Comic: Godzilla Rivals: Vs. King Ghidorah


Godzilla Rivals: Vs. King Ghidorah

English Comic Title

Godzilla Rivals 3: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah


Adam Gorham


Adam Gorham
Adam Gorham
Adam Guzowski
IDW Publishing


E. J. Su



King Ghidorah
King Ghidorah
Jet Jaguar
Jet Jaguar


By: Nicholas Driscoll

Godzilla Rivals: King Ghidorah is my favorite Godzilla IDW story in ages, and easily the best of the Rivals series so far. Taking elements from classic Showa and marrying them with Western sensibilities and references, as well as numerous fan Easter eggs and delightful surprises, with characters that are simply fun to spend time with, and wonderful story moments, as well as kinetic panel layouts and exciting detailed art, this comic is an ideal Godzilla one-shot that I loved from cover to cover.

The story: in 1996, the Xiliens attack with astonishing power across the globe, and quickly overwhelm the human military forces who are scrambling to find a way to repel the invaders. In the midst of the alien onslaught on Tokyo, Godzilla suddenly rises from the ocean, and quickly wipes out a significant number of Xilien flying saucers in the process. His victory is short lived, though, as the Xiliens hit Godzilla with a concentrated attack ray that knocks him out, and then carry him off to their base/city, Xilia, on Mars.

Months later, we move to Dr. Hu’s (!!!) secret laboratory, where the evil genius is now supporting a last-ditch effort to attack Mars via a newly developed spaceship piloted by hotshot Daitan Matsushita and a humanoid robot of Hu’s design named Hoshi, who has hacked into the Xiliens’ communications systems. Together they hope to deliver a bomb to destroy the Xiliens’ communications network. Meanwhile, on Mars, Godzilla is being forced to fight in a series of gladiatorial clashes with other monsters. Even with his nuclear breath restricted via a device on his neck, the kaiju king remains undefeated—and he has garnered a growing number of Xilien civilian fans! The Xiliens are considering bringing out King Ghidorah, their true champion, to fight Godzilla, as the fans increasingly are demanding, but also as part of a larger strategy… The Xiliens strike Dr. Hu’s secret lair, forcing a frantic fight against the invaders, and sending Matsushita and Hoshi on a last-ditch effort to complete their mission sans backup before the Xiliens destroy everything. As Matsushita and Hoshi are on their way to Mars, King Ghidorah is released to fight Godzilla, and the tri-headed terror is more than Godzilla can take without his nuclear breath. With all of humanity’s hopes seeming to collapse under the Xilien threat, can Matsushita and Hoshi complete their mission—and can Godzilla even survive?

The storyline pops and bangs and runs full speed from the very first page, escalating in excitement and action while also bringing in scrumptious doses of (admittedly bite-sized) character development and humor. The alien invasion carnage at the beginning is full-on battle-charged delirium, and we get monster-on-spaceships, monster-on-monster, and monster-vs-human action as well in the book, among other surprises. The battles really jolt and move, with dynamic angles and electric panel-placement, and it’s just good stuff.

And Dr. Hu and his freaking secret base! Just the fact that Dr. Hu is in the comic is wonderful, and he is hilarious, preening and sneering and enjoying his moment in the sun as the human race grovels at his feet. But also—man, I don’t even want to say what is in the background of the base, and the many inventions that Hu comes out with, because you just need to read this comic and enjoy it for yourself. Suffice it to say, Hu got cred, and the surprises are delivered with ding-dong knuckles-to-the-face joy. Don’t look at the list of monsters and robots up above, just read the dang comic and get ready for the ride.

The other characters of note are Daitan Matsushita and Hoshi, and both fill their protagonist shoes well. Matsushita is a plucky and assured deadly babe with a standard “damn-you-Godzilla” grudge backstory that all female pilots MUST have in the Godzilla universe ever since the Millennium series, but I liked her, and she functions as a confident, crazy heroine without the usual quips and snark. Her name is a little annoying—“Daitan” is not a name, but just an adjective in Japanese that means something like “daring”. This naming is I think is a misstep on Adam Gorham’s part, who both drew and wrote the comic; while not as dumb as Art Adams’ Japanese “names” in the Godzilla Color Special, Gorham could have just used “Yuki,” which happens to be a real name AND which can mean “brave.” Going with “Daitan” feels like if someone named a character Courageous or Daring—it sounds dumb. That said, I still liked her character and how she functions in the comic.

