzilla: The Half-Century War
Story: James Stokoe, Art: James Stokoe, Color Assists: Heather Breckel, Series Edits: Bobby Curnow,
Collection Edits: Justin Eisinger & Alonzo Simon, Collection Design: Chris Mowry
Cover: James Stokoe
Blurb: The year is 1954 and Lieutenant Ota Murakami is on hand when Godzilla makes first landfall in Japan. Along with his pal Kentaro, Ota makes a desperate gamble to save lives... and in the process begins an obsession with the king of the monsters that lasts 50 years!
My Blurb: I love Godzilla. I love Godzilla's universe [mostly the Showa era, but Heisei has a lot to offer as well. I'm less of a fan of the Millennium series of movies]. I love the suitmation. I love the monster battles. I love watching what are clearly toys being melted by a blowtorch as stand-in for breath weapon attacks. I love the elaborate model cities that our suitactors get to stomp through. I just find them to be really, really fun and sometimes you even get a human character you can latch onto.
So, when I saw this book collecting IDW's comic limited series, I had to grab it up. Now, it turned out to be not quite what I was hoping for, as I had images of Godzilla's entire film history -- along with the goofy alien invasions -- all being told in a linear timeline of events exploring a written-fiction version of the film-verse. This isn't what the comic is, though it does feature all of Godzilla's main opponents which is the real draw. It's obvious that James is also a G-Fan and that though he changed details to exclude the alien invasions of the films, he was clearly inspired by those tales when it came to monsters to feature and fighting styles.
Sooner or later, I will get around to reviewing both Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Gojira, at the least (I don't have many of the other films on DVD, mostly because other things keep coming up when I'm in the mood to shop). But at the moment, we're taking a look at this comic... so how did it do, having been different than expected (and hoped for)...?
Chapter One: Japan 1954
We start with a flashback from Ota's diary describing sometime in the future the first time he battled Big G when the monster came out of Tokyo Bay to devastate the city. Ota is a command officer in charge of a group of tanks, sent in for a "relief mission", which he describes as feeling different than any other mission he'd been sent on previously. It is apparent that HQ had not informed the soldiers that there was a rampaging monster of incredible power destroying downtown.
Our group fire, but all this does is draw unwanted attention and when Godzilla is finished with his single blast of radioactive fire breath, Ota and his soon to be best friend in the world, Kentaro are the only ones standing.
Ota and Ken barely have time to recover before they hear orders for assistance to a group of fleeing civilians that G is approaching. Ota and Ken respond in their outdated tank and though they can do little more than annoy, they're able to draw Godzilla onto an alternate route. They barely survive again, mostly do to some nicely timed cover fire. Godzilla is drawn out into the bay, where the navy takes over. Later, Ota and Ken learn that Godzilla has been killed by the Oxygen Destroyer weapon (which is basically 'Gojira', told from the ground level).
Several months later, our boys are recruited when a second Godzilla makes an appearance and they're inducted into their new careers as permanent monster fighters in the Anti-Megalosaurus Force. We don't get any details on what happened with this second Godzilla or how they stopped its rampage (in the second G movie, he's buried under tons of ice for awhile).
Chapter Two: Vietnam 1967
Ota tells us that for the next thirteen years, they had been fighting Godzilla off and on. He always stayed around the Japanese Island chain, and they had thought that they'd had figured out his migratory patterns allowing them to mass evacuate ahead of time to save lives. Until now.
No one predicted or understood why Godzilla decided to go for a stroll through Vietnam in the middle of the U.S.' war against communism. But they had hopes that their better weaponry would have a shot at stopping this force of nature. Assisting to foster such hopes were the inclusion of scientists like 'Doc' who were busy designing advanced weaponry specifically to deal with G.
Among these were the new drilling tank, designed to penetrate Godzilla's notoriously tough skin (think G1 version of Land Moguera) and the Maser Cannons, which are never not cool. With these weapons G is engaged but in the midst of battle, fleeing Vietcong from underground capture their attention. They find out the reason for the Cong to have fled the relative safety of their bunker like tunnel network, and for why Big G suddenly felt the desire to wander this far from home.
