Comic: Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors All Hail the King #5


Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors All Hail the King #5

English Comic Title

Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors All Hail the King #5


Erik Burnham


Dan Schoening
Dan Schoening
Luis Antonio Delgado
IDW Publishing


Dan Schoening



King Ghidorah
King Ghidorah
King Ghidorah
King Caesar


By: Nicholas Driscoll

Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors All Hail the King has now wrapped up, and I spent some time reading through all five issues of the previous series (Rise Up), and all five issues of this series (Hail to the King) to prep for my review and gather my thoughts so I can overthink and write an overly long wrap up of the story so far. Overall, I think author Erik Burnham has put together a really messy and inconsistent tale over the ten issues, with the final issue going out on a mostly positive note. The character work comes together in a satisfying (if arguably obvious) way, and the monster battles include a few kick-butt sequences. I remain a bit dissatisfied with how some of the thematic elements are handled, and especially after reading through the whole series again, I get a real sense sometimes that the creators were sort of feeling their way through the story rather than working towards a defined goal, and that lack of planning (or perhaps interference from above) hurts the book overall. Nevertheless, the final book has some fine surprises and happy conclusions, and with the whole arc over I can say that for me the second mini-series functions far better than the first as a Godzilla story aimed expressly at the kiddies—but with tasty touches for the uber-fans.

Standard spoiler warning: I want to discuss the story without regard to spoilers, because I think generally it’s more interesting to go in-depth rather than dancing around the most important story beats, so if you want to remain unspoiled, you can go to the end, or just stop here.

The story: At the end of the previous issue, Cedric, Karen, Emily, and Anderson were being detained by their teacher (now given the name Ms. Benton—she had no name in the previous book). During Ms. Benton’s interrogation of the children about why they were acting so strangely, Godzilla and King Ghidorah had appeared in the city, and eventually Ms. Benton had become convinced that the kids’ story of being connected to monsters and Shobijin and the like was true. That’s the context!

At the beginning of this issue, Ms. Benton then provides the kaiju Scooby-crew with a drone so that they can get a better look at the monster-battle action and so hopefully use their ability to connect telepathically with the creatures with greater effectiveness (or anyway so they can see what’s happening better).

Godzilla and King Ghidorah face off in what appears to be a wooded area or park in the city limits. Anderson makes a remark that Godzilla should chuck an “empty observation tower” at KG to fake him out, and after the Big G does just that, all three of those with a psychic link to Godzilla (those being Emily, Anderson, and Cedric) are inspired to begin sending the big guy suggestions. Emily gets Godzilla to issue an uppercut, Anderson convinces Godzilla to yarf an atomic breath blast… but Cedric can’t seem to goad Godzilla to do anything. Karen chastises Cedric, implying that the kid is treating the situation like a game, and that his instructions to give Ghidorah a suplex or a flying kick are just distracting the king of the monsters. When Cedric subsequently becomes depressed, his bad attitude seems to pull away Godzilla’s attention, giving Ghidorah an opening to land a series of attacks.

Our stable of heroes lament the turn of events, and Cedric begins hurling verbal barbs at Karen. As the two continue to insult one another, King Caesar arrives. KC achieves a flying kick on one of KG’s heads, and when the space hydra zaps Caesar back, the Okinawan god-protector absorbs the energy and reflects it back at the golden colossus. Ghidorah brings the pain anyway, smashing away at Caesar until it looks like the lion-beast is going down—but Godzilla comes to help at the last minute—nuclear breath to the rescue!

Pretty soon, King Caesar and Godzilla are taking turns beating the ever-loving space boogers out of KG—until Godzilla drags Ghiddy underwater and finishes the fight off-screen (What the %&$#@). When Godzilla reemerges, at first the kiddos are happy that their beastly buddies came out ahead in the donnybrook, but then Cedric and Karen get back into their own war of insults, and Karen and Cedric’s spat telepathically inspires Godzilla and King Caesar to throw hands (and beams) against one another. Cedric and Karen, though, are so enraged that they won’t listen to their friends’ warnings until Emily throws water all over them. The pair stop fighting long enough to see their respective monster avatars have been mimicking their own tiff, and manage to patch up their relationship with humor and apologies (mostly Cedric on both counts). Godzilla and King Caesar then depart.

