As part of the lead up to GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the iconic kaiju’s most notable rampages in comics.
What is hell for the King of the Monsters? What could possibly be eternal torment for such a creature? That is the question which James Stokoe, Dave Wachter, and several other comic creators look to answer in this miniseries. Once again, IDW does not have the collected edition for this series in print, meaning readers are going to have to do some bargain hunting on the secondhand market or *gasp* buy the digital edition. Whichever option they end up with, readers reading this book for the first time are treated not so much to a Godzilla story, but a Godzilla experience. Due to the anthology format, there are some chapters that are inevitably better than others, but they all carry the common thread of attempted torture for Japan’s star monster.
The book starts off extremely strong courtesy of James Stokoe, artist of Godzilla: The Half Century War. Stokoe combines is great-looking rendering of Godzilla with larger-than-life biblical imagery. This sets the tone and pace for the miniseries as a whole. While interesting at first, the novelty of a mostly text-less story wears thin quickly. It would have been even quicker if not for Bob Eggleton’s gorgeous second issue. Despite this flaw, Godzilla in Hell is a fascinating experiment, with each creator (or creative team) giving their interpretation of what afterlife would be like for the seemingly immortal kaiju.
Stokoe’s first issue drops readers right into the story. There’s no explanation or build up leading to Godzilla’s descent into hell. The first pages are simply the monster falling, landing with a big *thud* and being greeted by a sign which reads “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” Being Godzilla, he essentially says “fuck that noise” and blasts the shit out of the stone(?) inscription. Stokoe takes inspiration from Return of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985, giving the beast the motivation of feeding off nuclear energy. As he approaches a power plant for feeding, it turns into a monster which attacks. Godzilla is forced to battle it before taking on a demonic version of himself. After defeating both, he sinks into the ground, which restarts the cycle to the beginning of the story. Stokoe’s chapter is arguably the strongest from a thematic perspective, as this version of Godzilla’s hell is understandable for readers. He is subjected to denial of the one thing he desires, and must face the worst version of himself. While rough for the King of the Monsters, both of these would be tortuous for any individual.
Bob Eggleton’s chapter takes a different approach. His beautiful painted artwork is the backbone of a story that romanticizes Godzilla and his fellow kaiju. Throughout, he refers to Godzilla as the “Leviathan,” which is in reference to a creature with a form of a sea monster from Jewish faith as referenced in Bible, specifically the Book of Job and Psalms. Eggleton’s tale takes Godzilla through a gauntlet of foes, including Rodan, Anguirus, and Ghidorah. It would have been interesting if Eggleton had given all of them Biblical analogues, but they merely take on the form of demon-possessed versions of themselves. Though it is easy to look at this installment as a run-of-the-mill monster mash, Eggleton’s lyric-like writing gives this particular story a level of prestige that outclasses the miniseries’ other efforts.
There is a notable dip in quality for the next couple of installments, in part due to the strength of the first two. Ulises Farinas and Erick Frietas pen a story brought to life by Buster Moody that has Godzilla battle Spacegodzilla across various hellscapes. Its pacing is rather subpar, as is the art. The choice of antagonist doesn’t help either, as Spacegodzilla is considered one of the more underwhelming and unoriginal foes in the series. The follow-up by Brandon Seifert and Ibrahim Moustafa has similar structural issues, though it at least delivers a return of the fan-favorite Godzilla design from 2001’s GMK.
The series’ final installment by Dave Wachter is a tribute to Godzilla’s unparalleled willpower. Wachter puts the King through the ringer here. Winter wastelands and flesh-eating parasites are just two challenges Godzilla is put up against. No matter what is thrown at him, Godzilla keeps moving forward. Even when he is reduced to a skeleton, he is able to will himself into existence and eventually, break free from hell. It is a reflection of Godzilla’s status in pop culture. Time and again, Godzilla is discarded by the masses (and studio), only to rise up again and again.
Godzilla in Hell is one of the most unique comic experiences I’ve had, both as a reader and a Godzilla fan. The largely silent nature places great importance on the artists’ efforts, and for the most part they rise to the challenge. The miniseries tackles the monster’s appeal and enduring nature by putting him through a series of trials that reflect an aspect of the character. For example, Stokoe emphasizes attitude while Eggleton focuses on the spectacle. Through it all, there is one theme that unites the differing stories: Godzilla endures all, including hell.
Next: Marvelous stories!