My interest in Godzilla comics had been petering out a bit of late. The Eric Powell/Tracy Marsh series was pretty impressive, but then they left. The other books have been okay, but either suffered from a lackluster story or art that required a concerted effort to accept. Thus, when Godzilla: The Half Century War #1 came out a couple of weeks ago, I decided to save money and pass it by – that is until astute @CraveBookReport fan @ChrissyCoyle requested a review of us, claiming it was the "goddamn perfect book for Godzilla fans." That's high praise, and the fact that the book actually inspired some passion gave me hope that it would spark something in me as well.
Turns out, the fan is always right. Or at least was mostly right this time. James Stokoe handles both the story and the art in this issue, and while I wouldn't go so far as to call it perfect, it's certainly impressive. His backgrounds are supremely detailed, sometimes to the point of feeling a little too busy, but then again, when a giant fire-breathing lizard is destroying Tokyo, chances are there's gonna be a lot going on around him. It works to help bring home the chaos and destruction surrounding the beast. The only real complaint I have is that when it's time for the characters to have expressions, it goes a little too cartoonishly manga for my tastes. And sometimes Godzilla's proportions make him look sort of awkward. For the most part, though, Gojira is pretty imposing.
Stokoe's story centers around Lieutenant Ota Murakami of the Japanese Self Defense, who manages to recover from the absolute destruction of his entire tank column in the face of the unexpected appearance of Godzilla – which had been termed 'bad weather' by his superiors – in order to draw the creature's attention enough to save a massive amount of civilians in the process. The battle is intense and frantic, as two guys in a busted up Sherman tank scramble to fulfill their duties in the face of a crazy monsterpocalypse. This unlikely act of heroism earns Ota and his partner Kentaro special consideration for the Anti-Megalosaurus Force once the powers that be realize that Godzilla ain't as dead as they thought.
It's a pretty good hook – two guys who seem fairly likeable are going to be put in charge of testing weapons on Godzilla, and thus constantly taunting certain death. Godzilla's big entrance, seen above, has a pretty clever rendering of that unique roar of his in flamey pseudo-letters, and that speaks to an imaginative process behind Stokoe's work that will help us forgive it in the places it falters.
Overall, it looks like some cool adventure awaits in Godzilla: The Half Century War, and it's earned a reprieve from my previous disinclination to keep up with my favorite lizard's stories.