Tag Archives: Comic Books

Godzilla in Hell: Review and Analysis

There are few things in life that equal the ridiculous concept of Godzilla in Hell. Yet, this concept is the foundation of a wonderful comic miniseries that tells the story of Godzilla as he traverses through the different circles of Hell. When I first heard about this series I immediately was intrigued and wanted to learn everything I could about this comic book series.   When Christmas came, I finally got the chance to get the complete volume as published by IDW. And the result? I love it. It wasn’t what I expected and that’s what makes it good. Godzilla in Hell’s risky departure from the normal, Monster-of-the-Week formula, makes this series a must read for fans of the Big G.

Image from issue 1. Art done by James Stokoe.

Unfortunately, those looking for a straight-forward narration similar to Godzilla and the Fifty Year War (done by James Stokoe who also penned the first issue in Godzilla in Hell) will be disappointed as narration is kept to a minimum, if at all, and some issues have many pages completely devoid of dialogue. As such, the reader shoulders a great deal of interpretation that would otherwise be spoon fed to him. This lack of exposition makes the series strong as I feel a word-by-word explanation of Hell would only detract from the experience and not enhance the other worldly feel of this abysmal world.

Each issue is also done by a different artist and as such we see radical shifts in styles throughout the series.   The aforementioned lack of dialogue means the artists are given almost free reign over the pages without worrying too much about spacing problems. Whole pages are dedicated to scenery and battles and it’s amazing. Stokoe’s Godzilla still looks good as usual but I have to give a hand to Eggleton’s Godzilla as his issue is entirely painted and he makes a damn fine looking Godzilla.

Image from Issue 2. Art done by Bob Eggleton.

The multitude of artists leads to the most interesting thing about Godzilla in Hell and that’s the self-contained stories in each issue. Rather than one continuous arc, the miniseries is comprised of many tales that you could easily interpret as stand alone rather than interlocking. It strikes me as the old epics in literature like the Odyssey; here is another tale of Godzilla and his never-ending journey through Hell. This further lends fuel to the reader’s interpretation fire and allows us to enjoy Godzilla in Hell in a variety of ways.

With only five issues, I can’t help but analyze each of them and try to understand what the artist was trying to convey to the reader and what it means overall. In issue one, we are given a snapshot of Godzilla’s initial fall to Hell. The silence of the fall and the impact lends to the eeriness of the setting. Philip Glass’ opus Koyanassqui plays in the background in my head as I watch the King of Monsters recover and set forth. After Godzilla blows up Hell’s famous entrance sign, he encounters an avalanche of naked people who swarm him like an immense tidal wave. Are these the souls of the damned? Or souls whom Godzilla has killed in the living world? I think it’s the latter as they form a splitting image of Godzilla himself before transforming into a demonic-being that is a cross between Godzilla and Biollante. In a way, this weird monster reminds me of Shin Godzilla and how the collective power of Humanity was able to stop him and not some giant monster. Unfortunately, for this monster, Godzilla destroyed it with one mighty blast and moved forward on his journey.

The return of Rodan, Ghidorah, Anguirus, and Varan highlights the painted issue two. Demons now posses Rodan and Anguirus who now reside in Hell for eternity. Eggleton cleverly references their origin stories as Rodan first appearance was from a volcano while Anguirus’ was trapped in ice. Since Godzilla did not kill either of them (or Varan) I would wager he recognized them and did not want to kills their incarnations

image provided by snappow.com

image provided by snappow.com.  From Issue 3, art done by Buster Moody.

Issue three reveals how Godzilla fell to Hell in the first place and it’s probably the most fascinating chapter of the five although the other chapters give it a run for its money. I had to read the chapter twice before I realized that Godzilla actually went to Heaven first before he rejected it and was sent to Hell in response. In fact, it took me awhile to realize that the angel’s wings were similar to Mothra’s! In Godzilla lore, this makes a lot of sense considering Mothra is basically the Earth’s Guardian.

There’s a quote from the epic poem “Paradise Lost” that I’m sure issue three parodies which goes “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.” Unlike virtually all mortal beings, Godzilla has the power to reject Heaven and in response, Heaven sends Godzilla down to Hell. Yet after he defeats Space Godzilla, he rejects ruling Hell as well. As such, Godzilla takes a third, unscripted option that stuns the denizens of both worlds. Better to live on Earth.

