Comic: Godzilla Rivals: Rodan vs. Ebirah


Godzilla Rivals: Rodan vs. Ebirah

English Comic Title

Godzilla Rivals: Rodan vs. Ebirah


James F. Wright


Phillip Johnson
Phillip Johnson
Phillip Johnson
IDW Publishing


Phillip Johnson



Baby Godzilla


By: Nicholas Driscoll

With a combo fight like Rodan vs. Ebirah, it’s hard to know what to expect in IDW’s new Godzilla Rivals: Ebirah vs. Rodan from writer James F. Wright (Nutmeg) and artist Phillip Johnson (Beast Wars). It feels like sky vs. seafood! Longtime Godzilla fans might think of the Giant Condor that appeared in Ebirah, Horror from the Deep (1966) and wonder if there might be a connection, given that the Giant Condor was portrayed via a repurposed Rodan prop in the movie. However, if such a connection exists in this supremely fun Godzilla outing, it’s not obvious in the staging. What could have inspired such an unconventional matching? Surprisingly, the result is one of the best IDW Godzilla comics to be released yet in an altogether outlandish, light-hearted, high concept monster outing with style and humor to spare.

As has become my habit with these reviews, I am going to go over the plot with some detail and then analyze the story and art without sparing many spoilers. The final paragraph, though, serves as a spoiler-free version of the review, so concerned readers who don’t like spoilage can traipse to the end of the text and miss out on the majority of my sparkling prose, haha.

The tale takes place in 2030 at Tokyo Bay, where an enormous “space elevator” called ParaSOL has been installed. We are quickly introduced to Dr. Carole Kincaid, a non-binary scientist (pronouns they/them) working in crypto-botany who has been hired for a mysterious project, and Dr. Hazuki Oe, who already works at the installation. Kincaid serves as our POV character, and Oe explains how things work. Essentially, ParaSOL is a mad science lab built 400 kilometers above sea level so that the resident scientists can conduct a variety of wacky experiments outside of modern safety and ethical standards—as Dr. Ogbannaya (the head of the project) more or less states outright. We get glimpses of some of these projects during a heavy exposition dump, and see a killer robot, a gargantuan capybara with a snazzy snake (?) for a tail, and other scientific miscarriages. Finally, in “Sector X,” we get a glimpse of titanic containment devices holding Ebirah (Showa design), Rodan (Godzilla: Final Wars design), and an oversized tendril from Biollante. Ogbannaya explains some really unlikely reasons for studying the two kaiju, and we learn that Kincaid has been called in to work on the Biollante tendril because of their work with kaiju-sized flowers five years ago. When Kincaid expresses concern (given that their monster lily and sundrop flowers ate one another), their worries seem to trigger Rodan to wake up and smash his way out of the containment unit, followed soon after by Ebirah.

The two kaiju battle one another while the assembled scientists scramble to meaningfully accomplish anything in the chaos that explodes (and we see some of the previous experiments disrupted in hilarious ways). Before long, Rodan and Ebirah bash their way to the opening of the space elevator shaft and begin their plummet down to earth. As they are falling, Ebirah clamps onto Rodan’s wing membranes and completely shreds them. As Rodan continues to be beaten until he is ptero-sore, the scientists hatch a plan to turn off the artificial gravity so that Rodan and Ebirah don’t crater a large portion of Tokyo.

Unfortunately, the control panel has already been destroyed, and so they don’t have a means to turn it off.

As Ebirah and Rodan continue to fall, Rodan tries to zap Ebirah, but gets choked by the big shrimp before he can fire his Uranium Heat Beam, and then (to add to the pain) gets his reptilian head dragged against the edge of the elevator shaft. Oe suggests, given the gravity of the situation (pun intended), using “the cocoon protocol”—which involves devices built into the shaft which spout Mothra thread. As the two monsters fall into range, they are summarily cocooned. (Ogbannaya actually thanks Mothra at this point, so I like to imagine the bug-goddess was teleporting her silk spray somehow into the cocoon device.)

Simply cocooning the monsters doesn’t stall their fall, however, and so in order to catch them, Oe then engages some kind of tech that sprouts Biollante mouth-vines that shoot down the shaft to grab Ebby and Rod. Unfortunately, the vines don’t cooperate well, and go on an unplanned rampage. To get things under control, Kincaid dons a space suit and jumps down the elevator shaft, singing a song to calm down the monster plant.

It works, and the Biollante tendrils grab hold of the cocoon while popping out with all the flower buds. Just… the problem being that once the vines grab the cocoon, Rodan finally gets off that zappy breath, and the cocoon gets burned to bits, sending Kincaid flailing through the air.

