James Stokoe, an almost one man show doing the writing and most of the art duties, tackles the King of the Monsters in the third mini-series from IDW Publishing. This comic is very much a return to basics, featuring only Godzilla and not any of his monster breathern that have factored in so heavily in past IDW issues. Stokoe's approach is a little different and overall great as it strikes a rare balance that makes the issue impossible to put down, finding the right chemistry between the monster and human interactions.
The story starts out with an introduction to lieutenant Ota Murakami, deployed with troops to Tokyo in 1954 with little information other than to defend the area. Joined with fellow solider Kentaro Yoshihara, the troops quickly realize the severity when the assault is coming from a giant monster: Godzilla. The creature quickly kills some of their companions, leaving a last ditch effort to survive.
Plot wise, the story is a loose adapation of Godzilla (1954), with focus on a small tank platoon being overwhelmed by the monster. It's told from the perspective of the soldiers, who are learning first hand and for the first time what Godzilla is capable of. The comic lays out the horror that Godzilla creates and humanizes the otherwise faceless casualities from military efforts to stop him. To Stokoe's immense credit, he actually develops the cast, making them simple, likeable and somewhat selfless in still being committed to their job even in the face of death. Although most of them are wiped out quickly, the couple that remain builds enough interest that the reader actually cares if they will survive the conflict or not, getting them emotionally invested.
As for the art by Stokoe, it's well done, both being incredibly detailed and also somewhat comedic. The comedic elements, all in the facial expersions on the human cast, work well to make the material a bit lighter and not too heavy, as it easily could have been given the material. In terms of Godzilla, the character is modeled after the version seen in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), and given a sense of power and mass that makes the action exciting. The art is a little inconsistent at times, but is generally stellar through out.
In regards to the covers, there are two, one by James Stokoe that matches the look of the interior art while capturing the stacked odds against Murakami. The other, a black and white cover by Frank Teran, is much more gothic in its composition, feeling like it would have fit perfectly with the art created for The Return of Godzilla (1984).
Overall, Stokoe hits it out of the park with the first issue. The comic sits amongst one of the best three from IDW, joining a now lofty crowd that includes Godzilla Legends #3 and Godzilla Legends #4. If Stokoe can keep the momentum up from this debut comic, Godzilla: The Half-Century War will shape up to be a fantastic mini-series.