I just love these issues as they are all so different in style and tone. Wonderful as they are, issue four stands above the rest as Godzilla finally meets his match through his arch nemeses King Ghidorah and Destroyah in a Hellish version of Tokyo. As much as I love the previous issue, Godzilla never faced a total sense of doom, depression, hopelessness and torment. Sure, he may have had problems with the Lust monster or Space Godzilla, but he prevailed nonetheless in relatively short battles. Issue four changes that and gives us scenes of constant battle. Scenes of Godzilla fighting and killing Ghidorah and Destroyah again and again. Scenes of Godzilla killed again and again. And scenes of Godzilla trying to break through the wall in vain again and again. We have seen Godzilla in Hell but never Godzilla in his own Hell.

Godzilla is truly a force to be reckon with but to finally find something that stops him is unbelievable. I would argue that this issue, and not issue five, truly tests Godzilla’s spirit. With no narration, we are unsure how long Godzilla has suffered. Months? Years? Godzilla’s eternal damnation may be similar to Dante’s version of Hell where the passing of time is inconsequential; it’s happening for now and forever. As such, I can’t help but applaud Godzilla’s escape; he broke through eternity. And as Godzilla leaves his Hell, Destroyah and Ghidorah, mere tools of his damnation, slowly disappear along with the faux-city of Tokyo.

Image from Issue 5.  Art by Dave Wachter

Image from Issue 5. Art by Dave Wachter

In the final issue, Godzilla has to climb an incomprehensibly steep and tall mountain where he can finally escape Hell. Out of all the issues, this one is the hardest to interpret. Why does Godzilla’s atomic breath fail? What is the giant monster on top of the gate? Why do the winged demons reform into Godzilla after eating him (and why do they all now have eyeballs) and why can they now release a full atomic blast? Although I can’t answer all of these questions, what I can suggest is that Godzilla’s indomitable spirit and will to succeed has brought him back from the dead and made him stronger.

Questions aside, this is a gorgeous looking issue. I love the lighting effects and the predominance of black and red. I feel like issue five’s Hell is like an abyss, devoid of light but not devoid of action. The lightning in the clouds was done rather well and the formidable mountain looked foreboding. This contrasts amazingly well with the last panel of Godzilla escaping Hell and he’s released onto the surface of the Earth, breaking through the ocean and taking his first breath of freedom. Godzilla never looked so content.

Overall, Godzilla in Hell is a great comic and I recommend all Godzilla fans to read it. It’s a different take for the King of All Monsters and it works well. Check it out.

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The Brotherhood Treatment

The Fullmetal Alchemist anime debuted in 2001 and was based on the hit manga series of the same name. The anime was a chapter-to-chapter retelling of the story, staying true to the original source material. However, once the anime caught up to the source material the story soon divulged and took a direction all on its own like an alternate universe. Characters that were minor in the manga were important in the anime and vice versa; some were given completely different back-stories and others simply never existed before. Although the anime itself was good, it wasn’t faithful to the original source material. This wasn’t rectified until 2012 when a new Fullmetal Alchemist anime, this time called “FMA: Brotherhood,” came out that gave us an anime that was completely true to the source material.

“Brotherhood” was amazing and I can’t help but think how other stories should get the same treatment as Fullmetal Alchemist. These stories were blessed with a good adaptation but were not completely true to the source material. And I honestly think they should get a chance to achieve that adaptation.

Take, for instance, Elfen Lied. Like Fullmetal, it was a manga series that produced a decent anime adaptation that strayed from the original source. Again, this was the case where the anime was simply produced too quickly for the manga to stay ahead of. Unlike, Fullmetal, however, this anime adaptation abruptly ended leaving an unsatisfied taste in my mouth. And it’s a real shame too! The anime has a great soundtrack (the intro is especially poignant), the art direction is well executed, and the voice work is very convincing. Unfortunately, many characters’ arcs are either brusquely shut down or lack a real transition thanks to the anime’s sudden ending. We missed out on what could have been an engaging alternate universe that would have been as satisfying as the original manga’s source.