In the next scene, Kincaid has teleported thousands of meters back up to the laboratory at the top of ParaSOL. With the two kaiju now falling again, Ogbannaya calls in help from down on the land. Kiryu, here called the Alloy Ally, emerges from some place called the Shinseki Ground Command Center—it’s like one of those buildings that release the EVA units in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Kiryu flies up to catch the plummeting kaiju duo. However, because Kiryu takes one step into clean open public space, Godzilla wakes up in Tokyo Bay and wants a piece of the action. Kiryu manages to pull some way-killer moves in the air to subdue the two monsters and slow their descent enough not to create people paste out of half of Tokyo. Kiryu retreats to the Command Center, Godzilla gives up on attacking given his rival is gone, Ebirah scampers into the ocean, and Rodan is carted away (Dead? Unconscious?) somewhere. In the midst of all this, the scientists celebrate, but Ogbannaya sneaks off to her secret lair at Sector Z Omega… where she has Baby Godzilla in yet another holding facility… and she sneers some ominous words about it being Baby’s turn now…

Just from my overlong summary above, I hope it’s clear that Rodan vs. Ebirah is riotous entertainment, fast-moving, high-concept shenanigans. The near-future canard allows for all sorts of super-tech and crazy scientific nonsense ala Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla vs. Megaguiras (2000), or the anime trilogy, but amped to a different level of tomfoolery. The fact that Toho allowed such unconventional usage of their kaiju from an American comic is refreshing. Personally, I adore seeing crazy innovations like the tech-based Mothra-goo-shooters and the Biollante vine snatch-grabbers. The mad-scientists-hovel-in-space is also gloriously fun and absurd—like a reverse of Latitude Zero (1969) and Craig MacKenzie’s underwater utopia (or perhaps a better comparison might be to Dr. Malic’s island of horrors, given Ogbannaya’s villainous overture at the end).

We have gotten glimpses of madcap scientist labs in other Godzilla comics, too—from Dr. Hu’s brilliant cameo in Godzilla Rivals: King Ghidorah to Godzilla Awakening and that guy with the wild hair, but the silliness here reaches almost The Godzilla Comic levels (though we don’t get quite as nonsensical as Koichiro Yasunaga’s alternate Biollante mad lab from that book, nor do we get the flirtations with obscenity that were the various “cell” versions of Godzilla in Hisashi Matsumoto’s parody chapter in the sequel The Godzilla Comic Strikes Back). For me, the craziness of Ebirah vs. Rodan hits just the level I like for the fun not to completely overwhelm the excitement of the action. This comic isn’t just a radioactive barrel of laughs with no drama—the humor adds to the action to create a delightful flight-of-fancy feel. Anything with a monster capybara gets extra kudos from this kid, too.

As far as the characters go, I like them. Kincaid is spunky and silly, Oe is a go-getter, and Ogbannaya strides about with self-righteous power. I like that Oe and Kincaid joke around together, and at least to some degree I like that Kincaid can tame kaiju with song—it feels a little cheesy in the way its handled here, but its playing with kaiju tropes, and it feels like a wink at that longstanding (debunked) theory that plants like music. The characters have some funny lines, too—though sometimes I couldn’t quite understand the cultural references, such as a bit where Ogbannaya seems to diss a Ghanaian dish (I tried looking up Ogbannaya, which seems to be of Nigerian origin, so made me wonder if there might be some Nigeria-against-Ghana energy here). At any rate, author Wright seems to enjoy playing with language with his perky dialogue and wordplay, and I liked that. My favorite part of the characters, though are their hilarious facial expressions throughout as they gawk and glower and grimace at the increasing bombastic events exploding around them.

The book feels self-consciously diverse, so to speak, given the top triple are two ladies and one non-binary person, and none of the three are whiteys—and I don’t have a problem with that. I like it when Godzilla stories forge new paths. Some might take some annoyance at just how deliberate the diversity message can come across, though. For example, Oe and Kincaid cheerfully exchange preferred pronouns upon meeting for the first time, signaling perhaps that by 2030 polite society such exchanges have become de rigueur—and Ogbannaya brushes off the practice when meeting Kincaid for the first time, which may be an intended hint that she is the villain of the story. I think the implementation of Kincaid’s preferred pronouns, too, is a little confusing as written. When the Biollante vines go ballistic, Oe yells, “They’ve gone completely rogue.” Then, on the next page, Oe and Ogbannaya watch Kincaid run into the vines, and the pair have this exchange:

Oe: “Did they just?”

Ogbannaya: “They did.”

Oe: “And are they… singing?”

Ogbannaya: “They are.”

Oe: “Where did you find them?”

