Comic: Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors #1

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Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors #1


English Comic Title

Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors #1 - Rise Up! Part 1

Authors:

Erik Burnham

Pencils:
Inks:
Colors:
Language:
Release:
Publisher
:
Pages:

Dan Schoening
Dan Schoening
Luis Antonio Delgado
English
2021
IDW Publishing
29

Covers:

Dan Schoening / Vic Hollins

Comic

Monsters

Godzilla
Godzilla
Kumonga
Kumonga



Review

By: Nicholas Driscoll

It could be argued that Godzilla has been targeted at children from the very beginning. While many kaiju scholars will argue that the first film, with its adult characters, dark themes, gloomy atmosphere, and stark imagery, is far removed from the kid-centric movies that dominated the 1970s in the Godzilla series, even the first film was heavily marketed towards kids. You can see evidence of that marketing in the comic-book adaptations of the film, published in children’s magazines, often taking the role of the character Shinkichi and expanding it significantly to grab children’s attention. Shigeru Sugiura’s parodic take published in 1955 in Shonen Club and featuring a talking, boisterous Godzilla is perhaps the most childish version, filled with ridiculous art and situations. Shinkichi even dives underwater with Dr. Serizawa in Sugiura’s version of events! This tale was soon followed by an even crazier sequel, where a new child character named Shige helps Dr. Yamane and zooms around in a flying saucer. Godzilla has always been popular among children, especially in the world of comics, and many other adaptations of kaiju movies added larger roles for children in the comics versions. If anything, that juvenile connection has grown stronger with the passage of time.

So it’s not only unsurprising but even expected that American comics would follow suit with a more blatantly child-oriented take in IDW’s latest, Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors. Thinking back on it, I am a bit surprised previous Godzilla comics from Marvel, Dark Horse, and IDW did not feature youngsters more often (which isn’t to say that their stories did not appeal to kids—they certainly did!). While Marvel had Rob Takiguchi piloting the giant samurai robot Red Ronin, he wasn’t the lead character of that series. Amongst Godzilla comics in the West, the only one that features a child as the real main character (and not just part of an ensemble) is perhaps the one-shot Godzilla Versus Hero Zero, which was one of my favorites from the old publications. The Hanna-Barbera Godzilla cartoon had kid main characters as part of a team—why not a comic with similar aspirations?

Perhaps the editors at IDW were inspired by the HB classic—Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors is made to look like a cartoon, and at least for me, that styling is one of the strongest aspects of the new mini-series. But, at least based on the first issue, I can’t say the same for the story and characters.

I will include spoilers with this review. If you prefer a non-spoiler review, jump to the last paragraph for a quick breakdown.

Our tale opens with narration from Cedric Nishimura, a football-loving half-Japanese living in Tokyo and operating his own MeToob channel. From the first panel, we see him making his latest vlog, which is about how he saved the world from Godzilla. Cedric explains that in his science class at an American junior high in Tokyo the teacher projected a live broadcast detailing the unveiling of a new source of energy coming from a freshly discovered element, dubbed E-131 by the company behind the discovery, Unival. This energy, according to the exhortations of a company representative, will be delivered wirelessly from a man-made island. However, once the aforementioned representative activates the device beaming energy around the world, the output of power through the airwaves has a negative effect on the krill populations in the oceans, and Godzilla immediately reacts by attacking and destroying the artificial island, and then going on a rampage around the world. Cedric and his friends Emily and Anderson discuss these problems and play a card game (it’s not completely clear if the game was part of the MeToob show), and Cedric, in narration, hints that Godzilla has greater plans… plans which the Twin Fairies on Infant Island are apparently aware of and are going to be doing something about.

And that’s the end of the story. To be honest, I really didn’t like the writing in this book. Cedric is a pompous, stuck up narrator who doesn’t actually do anything except make wisecracks for his MeToob video and play a card game with his friends. In the first issue, he has no real connection to Godzilla, and his conversations with his friends feel banal. Emily and Anderson are no better—they are supposed to be smart, but seem dismissive and snotty and, again, don’t actually do anything related to the greater monster plot. The set-up with Unival, too, is just narration and speeches and description—and even for all that, the explanations leave much to be desired.

I get that we don’t need much explanation for monster destruction, but even with that caveat, I found this book frustrating. We aren’t told or shown how the energy affects the krill—Godzilla just immediately attacks the island. For a comic with a bit of an environmental message, this lack of illustration feels like a missed opportunity to bring some weight to the story. Cedric explains that there is a theory that Godzilla operates as the earth’s immune system, but cites as the origin of that theory a monster movie from Japan called “Tokage” (or “Lizard”), and he has a copy of the film which he holds up on screen and which is labeled as a super 8 film! Is this a monster movie about a giant kaiju named Tokage? Is it an authoritative documentary on Godzilla? Who knows?!

Then Cedric says that if something bad happens to the earth, Godzilla always shows up, and his example of this is when Godzilla “fought a giant spider one time.” We get a nice flashback to a fight in a city with Kumonga, but… how was Kumonga hurting the earth again? It isn’t explained or even hinted at in any way whatsoever. (Which, to be quite fair, is consistent with how Godzilla is treated in the MonsterVerse, too. If another Titan wakes up, Godzilla apparently zeroes in on the unlucky bloke and beats him or her into submission… just for not sleeping, I guess.)

Still, these shenanigans just feel so LAZY and unexciting. Thing is, I really like children’s entertainment. I have an irrational love for All Monster’s Attack (1969) and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), which probably have the most annoying kid characters from any Godzilla film. I love reading the classic manga with child heroes, even when they are pretty vapid (see Kazukuni Kobayashi’s “Godzilla” from Otomodachi magazine). But this first issue pushes all the wrong buttons for me, as I have a pretty low tolerance for arrogant, know-it-all kids in any medium.

Nevertheless, lets push the complaints out of the way. My guess is that author Erik Burnham (who has worked on many other properties, including comics for TMNT and Back to the Future) is setting things up for a lot more fun later. There are hints of an alien invasion in the first issue (maybe X-Seijin? Monkeys? Something original?), and while I can’t say I am exactly thrilled with the obvious use of Mothra, I am still looking forward to the monster clashes in upcoming issues. I also like the card game that Cedric and his pals are playing for the hero and monster art it allows for—and there is even a sly wink at the Magic: The Gathering controversy with the SpaceGodzilla card last year, in that one of the cards has a “corona flare” power.

And I love the art from Dan Schoening, who has made a name for himself on IDW’s Ghostbusters line. Reading this book made me want to track down his other titles just to enjoy his clean, exciting artwork. His take on Godzilla looks gruff and tumble while remaining cute, and if not particularly “cool,” the more child-friendly shift fits the story. I am not completely sold on his Godzilla, but I love the dedication to creating a Saturday Morning cartoon appeal, which he pulls off with aplomb, and some of his page layouts are varied and fluid, all are easy to follow, and fun to look at. The colors from Luis Antonio Delgado are bright, cheerful, and perfect for the content as well—I really applaud the art side of this book.

While Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors issue 1 definitely suffers from some huge issues with pacing, a marked overreliance on narration and description, and obnoxious characters, the book is also clearly setting up the pieces for a more exciting sequel, and the artwork from Schoening and Delgado is just spot-on for the goals of the book. No, this isn’t an equal to the best Godzilla work from IDW (I am looking at you, Half-Century War—that’s a high bar to clear), but neither is it quite in the troughs so far—mostly because of the electric artwork. If nothing else, I hope the book does well with the little ones and brings in fans that way, even if many older fans might turn up their noses at the so-far pedestrian storytelling.


Variant Covers

Photo Cover
Vic Hollins Cover