Chapter three of James Stokoe's phenomenal Godzilla: The Half-Century War, and the writer/artist continues to shake things up with a giant monster war that catches the Anti Megalosaurus Forces (AMF) right in the middle. While the issue isn't as strong as the previous two, it's still a fantastic read in what has already shaped up to be one of the best comic runs on the Godzilla character.
The story begins in Ghana in 1975, the area already under siege by Godzilla, Hedorah, Rodan, Ebirah, Megalon, Battra, Kumonga and to some extent Mothra. Lieutenant Ota Murakami, part of the AMF, is there along with Kentaro Yoshihara who make up the Anti-Godzilla team. With the rise of so many kaiju, AMF has greatly expanded with different fractions created to specifically handle each threat, with a team (each of two members) existing to combat Megalon, Mothra, Rodan, Ebirah, Hedorah and Battra. They suspect that the monsters have all been drawn to the area because of Doctor Deverich, a former member of the AMF who reversed his work on monster repellent transmitting into monster attracting ones that he has weaponized as part of a new arms race. With many of their allies dead, most of the AMF is ready to give up but Ota leads a small group on one final hunt to find and stop the transmitter located somewhere in the city, with his group consisting of colonel Schooler, Kentaro Yoshihara, the Anti-Mothra team, and a member each of the Anti-Hedorah and Anti-Rodan teams.
Plot wise, this issue has a lot of meat to it, with a lot of backstory that takes place between this issue and Godzilla: The Half-Century War #2.
While Stokoe deserves a lot of credit for covering so much ground without making the plot feel convoluted, at the same time it feels like the series has jumped into an all-out monster war a little too quickly and might have benefitted from one more issue before it with a tighter focus on a less robust monster roster. In fact, the roster here seems too big, with monsters like Kumonga being easily forgettable and feeling like window dressing, with most of the monsters not getting to do much of mention. Those that do stand out are Ebirah, for directly attacking the group (and who along with Megalon is new to the IDW line of comics), Mothra, who inadvertently protects the group from Rodan ("Haha! Righteous! Get 'em Mother Mothra!" in the words of her team) and Hedorah.
Despite some of the things that could be improved with this issue, it's still a fantastic comic. While it does sideline the
focus on the monsters, the human cast takes center stage while the number of characters has also swelled. It will be interesting to see how the various teams play into stuff in the future, or if this was their one time to shine. At the very least, Stokoe has crafted a fairly diverse grouping of characters, even from what little we know about them. The unorthodox Anti-Mothra team, who provides the transportation for the issue's mission, is particularly great as they embrace a militaristic "flower power" mentality. Later on, the transport even crashes right through Hedorah, causing it to burn and melt as the Anti-Hedorah team member warns everyone to stay away from the sludge or it will eat right through them, giving the sense that each is an expert when it comes to handling their respective monster. In fact, after one issue, it's almost hard not to note that the team here feels much more engaging and interesting than the mercenary group assembled for Godzilla #2 and featured in that ongoing.
For the art duties, Stokoe is still on his A game. The monsters generally all look impressive, although Stokoe's Ebirah, modeled after the one from Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), is truly a sight to behold with the level of detail. From the spiny back to the crusted pincers, Ebirah has never looked this good before. The other monsters are done well too, although Rodan's proportions are a little strange from what we are used to and Kumonga sadly looks nothing like his Showa or Millennium incarnation. Stokoe's Hedorah is also a unique mix, although unlike the indistinct Kumoga, the version of Hedorah is nicely done, creating a more fluid design with deformations on the head like the mutants from Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974). As for the human cast, Stokoe's take is still a little over exaggerated in the facial expressions which works very well for the art style, giving it a unique blend and lightening up the more serious material. The cast of characters in this issue is particularly huge, thanks to the different branches of AMF all being given page time, and Stokoe gives them physical traits where it's easy to tell them apart. For example, the Anti-Hedorah team is heavily protected with full hazard suits, while the Anti-Megalon team has underground head gear.
As for the covers, the main one by James Stokoe is impressive, showing Godzilla and Hedorah battling it out as the population of Ghana is below. As with all of Stokoe's work, the sheer level of detail placed into the image is phenomenal, from the people below to those populating the buildings. In fact, it's probably Stokoe's best of the three covers so far. The alternate cover for the issue is done by Brandon Graham, and is a bit more artsy, showing various members of the various AMF units along with Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan, while Hedorah is seen in the reflection of one of the Rodan team's mask's. It doesn't measure up to the Stokoe cover, but is interesting none the same.
Overall, I said it with issue two and I will continue to say it: everyone should be checking out The Half-Century War. While this comic isn't a highlight of the series, it's very enjoyable and helps to shape what will likely be a milestone comic series once it's finished based on the King of the Monsters.