We cut to a scene of a chubby Xilien (code-named Dragon) watching Cedric’s MeToob episode relating King Ghidorah’s downfall, and Dragon becomes so annoyed that he breaks his notebook laptop in half. However, we find that the Xiliens are not giving up—the head Xilien declares that the mechanoids mentioned in the previous issue have arrived, and that they (the Xiliens) are planning to enhance King Ghidorah’s broken body and create a Mecha-King Ghidorah to fight against Godzilla and King Caesar, bwahahaha!

We then get the optimistic text: “The end… for now!”

Now, the review: For the most part, I think the episode works. In my review for the first issue of this series, I wrote how I was hoping that Cedric would go through an effective character arc—learning something about himself and how he should let go of his selfishness and everlasting ego-boosting. We totally get that arc, which feels good. The overt connection between monsters and protagonists, too, feels fun, if admittedly cheesy. I was poking around for others’ thoughts about the book, and found on the TK forums LSD Jellyfish and Shenanigans discussing the book, and they made a good point—that so many kids would LOVE to have a direct connection to Godzilla in this way. I think other movies and books have explored such connections between kid and monster better—things like Godzilla Legends #3 with Titanosaurus, or Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), or even Shinji Nishikawa’s Daikaiju Battle manga (from the Ultraman universe). Still, this story element is great for kids and their imaginative play. I like that the teacher, Ms. Benton, proactively and positively helps the children out—and isn’t just a dumb adult™ of the sort that often appears in kid media. Basically, the story is fun, has a positive message, and treats its characters with respect. That’s my quick-and-dirty review.

That said, I would like to take some extra time in this review to analyze some of the plot points and character depictions with a little more depth than I usually do, given that this issue finishes up a ten-issue spree. I think it is worth it to think a little more deeply about the themes, story beats, and action, so let’s dig in.

First, even though I like that Cedric and Karen solve their relationship troubles, the way that the eventual healing of relationship between them arrives, I think, is somewhat poorly executed. The way the kids treat the fight between Godzilla and King Caesar is surprisingly blasé—while Cedric and Karen fight, and presumably stoke Godzilla and KC to destroy the city, the rest of the cast treat the problem like a minor kerfuffle. Plus, the fact that Karen and Cedric go from deadly foes to belly-laughs over a joke about “big mood” (this comic is going to be SO dated—I didn’t even know this term), felt unnatural, like several steps between “I hate you” and “you’re all right” were cut out.

Some aspects of the fight sequence hit poorly, too. When Godzilla “fakes out” KG by launching the watchtower at the galactic wyvern, it’s a little unclear what happens, or how the tactic is supposed to play off. Godzilla wallops the top of the tower skywards with his tail, and we see the comically small section of concrete and steel about to hit KG. Then in the next panel it looks like Godzilla hits KG with nuclear fire on his left wing, or perhaps the watchtower explodes—after all, the blue blast that hits Ghidorah ignites approximately where it appears the watchtower was going to impact anyway. So Godzilla faked out KG by pretending to attack the triple-headed terror on his left wing, only to actually attack him on… his left wing?

I also wish that Karen and Cedric’s reconciliation could have come BEFORE King Ghidorah’s defeat. I don’t think there was ever any tension that Godzilla and King Caesar were going to kill each other. Having the main threat trounced, only to follow it up with a laconic punch-out drained away a lot of the story interest. Even worse, King Ghidorah’s final fight with Godzilla was a complete cheat! I could not believe they pulled the pair off-camera ala King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)—a very unsatisfying way to end a fight.

Still, most of the kaiju combat and how it is illustrated is good stuff! I like KC’s flying soccer kick (ala Final Wars), and the anthropomorphized kid-inspired battle tactics are wacky and fun (though it feels a little similar to Godzilla Rivals: Gigan, with how Gigan was beaming in video game strategies to achieve his battle maneuvers). Some of the fight moves are imaginative—my favorite maybe when KG bites KC on both shoulders, then head-butts him with the middle head. Such a move is kickin’ and looks blooming painful! Simply seeing the return of King Caesar’s reflecto-eyes is also magnifique, and the fact KC gets to reflect BOTH Ghidorah’s gravity beams AND Godzilla’s nuclear breath (in separate scenes) is, as they say, bad-donkey. I love that stuff. Schoening provides some huge panels that show Godzilla facing off against KG, and one where the space hydra smashes to the ground is particularly epic, displaying a monumental sense of size and impact. The groovy color-coded panel borders for when the kids are helping Godzilla with his fighting moves add a sense of fun and color, too.