If there was a readaptation of Elfen Lied (we’ll call it “Elfen Lied: Evolution”), many of the characters will achieve a satisfying progression in their story development. And if we were to keep the original soundtrack (a tall order, I know) and combine it with modern animation, we can create a beautiful, and haunting, telling of this controversial manga. With the popularity of the gruesome “Attack on Titan,” upon us, now is a great time to reintroduce this story to a modern audience.

Shifting gears to a lighter story, the “Scott Pilgrim” comic series is an excellent candidate for a reimagining. The movie, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” is a great adaptation and I can’t praise enough how tight and well done the first half of the movie is. The second half, I feel, suffers from a condensed story line and character motivations that seem questionable. Like Fullmetal, the movie was being produced at a time when the comic series hadn’t even finished yet. As such, they made up their own ending, which worked for the most part.

I think the “Scott Pilgrim” series has a very high potential for a remake. For one thing, it can be adapted into a television miniseries instead of a movie. This miniseries can really bring into light so many things that the movie either skimmed over or dropped. In the miniseries, we can see the badass, three-way fight between Scott, Roxie, and Knives’ dad. We can learn more about the Katayanagi twins. We can dive into Scott’s past and his previous relationships. And we can bring Envy to the foreground and really develop her character.  Scott Pilgrim can also flourish as his own being rather than an another Michael Cera character.

I think though the thing that will really make this miniseries stand out is the use of animation as a storytelling device. The movie was live action, and thus, this can be animation. The artist and author Bryan Lee O’Malley original work can now move and jump around like a Justice League or Spiderman cartoon and this can be amazing. We have even been given a taste of what this miniseries could be like as seen here:

I think it would be awesome

Of course, there are many series out there that deserve a remake (Nasauca: Valley of the Wind anyone?) and I’m not surprised! Given the nature of a source’s adaptation to a movie or television series, there are bound to be changes, especially if the adaptation surpasses the original source material. Game of Thrones has done this already with the advent of Season 6 so we might get a retelling of that story 30 years from now!  And I’m totally fine with that.

A Second Chance: Batman the Brave and the Bold

Batman the Animated Series (TAS) is kind of like the Ocarina of Time of Batman cartoons.  It’s from the 90s, it’s hella nostalgic, and it’s been showered with praise.  Also, and in a more negative sense, everything else that came after it will forever be compared to it.  With such a massive appeal, it’s hard not to look down at its sequels and say confidently they are inferior to the original.

I was unfortunately one of those uptight nerd boys.  My stick-in-the-ass attitude towards following Batman cartoons can be credited to my love for Batman TAS.  As such, when Batman: the Brave and the Bold (BatB) came out, I was offended by the nature of the cartoon and did not give it a second chance.

It wasn’t until my girlfriend forced me to watch BB that I slowly but surely came round to it.  At first I watched maybe an episode here or an episode there, but soon we would watch several in a row and then I would watch them without her around.

What happened?

This was a series I should have hated.  Campy, with a pooooor focus on villains (especially on Two Face and alike), and a carefree attitude.

Yet BatB’s approach to the Batman formula was so breath freshingly different that it won me over.  I guess in this case if TAS is like Ocarina of Time then BatB is like Windwaker.

Here’s what I like about it, the characters.  I love how DC flexed its superhero catalogue and gave BatB a whole host of them.  It’s like someone at DC was like “Who’s going to be in BatB?  Well, who was in Justice League?  Uh huh.  Uh huh. Uh huh….hmm…okay…how about fuck all these guys…LET’S GET BLUE BEETLE AND B’WANA BEAST.”

Oh yeah, and Blue Beetle?  Nice.  Love him and his previous incarnation.  I love it how the second Blue Beetle was voiced by Wil Wheton.  I also loved how he and Batman were just the best of buds, it’s great!  And they brought him back for another episode with Booster Gold!!

Red Tornado is also a plus.  I had never heard of him before until this series.  I like him, he’s kind of a unique superhero.  The episode featuring him and his son was good.  He was certainly treated better here than in Justice League: Unlimited where he was blown up and nobody batted an eye.

Some of the best episodes are when Batman teams up with a rather dubious partner.  Plastic Man for instance acts as a great foil to Batman’s do good attitude.  He is also animated so hilariously that his elasticity rivals Jake the Dog from Adventure Time.  Guy Gardner is another good example and I also have to give the writers credit for mainly using him to represent the Green Lantern Corps and not John Stewart or Hal Jordan.  Booster Gold is probably the best example as his greedy attitude usually causes more trouble than it fixes (also bonus points for BatB reusing Dee Bradley Baker to voice Booster Gold’s robotic comrade Skeets).