From the ground, an entirely new type of monster appears: Anguirus. The two titans feel compelled to battle it out for supremacy with our heroes caught in the middle. (G vs. Anguirus is inspired by 'Godzilla Raids Again', and we see the Big A pull out moves that we saw in 'Godzilla on Monster Island', where he teamed up with G against King Ghidora (my personal favorite monster) and Gigan.)
In the midst of the threeway battle, Anguirus takes a powder by heading back underground. Just as suddenly Godzilla turns around and heads peacefully (as much as he can anyway) back out to sea. At first this takes everyone off guard, but the commander of the AMF soon reports in that he's found out the cause for Godzilla's diversion, and it wasn't Anguirus, but some sort of tech in a crashed carrier jet....
Chapter Three: Ghana 1975
Ota complains bitterly that he has started to think that Godzilla was only an anomaly that they'd sooner or later be able to deal with. Sure, he was destructive, but at the end of the day he was only one huge animal with Anguirus being just as happy to remain deep underground, out of the way, where he'd returned to.
But then 1975 came along and suddenly monsters were appearing worldwide with no explanation. Rodan attacked in the Phillipines. And then came a wave of attacks: Battra, Megalon, Kumonga, Mothra, Ebirah, Hedorah... but it was in Accra that year that things got really bad.
The AMF was left severely broken with most of their men and equipment lying dead and destroyed. The monsters were decimating the city in their battles with one another... and it all came back to being the fault of one of their own.
The tech that had been found in Vietnam had been a defensive Psionic Transmitter that had been tried with utter failure in Yokohama. It now appeared that after the technology was shelved as a failed project, the lead inventor - an American AMF scientist named Deverich disappeared with his research data. It had become obvious in the intervening years that Deverich had weaponized what was supposed to repulse Godzilla into an attractor for any kaiju in a large area. And, it was also obvious that he was working on making the device more and more powerful and portable.
It was in Accra that they'd caught up with Deverich to find that he'd perfected his attractor generator and was currently destroying all of Accra as a marketing opportunity to offer the generator to any who'd pay as a new era in warfare weaponry. Deverich, transmitting worldwide, touts the easy smuggibility of his new weapons system, allowing nations to throw controlled natural disasters at their enemies by attracting monsters that have proven easily able to survive even the strongest conventional weaponry. And, with its power setting, it gives a user complete control over just how bad they want bad to get.
Of course, by transmitting, he made himself traceable and the survivors of the AMF were able to track him down. Unfortunately, Commander Schooler didn't just shoot him dead and stop the transmittor, which gave Deverich time to turn the setting to "Chaos".
The new setting caused a wave that even injured the humans surrounding it, allowing Deverich to escape. Worst though, it also caused the monsters to stop fighting amongst themselves in order to find and attack the transmittors coordinates to stop the psionic wave driving them to madness. With their mass attack, Ota, Ken and the others had to leave behind their trapped Commander to his fate.
Chapter Four: Bombay 1987
Godzilla returned again, and again the AMF was outclassed. By this time, middle aged Ota had grown weary with bitterness at the realization that G would still be there long after his own death. He was demoralized, more fighting Godzilla through habit than with any sense that this time they could actually win.
But the rest of the AMF had grown, growing younger and more sophisticated. The younger generation came up with new tactics and ideas: Like Mechagodzilla (and we don't see the alien version -- this is the Heisei version built by Japan).
Ota is tired of it all... especially since his own troops are obsolete next to the technical specialists that are doing all of the close in combat. But he does get a pep in his step, when he spots Deverich in Bombay, explaining why Godzilla is even in Bombay.
With something that he can do again, Ota takes off after Deverich where he tracks him to a business transaction he's made with some mysterious Asian, dark suited types. The AMF is able to snatch Deverich, this time. But it isn't all good news. In the room where the deal was struck is the perfected version of the Psionic Generator that had caused them so much trouble. And, it's much, much more powerful. Powerful enough, in fact, to draw a Crystalline Space Monster from the depths of the void... Space Godzilla has arrived.
