Comic: Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors #4

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Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors #5


English Comic Title

Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors #5 - Rise Up! Part 5

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 / Christian Gonzales

Comic

Monsters

Godzilla
Godzilla
Biollante
Biollante
Mothra
Mothra



Review

By: Nicholas Driscoll

After increasing frustration with the story from issue one to issue four of Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors, I was braced to be completely disgusted with the finale of a thoroughly disappointing and undercooked Godzilla mini-series. While the comic in large part fulfilled its own mediocrity, I was still surprised by some glistening sparks of promise—even on the level of narrative. I suspect, however, that those sparkles of story will never come to fruition. I wish that the end of this issue had been the end of the first issue of the series.

Note that, as per usual with my reviews of comics, I am going to go over all the spoilers in my analysis. If you don’t want that, skip to the end.

The story: Cedric Nishimura narrates again from his MeToob channel. As usual, he continues to boast and joke, and we return to the schoolyard flashback where he and his friends Emily and Anderson are communing with the Shobijin. Godzilla is about to destroy the world, having reached his limit of patience when Linival sent Biollante to fight him. In order to stop the apocalypse, the Shobijin call Mothra via song. Waves of purple power summon the fluffy goddess from over the seas, and we get a glimpse of the two baby Mothras left behind as the mama imago takes off for Tokyo. We get a humorous interlude depicting an airliner encountering Mothra before cutting back to more jokes from Cedric, and an announcement to the CEO of Linival that Biollante somehow survived getting blown up in the sky by Godzilla’s nuclear breath in the previous issue. We then cut to Godzilla stomping through a wooded area when Biollante (coughing and busted up a bit) ambushes the king of the monsters. Back at the schoolyard, the Shobijin introduce Mothra to the trio of kids, and they all climb aboard. We get another amusing side vignette as a military team tracking Godzilla prepares to go on the attack until the Shobijin take over the mind of the commander from afar and manipulate him into calling off the attack.

Back with Godzilla and Biollante, the Big G roasts the plant again before jumping high in the air and flattening the monstrous vegetable with a nuclear-powered ground-pound. Then, with the floral fighter finished, Godzilla powers up to blow up the earth. At the last moment Mothra arrives and mind-melds with the kaiju king. The nature-based hope of Emily melds with the science-based hope of Anderson and the simple “good-guys-gotta-win” hope of Cedric and Godzilla is convinced to give the world another chance.

A chance to turn things around in the space of one generation.

And Godzilla is watching to make sure, by golly, that it happens this time.

We get more boasts and gags from Cedric (Santazilla, has Godzilla ever fought megalodons?) and just as his MeToob video is winding down, we cut to…

The CEO, who has been watching Cedric’s videos all along. Now, armed with the kid’s insights into just what set off Godzilla, and the secrets of the Shobijin, the CEO begins plotting his next move… and we discover that he is working with the Xiliens to take over the world!

As far as the story goes, most of my previous criticism I think still stands. Cedric is still incredibly annoying, and, while certainly he and his friends should have motivation to save the entire world, they don’t have any special motivation or qualification above any schmuck off the street. They contribute nothing to the final confrontation except in the most superficial of terms. We were given the briefest of glimpses of the trio’s supposed aspirations for future earth in issue 3, but these were just shown to be the results of a homework assignment—not reflections of their deepest desires. As characters, we never see Emily, Anderson, or Cedric tested in any way through the entire five issues. They don’t meaningfully choose to join the fight against Godzilla. For the first four issues the closest they get to any danger is through watching videos on their phones. When they finally meet Godzilla, they encounter him via the furry protection of Mothra, and interact on the mind plane—and we just get narrative explaining what’s happening. There is no effort put forth by the kids. We are just shown that they float in the air a bit while the Shobijin plead with Godzilla and somehow convince him not to destroy humanity.

I was taken aback in a previous issue when it was suggested that Godzilla would be defeated by a few kids hoping he would go away, but that’s exactly what happens. On Godzilla’s side, this may be his most embarrassing “loss.” Thematically, presumably a takeaway is that anyone can change the world, that the everykid should take a role in turning the future around, that tomorrow is in our hands, but that message feels limp and tepid in the hands of such lackluster characters and such a meaningless climactic face-off.

The return of Biollante also feels toothless. The plant monster, when first facing off against Godzilla, showed incredible power, handily crushing the big green guy. But then in the very next issue Godzilla simply shows up again, no worse for wear, and just completely destroys Biollante with no effort. Having Biollante appear again just for another effortless victory on Godzilla’s part, on a narrative level, seems like overkill. My suspicion is that, given that Godzilla doesn’t throwdown with Mothra, the editors wanted at least SOME kind of kaiju klash for the kiddies, and so Biollante was dragged out one last time. I will at least give the fight this—Godzilla’s radioactive superjump works as a great shout-out to Godzilla vs. Megaguiras (2000) and looks cool.

The big reveal at the end of the Xilien involvement caught me slightly off-guard. If you go back to my reviews of the first two books, I thought right away that Linival was being run by space aliens, given sprinkled hints in the dialogue. However, by the time the fourth issue came around and the Shobijin had scanned the CEO’s mind, it seemed that the baddies were just selfish human beings, and I dropped my prediction. Turns out my initial instinct proved correct—though having Xiliens behind the evil machinations/pollution seems to undermine the theme that humanity itself is on the dock for their mistreatment of the earth.