Hoshi is nearly as good, and some I am sure will resonate more with his more defined character arc. He goes through a lot of the motions of the standard androids in sci-fi films, finding his own humanity, and in this case falling in love with Matsushita while fighting his own demons in his mechanical limitations. I do have a pet peeve against the story point of robots who want to be human and discover their emotions deep in their circuitry, and Hoshi’s tale doesn’t do anything new with that formula. Still, his banter with Matsushita adds levity and fun to the human story, which can sometimes drag in kaiju stories, and I like the theme of humanity that comes through, as it ties in well with Matsushita’s own character arc. A note on his name: “Hoshi” in Japanese means something like “star” or “planet,” which could relate to the intergalactic mission the robot ends up going on, but I like to think his name is actually an abbreviation of “hoshii”—which means “want” or “to want,” given that the android slowly realizes his own wants and desires over the course of the tale.

Also, the easter eggs… Again, I could go on and on about them as a fan of Godzilla and Toho tokusatsu properties, but though I want to keep the main ones unmentioned for potential readers,I still would like to make at least a few comments on some smaller nuggets I noticed. The story opens in 1996, which I am sure is a direct reference to Independence Day (1996)—the alien-invasion disaster flick that would lead into GODZILLA (1998). The Xiliens’ attack and dogfighting with the jets (the air force teamis called “Blacksheep,” a possible reference to the legendary pilots in WWII) looks straight out of ID4, with zipping, zapping energy blasts and tons of speed lines… not to mention the White House getting popped precisely like a certain iconic scene. Yes, Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) is referenced, and Destroy All Monsters(1968), and King Kong Escapes (1967)—but there are other references too, including in the design of that previously mentioned communications-destroying super bomb. Just as in Invasion of Astro-Monster, the Xilians refer to KG as Monster Zero—but they call Godzilla “Monster 1999.” I am not sure what this is a reference to, if it is a reference to anything. Godzilla had Godzilla 2000, and Gamera had Gamera 1999, so it feels a bit strange. I like to think it’s a reference to the millennium bug, and Godzilla is the last critter before the end of the world, so to speak. There are also possibly references to Aliens (1986) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) with the electric zapper that limits Godzilla’s powers. Heck, I might have even detected a Trendmasters reference…

I mentioned previously a little about the art, and overall I like it a lot. Adam Gorham, who has done tons of comics from TMNT to Marvel heroes to DC, really has an eye for action that makes the fights and adventure scenes genuinely exciting. The final fight felt so much like a theme park ride that I was flashing back to Godzilla the Ride in parts of its execution, which might have been intentional. Gorham renders the human cast in more stylized, almost manga-ish vibe. My favorite is how he draws Hu, just nose in the air, evil grin—so wonderful! But his innocent Hoshi and cockeyed-grin Matsushita show a lot of character, too. Another design choice that I adored—the shirts on the Xiliens in the audience watching the gladiatorial fights that show if they are Team Godzilla or Team KG! If I have one complaint, it might be the way Gorham draws Godzilla in general, which has power and detail, but not as much character as I was hoping for. Certain angles on his face make him look a bit too human, or just not quite… right. On the other hand, the other monsters look great, especially King Ghidorah, who Gorham gives real majesty and menace—KG looks freaking cool and like a golden devil-monster. Just right, mwah.

Colors by Adam Guzowski, who also did the colors in the previous Rivals comic, are great here, too, showing gradations and layers and—oh, those boom-booms and zappy rays have great highlights and… the fire coming out of that rocket from the jet, the way he creates the appearance of speed, the shadows, the mix of flatter colors and stippled and “dirty” shadows. Good. Wonderful. But, again… not sure I like his brown Godzilla. That’s my sole nitpick.

The cover—I really like the main cover by E. J. Su, with Godzilla and KG on dueling sides of a King of Spades card, where each of them has a stylized, heavily detailed, heavily lined look. It’s original, it’s fun to see, I like the waves behind Godzilla, the smoke behind KG. Maybe not extremely dynamic and exciting, but memorable and meaningful. I’d put that cover on my wall, thank you. The alternate cover by Jeff Zornow delivers on the insane action and explosions and is so kinetic and crazy as to nearly explode off the page. I personally like it for its bombast, but also can’t help but feel like it’s just a BIT too much.

Are you convinced yet? Did you buy this comic yet? Do you like action and boom-booms and monsters wrecking the joint? This is top-notch Godzilla smashy-smashy. And it’s freaking wholesome how this comic came together! Gorham describes the process and how the comic was created with his kids, and he goes over the frustrations of his job in the nightmare of trying to create in times of quarantine and Covid nightmares. It’s so bippity-boppity heartwarming how the young’uns helped him with ideation and, shoot, he even includes some drawings they did. This afterword reminded me of The Kaiju Preservation Society and how that book was also created during the obnoxiousness of pandemic blah, but THIS comic is actually THE BOMB and not A BOMB like that novel was. Fun characters, exciting story, monsters smashing, tons of easter eggs for fans without feeling like just a reference-rush, but rather a real rush, with a wallop of a climax. Yum, yum, give me more of this, please!

Variant Covers

Jeff Zornow Cover