Having read through the entire series, however, a few thematic inconsistencies began to become apparent. One of the biggest themes of the first story arc “Rise Up,” which was carried over into the first issue of the second mini-series, was the idea that Godzilla was on the verge of destroying the world and the kids needed to find a way to bring about substantive change to humankind’s relationship with nature—or else. This sort of antagonistic relationship between the kids and Godzilla adds a substantive tension and differentiates the action from so many other kiddie kaiju stories, where the monster is basically friends with the child protagonists (see properties like The King Kong Show or Devil Dinosaur). However, that theme is completely dropped by the conclusion, supplanted by Karen and Cedric’s rivalry—which may be able to metamorphosize back into “hope for the future” in a future series assuming we get one, but it still feels like a missed opportunity to add stakes and narrative verve.

Another curious issue for me was how Mr. Nomura was depicted overall. We will have to step back into the previous mini-series to get a complete picture, but for those who don’t remember, Mr. Nomura was the evil CEO of Linival who was working with the Xiliens. While in the first mini-series he was large-and-in-charge, with a full set of quirky mad scientists who could create super-monsters at the drop of a monster cell, now the scientists are gone, his control is gone, his tech is gone—we just have a hollow man making small-time protestations against the Xiliens. One of the most interesting character moments for him from the previous mini-series was where the Shobijin determine that Nomura is too stubborn, too convinced that he is doing what is good, for them to change his mind. One of the best ways to create a good villain is to show that he doesn’t see himself as a villain at all, that he thinks he is doing the right thing. And the original mini-series has him fighting for green energy—even his home base, the Linival headquarters, is covered in plants, both inside and out, as if it was designed to be environmentally friendly. The fact that his scientists created Biollante to fight against Godzilla also suggests to me a further connection to this “green warrior” ethos that he might possess. While I wasn’t crazy about Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), arguably the conflicted Dr. Emma Russell provided a more complex antagonistic force than the usual Godzilla film, and Nomura could have been a more interesting villain along those lines. Instead, he is portrayed as a one-dimensional sneer-machine. He doesn’t have really anything to do in the final issue.

Not that the shallow characterizations end with Nomura. Given that the comics are pretty light on the action, with true monster fights only commencing in the last three issues, part of me wishes we could have had a bit more character from the main characters, too. I really love that Karen trounces or challenges Cedric at the things he cares about most—kaiju and sports, and their rivalry becomes a seed that spurs most of the character growth in the series—but other than that, the characters don’t have a lot going on. I am still waiting for Cedric to do something with his love for football, which seems like this important character interest (hinted at repeatedly in background images) that never goes anywhere. If he was obsessed with pro-wrestling, it would make more sense, given his interest in the in-world masked wrestler Raiu, and his attempts to get Godzilla to perform wrestling maneuvers. Anderson’s attention to detail is his greatest character trait, but he is supposed to be the child of geniuses. He doesn’t come across as so innovative. Why can’t we get a bit more from his characterization that shows his unique contributions to the team—more than just nitpicking about terminology like “wyverns”? Also, Ms. Benton was a HUGE missed opportunity, even for as much as I liked her. Emily’s parents are supposed to be teachers at the school, so if Ms. Benton could have been Emily’s mom, we could have had a more meaningful character moment for both of them in the crisis.

Let’s also take another look at Karen Higa (and yes, “Karen” really can be a Japanese name). Having recently read and reviewed Godzilla Rivals: Ebirah vs. Rodan, I started looking at Karen from a different light. As with many modern comics and shows, Godzilla: Monsters & Protectors aggressively tries to be diverse in representation—even if the characters themselves can be a little generic. For Karen, along with Dr. Oe from Ebirah vs. Rodan, it feels like there is an attempt to move away from the slim Asian stereotype—in both comics, the one somewhat overweight character has been a Japanese woman (or Okinawan, in this case). I respect the decision to push for a variety of body types in the characters that appear, but… Obesity is markedly rare in Japan, around 3-4% (compared to over 40% in the USA). It’s obvious if you live here—almost everyone is thin, and that is reflected in the long lives most Japanese enjoy. So it feels weird and a bit wrong to have the Japanese characters representing the overweight demographic in this story.