The arrival of the invader changes up everything after both Godzilla and Mechagodzilla are quickly defeated. Ota gets his chance to sit in the cockpit of the downed Mechagodzilla, though he doesn't actually know what he's doing and just hits buttons at random. He finds himself helping "his" Godzilla to destroy Space Godzilla and it has a profound effect on the way he sees his relationship with the inhuman force.
But, even though Deverich was finally caught and stopped, the Pandora's Box had been opened. Earth was suddenly a beacon shining out for other Space Monsters.
Chapter Five: Then End Of The World 2002
We now catch up with Ota, old and sickly but still in the AMF with Kentaro. Both of them are in Antarctica where the AMF set up a series of Psionic Transmittors in order to draw the attacking Space Monsters, King Ghidora (YAYYYY!) and Gigan along with Godzilla from their battles in populated areas to this remote last showdown.
An improved Mechagodzilla stands waiting to help Big G keep K.G. and Gigan busy. They've left half of the world in ruins with
humanity looking at the end of any further civilization if this last battle fails. But the AMF has a last desperate weapon in standby,
a weapon that is so risky, it could only be used where humanity would never seek to live -- The Dimension Tide (from Godzilla vs.
Megaguirus -- one of the Millennium series' movies).
Ota, with the help of Ken, knocks out the pilot for MechaGodzilla and takes his place so that he can be the one to look Big G in
the eye at, hopefully, his end when the Dimension Tide is fired. It's to launch a miniature black hole that should displace all
three of the monsters, and if things go really wrong, the giant robot with its pilot as well. Ota, having been there at the beginning
when Godzilla showed up, wants to be there at the end. And, he's clearly dying anyway judging by the blood he's coughing up.
Kentaro stays behind with Ota's journal.
The tide does work... and it also does go really wrong. But it appears that Godzilla, Junior has arrived to the party late and so
the battle to rebuild while not getting crushed by a Godzilla in the world will go on....
The Good: The artwork is wonderful! (no impact on scoring but I'm issue huge kudo)
Obviously, getting a chance to see all of the monsters from the various Godzilla series is awesome.
I liked how you could definitely see certain scenes, scenarios, and weaponry coming directly from the film inspirations. Those were really nice touches.
The Bad: I'm afraid, due to the very limited space in which this span of 50 years was condensed into that many of our classic monsters were completely short shrifted. I can understand it, but I can't forgive Mothra's being slighted. It's a shame that we didn't get to see the Anguirus/Godzilla team up from the later Showa era G-films either.
Other Thoughts: I didn't mind the creation of a new story to explain the monster-battles, leaving all of the alien invasions out of the equation. I didn't entirely buy Deverich as a character though, and the Psionic Resonator was an 'out of nowhere' plot device. Also, there were certain monsters that really should have been given more explanation of where they came from - like Hedora which was generated through gobbedly-gook because of Earth's pollution of the oceans. And there should have been more of an explanation of who Battra was and how she related to Mothra. Ebirah could have easily been skipped since we weren't including the Red Bamboo organization in the tale. And Kumonga could really have been skipped easily as well without complaint.
The major drawback, really though, is the vast Godzilla history that can only be sketched in or entirely ignored due to the limited story space. There is just too much there for a retrospective of Godzilla's hits for the amount of issues IDW were willing to devote. Bummer.
The Score: I love it for the artwork, and I like the characters okay (Kentaro is my favorite over Ota, though). The story of the AMF may have been a better tale with the monsters being the background characters, rather than so many pages being devoted to repeated shots of missiles and rays being fired all over explosive panels. It's okay, but at the end I felt like I wanted so much more than what I got. And, I don't think we needed the "It's not over" ending panel after watching Ota's final sacrifice (even though this is consistent with the movieverse).
3.25 out of 5 stars.
Next Up: Angel & Faith, issue 6