Favorite episode by far…Mayhem of the Music Meister, there’s just no other episode!  Neil Patrick Harris just nails it with this one note (heh) villain and his songs are hilarious with the bonus of being catchy.  I sometimes can’t help but sing these songs, especially the “World is Mine.”  This was the first time I saw Brave and the Bold and I couldn’t believe it, I found it way too campy.  But now, being the changed man that I am now, I find it great and it works so wonderfully well in this kooky universe.

There are a lot of other episodes to talk about or mention but that would take too long.  I want to end this article by saying, I’m glad I gave BatB a chance.  It really kind of broadened my narrow point of view on who Batman was.  It really showed that not only can you appreciate dark Batman but light Batman as well.  And not only that, you can apply this lighter shade of grey to other superheroes as well.  The recent Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers movies are great examples of that.  It just feels so nice to just kick back, munch on some popcorn and enjoy these fun movies.  And the best part is we will see another light interpretation of Batman via the Lego Batman Movie!  I’m super looking forward to it.  That Batman was awesome.

But until then…

“The Music Meister sings the song that we all want to shaaaaaare…”

New Podcast Coming Soon!

Hello everyone!  Exciting news!  I’m developing a podcast with the help of many of my friends!  We are currently recording the episodes and will hopefully have Season 1 of the podcast ready in the nearby future.

What’s the theme of the podcast?  In general, it’s to celebrate certain topics of nerdom.  Not only that, we’ll go into detail why these nerdy franchises work and why they are so popular.  What’s more, these episodes will provide interested people an introduction to the franchise and how they can become acquainted with the said franchise.

We’re keeping Season 1 pretty low key with just five episodes but they’ll range from 40 to 80 minutes long depending on the subject.  Each of these five episodes are diverse and will focus on a different nerdy theme.  Though I won’t say what their subjects are yet, I can say that one is based off of a movie franchise, one from a comic, one from a video game, one from a series of books, and one from board games.

I’ll update you guys once we have a date set.  I’ll also reveal the podcast’s title and more!  Stay tuned!

Son of a Nerd

When I was 11 or 12 years old my father took me to his downstairs workroom and pulled out a stepladder.  Setting it up, he stepped onto its top ledge and reached for a box that was on his highest shelf.  He pulled down the box and laid it gently on his countertop.  He turned to me and said, “When I eventually pass away, you will inherit all of my comics that I have collected since I was your age and even younger.”

Looking inside the box, I saw comics that were born during the Silver Era of Comics.  Archie and Batman were quite common but most important were his Amazing Spiderman comics.  He bought the very first ten issues and more of Marvel’s famous superhero.  They were all in relatively good condition with the Spiderman comics now in a protective covering that prevented wear and tear on the decades old paper.  Not only did I saw them but I read them as well.  He allowed me to read his precious collection which he had kept for all these decades; it speaks volumes to know how much trust he had in me.

And after reading them, I have to say, they’re pretty good!  Stan Lee and Steve Ditko did a great job in the writing and characters of the story.  I also learned for the first time of Doctor Octopus’ origins.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t shallow.  He wasn’t naturally evil; in fact, he was just a nuclear scientist who used his arms to help him in his experiments.  An explosion at his lab however twisted him into becoming dark and that’s what led him to being Spiderman’s foe.  The Sandman issues were pretty good as well as they definitely highlight Peter Parker’s cleverness and ingenuity.

I would say that my father’s love for comics is similar to my love for video games, a fad that was quite popular for the time despite being frowned upon by some adults.  In a way, the video game cartridges I have, though still cheap, will probably one day be as expensive as my Dad’s current comic collection.  Even now, games like my Earthbound game have already doubled in price in just several years.  In the future, my other video games will probably follow suit.

My Dad’s love for nerdiness does not end there though, he also likes Star Trek and he remembers watching that show a lot when he was in college.  He’s also a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I like watching that show with him as it’s pretty relaxing and enjoyable.  It was especially a treat when we saw the Star Trek movies as they were great and he got to enjoy them on a nostalgia level.

