Following the excellent Godzilla Legends #3 and starring Hedorah, a personal favorite, it's suffice to my anticipation was pretty high for this fourth entry in the Legends series. Thankfully expectations were met with an overall enjoyable read from writer Chris Mowry, who has been the creative consultant for much of IDW's work with the Godzilla character. However, the highlight, and what brings the material to life, is the art, as E.J. Su and Priscilla Tramontano deliver the best artwork of possibly any comic to feature the King of the Monsters.
For the plot, a junior team piloting Mechagodzilla has been summoned to Linfen, China, following reports of Godzilla nearby. The area has been laid waste in record time with heavy toxicity in the air, the populace deceased, all channels of communicate dead and no sign of the nuclear menace. The true danger presents itself shortly after Mechagodzilla arrives, as Hedorah forms after feeding inside a nearby factory. The giant mass of sludge ambushes the giant machine and overpowers it quickly. The Smog Monster then flies off with Mechagodzilla in distant pursuit. Just as the mech starts to close the gap between them, a nuclear beam fires out of the water and collides with Hedorah, as Godzilla enters the fray...
The story here is popcorn entertainment, through and through. It excels in the same fashion that Godzilla Legends #1 did, diving straight into the action and never letting the reader catch a breath. While this type of story can grow old, there hasn't been too much of it in IDW's line so far and Chris Mowry does a superb job at crafting a story suited to this type of approach. The idea to use Mechagodzilla, who has a cast of characters directly in the midst of the conflict piloting him, proves to work well within the "short story" approach of the Legends series. Mowry goes to the length to name the five person crew and their respective roles, although they aren't given much more development than that outside of Salani coming off a bit more green than the others.
Make no mistakes, though, this issue is a slugfest.
It's a large battle that keeps expanding in scope. The monster choices couldn't be better either, presenting a match up the reader hasn't seen before and with a roster of very powerful monsters, each very formidable. Hedorah tends to get his powers down played a lot in media outside of Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), but Mowry has a firm grasp of how dangerous he can be while also playing this off the robust arsenal of Mechagodzilla to deliver a great conflict.
A story of this variety is heavily dependent on the art to succeed, though, and E.J. Su and Priscilla Tramontano are more than up to the task. Su's pencil work is amazingly detailed and consistently great. The scene with Mechagodzilla landing, given a full page spread, is the type of work that's normally reserved for covers with a great rendering of the giant machine while still capturing the catastrophic devastation of the area with gruesome dead bodies and corroded metals below. The art here is really a two person operation, as Tramontano really makes the work come alive, capturing the gleam of Mechagodzilla's armor and lucid appearance of Hedorah's body in every panel. Together, the art is a cut above just about anything seen in a Godzilla comic to date. That includes Marvel, Dark Horse and IDW, and is not a light statement considering the stellar work in the 1990's Godzilla Color Special. Hedorah's first appearance is down right chilling in this issue, captured in the preview selection here, while there are a lot of adrenalin action panels as well, such as Mechagodzilla's aerial assault and Hedorah quickly slapping Godzilla out of the way.
In regards to the cover art, Arthur Adams, with Peter Doherty on colors, add another entry in the connecting image with Hedorah being the focus this time. Doherty gives a bit too much color to Hedorah, but its overall a very detailed and menacing shot of Hedorah that looks great. The other cover, by Chris Scalf, is a great water colored painting of the three monsters facing off. Hedorah looks a bit better inside the issue, believe it or not, but Scalf draws an incredible Godzilla and Mechagodzilla which makes the cover a sight to behold.
Bottom line, this comic opened up my inner raving fanboy, which doesn't happen all that often. While I still might prefer Godzilla Legends #3 for its compelling story, this issue is a clear runner up for IDW's line of Godzilla comics and an overall fantastic issue. The entire principal team does a fantastic job, from Mowry's grasp of the characters and adapting to the one issue format, to Su and Tramontano doing a phenomenal performance on the artwork. A must have comic for any Godzilla fan.