Building on the discussion of how the Monsters & Protectors series handles diversity, as mentioned before, the diversity feels undercooked. Cedric is half Japanese and half Caucasian (I think), Emily Hill has darker skin and might be Hispanic or Indian (maybe?), and Anderson Scott appears to be African (presumably) in descent. Notice my confusion above. The characters have a variety of skin tones, but Emily and Anderson’s names sound generically white, and even Cedric’s name comes from Old English. The last name “Hill” is British or Scottish in origin, and Scott is (unsurprisingly) Scottish. Are these characters meant to be multi-racial as well, or descended from slaves who were forced to take their “owners” surnames? Note that even the two teachers who have prominent roles in the series—Mr. Murray from Rise Up and Ms. Benton from Hail to the King—both have last names of Irish/Scottish or British origin, while the characters each appear to be of African descent. I point these aspects out not because I think it’s wrong to give the characters such names, but the universal UK-origins seem at-odds with the obvious attempt at wider representation. The attempt at greater representation also fails in their language-use or clothing or basically in anything other than skin tone and hair. Perhaps Godzilla Rivals: Ebirah vs. Rodan is echoing in my head as I write this, given that one character in that book was named Ogbannaya—a name of Nigerian origin. (The main character from that book, though, was named Kincaid—another Scottish name). At any rate, even small cultural bits (clothing, trinkets related to their backgrounds) or verbal tics could have made them stand out more. Heck, if they really wanted diversity, they could have included a character with a disability, too, ala Extreme Ghostbusters—this is something I have become more sensitive to since having my own health problems, and given that none of the characters really have to perform acts of daring do in the context of the stories, it would be easy to include someone with physical difficulties. I’d just like to see a few more positive and awesome disabled characters in stories. But even putting aside my personal druthers, I just wish the characters could have had more depth beyond a propensity to quibble and superficial diversity.

Another minor story stumble I think has to do with Karen’s eventual connection with King Caesar. Karen’s crisis from issue one of the second arc was that she wants to know more about connecting with her god-protector monster, and she transferred to Tokyo so that she could learn from Cedric—all because of his MeToob programs. Learning about her monster-connectedness is a central motivation for her. Yet when she finally does make connection with KC (in book 4), there is no real “aha” moment of note. She sees Emily, Cedric, and Anderson joining hands and “praying” to make connection with Godzilla, and on the next page she sits at a desk, and first try makes connection using a set of what appears to be some kind of scripture she has memorized—never hinted at before. While I think it could be argued that Karen, having been exposed to the Shobijin and having spent time with the Godzilla-trio, she may have gleaned some hint as to her dilemma, her breakthrough is poorly conveyed. What precisely was it that she learned that made her overcome her issues communicating with KC? We have no idea—I don’t think it’s very clear even why Cedric and company manage to eventually achieve a mental connect with Godzilla, other than a sense that “it’s now or never.” I wish there could have been something cleverer and meaningful, a real character defining moment that could have shown them overcoming a personal obstacle or making a real discovery about themselves or the world that enabled them to finally achieve their goals (note that it wasn’t Karen and Cedric forgiving each other, as that comes AFTER they have already achieved contact with their monster buddies.

Along the same lines, the mechanics of Karen’s relationship with King Caesar remain blurry at the end, even with some aspects of the deal ironed out. Of course from the previous chapter we already know that Karen doesn’t awaken the lion-god through the use of a catchy song ala Nami Kunigami, but she also doesn’t have dreams about Caesar (once again, in the original Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, dreams or visions WERE experienced by those connected to KC—and they saw King Ghidorah, incidentally! Maybe those were visions of this comic…). Unlike with Cedric and his crew, she also does not send KC suggestions for battle tactics. Yet in the final fight of the story, both Cedric and Karen seem to have identical emotional attachments to their respective monster protectors, thus goading Godzilla and King Caesar to fight. I realize I am nitpicking in the extreme here, but again, up until this point, Karen’s psychic link to King Caesar has seemed far less direct than Cedric and crew’s connection to Godzilla, so it’s a little inconsistent anyway that the two dueling protagonists manifest the same powers in the conclusion.

