Review Brew: Godzilla in Hell TPB
Writers: James Stokoe, Bob Eggleton, Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, Brandon Seifert, Dave Wachter
Artists: James Stokoe, Bob Eggleton, Buster Moody, Ibrahim Moustafa, Dave Wachter
There’s certainly been a number of Godzilla comics over the years, and a number of them seem to deal with the “man on the street” view of the character. A trickier feat is for a comic creator to do a story from the monster’s point of view, because honestly, Godzilla doesn’t have much of a personality. Some of his better portrayals have shown him as a “force of nature,” like a hurricane in the body of a giant upright lizard. But a hurricane doesn’t rationalize about the people it’s affecting; it just destroys and moves on. A story that examines a hurricane that doesn’t make it anthropomorphic is going to be challenging.
Enter IDW’s Godzilla in Hell, IDW’s five-part creator jam which subjects the creature to a very loose interpretation of Dante’s classic. It’s an odd experiment, as Hell in most religious and literary interpretations is a place of eternal punishment for those who failed on a moral level in life. Godzilla, being a force of nature, is amoral–he simply acts and destroys in reaction to the folly of man. Why Godzilla is in hell is left to the reader’s interpretation: the first chapter simply finds him falling into it, while the third implies that it’s a consequence of an excessively apocalyptic battle. For whatever reason he’s there, Godzilla has to journey through hell and deal with the ironic moral punishments reserved for the damned.
The nature of Godzilla in Hell prevents a completely cohesive story here. As said, this story is an “artist jam” with a rotating creative team for each chapter. There’s certainly a general pattern to each of the five chapters, with Godzilla entering Hell in the first chapter and then each chapter having him deal with different torments leading to the story’s climax in the final chapter. Beyond that, each creative team was left to their liberty on how to the process the story. The disadvantage is that it does make the story a little incohesive, particularly Bob Eggleton’s painted chapter looking radically different from the others. It’s not bad, but it does make the story read choppier as a whole than the month-by-month single releases.
Godzilla in Hell nonetheless has a common thread of exploring how you morally torment an amoral creature which can’t appreciate punishment. James Stokoe’s opening chapter (with incredibly detailed art) subjects the monster to a Dante-like realm where he’s tortured by twisted versions of nuclear reactors, the souls of his human victims, and even a demonic version of himself. Eggleton’s painted chapter forces Godzilla to relive fights of his monstrous rivals, Rodan, Gamera, and King Gidorah–which presents some pretty full-page imagery, to be sure, but isn’t much more than a stop along the way to the next chapter. The third chapter by Farinas, Freitas, and Moody has Godzilla being caught in the pull of rival sides in the war between heaven and hell. The fourth part by Seifert and Moustafa effectively picks up from the second with Godzilla continuing his fight with the demonic copies of Gidorah and Destroyah, where the monsters are constantly killed and regenerated as a possible distortion of their endless cycle of fighting on Earth. Finally, the ultimate chapter by Wachter has Godzilla attempting to leave the domain, with Hell itself having to consider whether it wants to keep this monster in its custody.
There isn’t a lot of deep introspection in any part of the five chapters. While The Inferno was Dante’s exploration of the nature of sin and how its vengeance on those who bring it, Godzilla isn’t a moral creature that can appreciate any harm he causes. Godzilla is raw, untamed nature, so even as he slogs through Hell’s torments, he also shrugs them off as inapplicable to him. In this regard, Hell is no different than any of the military or rival monster threats that Godzilla fights in his films. He simply combats them–torturously at times–and moves on. As a theological or literary work, Godzilla in Hell doesn’t do much. But the art is certainly pretty, and the various artists do an excellent job at making the monster look big (which is hard to do in the confines of a comic page) and the threats he’s dealing with even bigger. And in that regard, the comic succeeds as a big, goofy Godzilla fight in his most unorthodox environment yet.
Rating: Four Gojiras out of five.