As such, I was lucky enough to have Michael Dorn, the actor who plays Worf in Star Trek: TNG, sign a birthday card for him.  He was at a nearby comic convention this year and I bought tickets for it so I could meet him personally.  Worf and Data were my Dad’s two favorite characters so I knew this was my best chance to give my Dad something special.  Once he signed it, which was amazing, I carefully sealed up the envelope and gave it to my Dad several weeks later.

That was my only present to him that year.  And when he read the funny card and opened it up to see that Michael Dorn had wish him a happy birthday he reacted with shock and delight.  I could see tears welling up as he realized what I had done for him.  Right there and then, I knew I had given him the best birthday present ever.

birthday card

Actually, this was not the first time I attempted to have a celebrity sign something for my Dad.  I tried to get Stan Lee to sign my Dad’s first issue of Spiderman several years ago when I was at Comic Con.  Alas, Stan charged 100 dollars per signing and I didn’t have that kind of money.  I’m super bummed that I didn’t do it though.  When I told my Dad why it didn’t happen he became convince that we should do it and that he would chip in the money for the autograph.  We’re now hoping for Stan to show up in a nearby convention so we could have the man himself sign the very thing he’s famous for.  I think that would be one of the most wonderful things ever and I hope that we can achieve it; an autograph from a legend to two nerds and a special comic.

Godzilla Week: The Half-Century War by James Stokoe

Godzilla: The Half-Century War by James Stokoe is a short but stellar comic book series that does the big G justice.  The plot focuses on soldier-turned-“glorified weather watcher” Ota Murakami who documents his run ins with Godzilla since his first attack on Japan in 1954.  As his Godzilla obsession takes control of his life, Ota tries desperately to stop the King while simultaneously thwart Dr. Deverich from destroying mankind with his monster attraction device.

Great read; here are some of my favorite points (warning, some spoilers)

The art is appealing to look at.  James Stokoe enthralls you with his art which is both clean and sharp.  The setting is bathed in an eternal sunset of colors which compliments the dour nature of the comic.  The only bright moments seem to come from Godzilla’s radioactive breath and his glowing dorsal spines.  Also, Godzilla and his monsters look good which is always a bonus.

half century

The nods to the films are appreciated.  Stokoe respects the franchise and references many different things from them without having them seem out of place.  The weapons are one of them; from masers to black hole guns, whatever the Anti-Megalosaurus Force technology division came up with, it more than likely appeared in the films.  These references give the story familiarity without it losing originality.

Mechagodzilla’s design change as the series progressed.  This is one of my favorites.  Mechagodzilla first appeared in Ota’s story in the 1980s and was based off of the MechaGodzilla from the Heisei Era of films.  It then appeared again in 2002 (the same year that Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla came out) and it received an upgrade that was based off of the Millennium Series.  The characters even talk about how bits of the original Godzilla were in the new Mechagodzilla, something that GAM also did.

Japan does not get a royal beating.  Japan gets attacked in the first issue but after that, Ota and Godzilla go global by “visiting” places like Vietnam, India, Ghana, and even Antarctica.  I like, it really drives the point that this is a global catastrophe.  Japan shouldn’t be a magnet of monster attacks, all the other nations should get a beating as well.

amf force

The specialized A.M.F. forces are amusing.  This is also one of my favorites.  When other monsters start popping up, the A.M.F. responded by making specialized forces for each of the monsters.  We only get to see these forces in one issue but they speak volumes.  I like it how the Mothra force are hippies who drive a van that has a psychedelic Mothra painted on it.  I also laughed at the Hedorah forces.  Poor guys, they look like they seen hell.  One of them wears a protective suit while the other one looks like he’s five minutes from meeting his grave.  I want to see adventures with these guys!

Godzilla’s bemused reaction.  I didn’t know it was possible to give Godzilla a facial expression but by God did Stokoe do it.    The look on Godzilla’s face when he realized his atomic breath didn’t work was funny without it being silly.  I like it.

In this end, this is a great series for you to read even if you’re not a Godzilla fan.  There are only five issues so you can easily get through it in a lunch break.  I haven’t read any other Godzilla comics but I doubt they can meet my expectations on a good Godzilla comic after Stokoe had set it so high.  Give it a shot.