This exchange, in the context of the comic, is referring to Kincaid. At first, however, I thought that the two ladies were referring to the Biollante vines, which are known to “sing” in the movie—and at this point Kincaid has not started belting out in song. Also, I thought Oe asking where Ogbannaya had found the vines made logical sense, too, since the vines were the source of their current problem. I think the confusion could be lessened with a minor tweak—have Oe say, “Did Dr. Kincaid just?” at the beginning of the exchange. At any rate, this is a minor bumble at worst.

Moving on to the monster action, it’s really strong.  Newcomer Johnson’s artwork is some of the best I have seen in the IDW books, with kinetic and wild panel progressions, great shots using perspective, clean linework, and stellar renditions of the monsters. Johnson is easily up to the high-concept ideas, and the smashing, bashing, and general mayhem is executed both with impact and easy-to-follow progression of action. The crazy expressions of the human cast carries over to the monsters, too—mostly Rodan, who is practically Woody Woodpecker up in here. Kiryu, meanwhile, pulls a bellowing fine entrance, and his moves saving the day are some of the coolest bits I’ve seen with the character. Even Godzilla gets a sweet, sweet glimpse before retiring. (Note: I had a tough time finding Johnson’s other work, as whenever I searched for him I always found writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson. For anyone who wants to see Phillip Johnson’s other work, which includes a lot of kaiju art, search for endofdaysonmars—you can find him on tumblr, facebook, etc.)

I think if there is anything to complain about, it’s just that Rodan gets just kerblonked, man! Rodan is one of my absolute favorite kaiju, being as Rodan (1956) was the first Toho kaiju flick I ever did see, and one of my beefs with Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) was how the ptero-kaiju got wasted and discarded, battered down and disrespected. If anything, it’s even worse here. Ebirah, often considered one of the lamest of Godzilla’s many foes, humiliates Rodan over and over again, from utterly shredding R’s wings, to choking him into submission, to battering him against the elevator walls. As mentioned in the synopsis above, it isn’t even clear at the end whether Roddy is still alive at the end! The flying reptile hasn’t had it this bad since Monster King Godzilla #2, where he also got major wing damage. Poor guy!

Also, while on the complaint wagon, I want to quickly address a couple of weird logical blips in the story. It seemed real weird to me that Kincaid would be called to the ParaSOL to help the crew regenerate a giant Biollante tentacle. Given that the scientists seem to have found a way to grow a slew of new Biollante vines as part of their grabber tech, it makes no sense why they would be having difficulty with one more. Also, we never really learn what woke up Rodan, nor how Kincaid magically travels from the burnt-up cocoon to the top of ParaSOL. These are minor plot hiccups, but they still pricked my plot senses.

Oh, and before I go, Godzilla Rivals: Rodan vs. Ebirah has a lot of yeehaw Easter eggs—though not as many as were planned! Apparently, the editorial staff was asking artist Johnson to cool it with the Easter eggs when he was planning to include NIGEL with a gun in one panel. We still get Mendel Craven from Godzilla the Series, as well as a doodle of Moguera, what appears to be another doodle of Hurricane Ryu’s Monster Warrior Godzilla, in addition to all the delightfully nutty monster moments listed above. Very, very fun comic.

Covers are a mixed bunch. Phillip Johnson’s standard cover might be my favorite, with Godzilla, Rodan, and Ebirah facing off symbolically above the earth and an image of ParaSOL stretching into space. Even though Godzilla barely features in the comic, the composition looks pretty cool, and it hints well at the drama within. Brenda Chi provides a more radically stylized cover with alternate versions of Rodan (from the Heisei series), Ebirah (the Showa version), and Mechagodzilla (Heisei again). I am not a big fan of Chi’s moody, psychedelic art here though. Jahnoy Lindsay offers a third painterly cover with Rodan flying above Ebirah emerging from swirling waters, providing a high level of drama, and I like that it looks like a painting—even if the monsters appear a little impersonal somehow. Finally, Stefano Landini provides the last cover—a black and white image with his own versions of the beasts apparently brawling at sea with highly detailed rendering and gray tones. This one, for me, is confusingly staged, as I had a hard time working out clearly where the beasties are laying down the damage, and the unique Landini-versions of the kaiju are an acquired taste I guess.

Still, though I may whinge about tiny details, Rodan vs. Ebirah is perhaps my second-favorite Rivals comic right behind King Ghidorah—and the art might even be better than what was featured in that seminal monster clash. With witty characters, unusual monster encounters, creative re-imaginings of how monsters can appear in the story, truly awesome battle scenes, and lots of wacky tech, this IDW outing aims for the stratosphere and mostly clears every goal. Fans with an open mind for experimentation and humorous takes on the classic critter cast should find a lot to love in this book. Recommended.

Variant Covers

Brenda Chi Cover
Jahnoy Lindsay Cover
Stefano Landini Cover