Moving away from character stuff, how about those mechanoids, am I right? The biggest reveal of the book was that last provocative panel. Several submarines or spaceships converge on the fallen King Ghidorah, but there is some confusion as to what some of those mechs are. One of the mechanoids appears to be the Gotengo/Atragon, which is a truly wild choice for an Xilien attack craft! The most prominent sub (the biggest in the image) appears to be a Mu Submarine. There is also a flying-saucer-type vehicle, which looks a bit similar to the Black Hole Aliens UFOs from Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), but I don’t think that’s what it’s supposed to be. The last sub looks a bit like Captain Nemo’s Nautilus to me, but not an official design—I don’t know if it corresponds to any official Toho designs, and it doesn’t appear to correspond to (say) Red Satan (from Atragon) nor the Alpha or Black Shark (from Latitude Zero), nor the Akatsuki (from Terror of Mechagodzilla), nor the Goten (from The War in Space). I am really curious what it is supposed to be, or if it’s a new design! I like that IDW is reaching deep for the vehicle appearances, and having the Gotengo team up with a Mu Submarine is funny stuff. Hopefully, if we get another mini-series out of the deal, Godzilla can have a good fight against the Gotengo again (ala Godzilla: Final Wars)—or maybe the mechanoids will attach to KG and become his cybernetic implants?

As with pretty much every issue, we get some easter eggs in this comic, too—once again in the MeToob video preview images. Here a Godzilland style art image shows up with cartoony versions of Godzilla, KG, and KC—and I love it! Godzilla doesn’t have teeth, but otherwise Schoening captures the look pretty well, including his original take on a Godzilland-style King Caesar. Below the Godzilland tribute, an image of a Godzilla RC toy appears, which seems to be a reference to any number of possible remote-control Godzilla toys that have appeared on the market over the years. Finally, below the RC image, there appears to be a reference to Skeleturtle! It’s a little hard to see, as the image is cropped, but we can make out a head that looks a lot like Skeleturtle, and the word “Mystery”… Given that one of the alternate names of Skeleturtle is “Mysterious Bones,” the most likely interpretation is, this is the skeleton turtle from Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964). A pretty great set of references, if you ask me.

As far as the art goes, I still like Schoening’s linework and Delgado’s colors. I mentioned a few weak spots above (the battle fake-out scene being the biggest), and while there are a few other areas that sort of had me unimpressed (the blur effects on some of the attack moves, the scene where Karen and Cedric get splashed with water), I remain a big fan of the expressiveness and cheerful-and-chipper feel of the book. Delgado’s colors, too, just always look so gorgeous with the gradients and textures, and he pulls off the complicated rainbow character of King Caesar’s reflective eye attack with panache.

And the covers for issue 5 are probably the best ones yet. Schoening’s cover shows Godzilla, King Ghidorah, and King Caesar in three profile views of their heads with speed lines behind and the words “Ready Set Fight” in stylized font. Great way to pump up the action coming inside, and it has a sweet video-game appeal that connects back to that pixel-art gag from the first issue of the arc—and the idea that the heroes are controlling the monsters. The Andrea Bell contribution is not one of her better offerings, showing the four heroes fiddling with a tablet in school and looking outside in shock as Godzilla’s shadow bears down on them. Finally, John Yurcaba has a snazz-matazz cover, the sweetest stuff he has done for the mini-series so far. Basically, we see a conglomeration of the monsters and main characters all tied up with each other in stylized combat/collage as they emerge from a cellphone alert opened on the Godzilla App (a warning program established early in the series). While I am still not the biggest appreciator of Yurcaba’s style, the composition of this image is just stunning and beautiful—it’s the sort of thing I would want to have on a t-shirt. I’d say this cover image challenges even the greats from the likes of Art Adams, Bob Eggleton, and Matt Frank.

Final thoughts? This book wraps up the action with some fine character moments and cool kid-friendly action. It has a well-delivered family-friendly message, a successful character arc for the main character, and lots of easter eggs for fans. The art remains a treat with only a few inconsequential bloopers. It ends on a cliffhanger, which I hope pays off… the future of IDW remains depressingly dark as the company continues to lose millions of dollars due to poor sales of their various titles. Anyway, basically, Burnham and Schoening clinched a MUCH better kid-centric Godzilla mini-series with the sequel, handling characters and action and intrigue at a higher (if still far from ideal) level. While not nearly as interesting or innovative as the Godzilla Rivals series being published at the same time, heck, I still think Hail to the King is worth picking up, especially if you like Godzilla comics and you want to see more. Monster kid parents, why not share this series with your Godzilla-loving tykes? Maybe it will help burgeon their interests in kaiju media even more.

Thanks for reading!

Variant Covers

Andrea Bell Cover
John Yurcaba Cover