The entire reason Godzilla became angry at humanity at the beginning of this tale was because of the new energy source created by Linival. The new energy, dubbed E-131, produces an evil effect on krill, and so Godzilla becomes upset and attacks Linival’s artificial island. Further, as the Shobijin explain in issue five, the final trigger of Godzilla’s apocalyptic wrath was Biollante’s appearance… and Biollante’s creation and acts of aggression were also because of Linival, and so brought about by the aliens.

Whatever theme Monsters & Protectors had going for it about the evils of humanity is therefore swept out from under it by this reveal. If it was just the aliens working with the CEO (or even perhaps manipulating him), then humankind’s culpability just jumped out the window, right?

Nevertheless, whether Monsters & Protectors had “something important to say” may not be very important to the audience in the end. Many fans will just be happy to see the return of a familiar villain, though for me personally, given that the Xiliens are the go-to alien baddies who are most likely to get recycled in any given outing (Godzilla: Final WarsGodzilla IslandKaiju King Godzilla, etc), I would have preferred an appearance of the Kilaaks or even the Garoga (since Zone Fighter was recently referenced in Godzilla Rivals: Mothra).

Still, I wrote above that issue five redeemed itself somewhat, and I meant it. The mini-series plants a kernel of an interesting idea, and it’s a worry that I think a lot of people have in our current society. Basically, and without their explicit permission, the Shobijin promise that Cedric, Anderson, and Emily will turn around the destiny of the entire world within their lifetimes. Cedric is blasé about this promise in the pages of the comic itself, but the weight of that contract is huge! If the kids fail, Godzilla will come back and bring about monster Armageddon—and there is no guarantee that a couple kids with nice thoughts about future possibilities will be able to stave off the end of the world next time. That pressure could make for suspenseful storytelling if Monsters & Protectors manages to continue—and I think the fear in that unfair promise speaks to a tension in the young today. Many people in the next generation feel like they were handed a disastrous future by the previous generation—just piles and piles of untenable and unsolvable problems, from global warming to animals dying out, overpopulation, massive debt, and more. These issues (particularly global warming, but others too) often come with the idea of a ticking clock, that we are running out of time—and so Monsters & Protectors ably channels that horror with that one kernel of narrative promise.

The stories that COULD come from that kernel intrigue me, even as I suspect nothing ever WILL come of them. Which is why I wish the ending of issue five had been the ending of issue one, and that we had four more issues with which to explore those ideas in this book.

For me, too, some of the references and humor worked better in this issue than in the last two. Not that I was laughing off of my seat, but still—the writers and artists seemed to be working harder on this issue to tickle the funny bone and please the fans. I liked the recommended videos on Cedric’s MeToob, with obvious shout-outs to Haruo Nakajima, to Space Amoeba (1970), to Moguera from The Mysterians (1957). The title of his VLOG is “Monster of Monsters”—a reference to the Nintendo game. I liked that Anderson thought the Shobijin were going to call Mothra on the phone. I enjoyed the brief asides with the aircraft and the military, even if the Shobijin’s ability to control the commander from afar could complicate the narrative logically. The Godzilla vs. Megaguiras (2000) jump is a treasure, and I liked that the twin fairies were giants in the mindscape—providing an image of their power and influence. I liked the image of Santazilla, even—and, hey, props to Cedric in pointing out how anal fans can be with Internet comments (could “Peanut2112 be a reference to the Peanuts as well—the singers who played the original Shobijin?).

And I honestly still just love, love, love Dan Schoening’s artwork—especially his renderings of Mothra. Schoening’s art (with the gorgeous colors from Luis Antonio Delgado), for me, has been THE highlight of the entire series—it just looks so much like a high-quality Western cartoon. While I still think Godzilla’s design is a tad generic, and Biollante appears to be a milder version of the official movie version, Mothra goes off spec—she doesn’t seem to be based particularly on any of the movie appearances, and I LOVE that Schoening had the freedom to create this massive, fluffy, almost cheerful looking monster bug. Every shot of the hulking ball of fur made me smile, and I wish more artists had the freedom to experiment with the look of the monsters and their abilities—like the recent Godzilla: Singular Point was able to accomplish. Also, and I know I said it every time, but I still really enjoy Schoening’s comical facial expressions—the expressive eyes, curled mouths, shocked mugs, sneering confidence… he accomplishes it all with luster and fun. The panel layouts, too, as always, convey creativity and confidence while maintaining clean, clear action. Characters pop through panel boundaries, and huge panels convey monster size. What little monster battle there is remains bright and explosive, with the impact of Godzilla bringing down Biollante expressed with a combination of sound-effect and panel work that shows dedication and a sense of fun. Throughout Delgado’s colors, too—man, those colors! SO beautiful. I can’t praise him enough.

But even saying all that, in the end, yes, the fifth issue of Monsters & Protectors is very unsatisfying, with one of the dumbest climactic confrontations in Godzilla history, a continuing lack of interesting characters, and a tensionless return of Biollante that should have just been left out. Some strings feel untied (What happened to their teacher? What happened with E-131?), and the book still feels like a battery of ideas were shot onto a wall without much attention or care. I wish this comic could have come together better, with unifying themes, interesting characters, involving action…

Still.

I want to see what Burnham does with the story next. I know he can write fun and exciting comics from delving into his work with other properties. He has a set-up here that could become really exciting and entertaining. I want to see Schoening’s takes on other Toho kaiju. I can’t see any of that stuff happening, but I sure would like to—even if the current comic stands as one of the lesser in the IDW Godzilla canon.


Variant Covers

Photo Cover
Philip Murphy Cover