Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Godzilla: Past Present Future
by Arthur Adams and a whole bunch of others.
Collects Godzilla 5-15 (Dark Horse Comics)
Why I Bought This: Well in a general sense I always enjoyed those old-school Godzilla movies from the 60s and 70s as a kid where Godzilla teamed with Rodan and Mothra to save the world from Ghidorah and Mecha-Godzilla. Still Godzilla is not a comic I usually read (although I do own the Marvel Essential Godzilla because who can resist Godzilla vs. the Avengers).
Anyway, about four months ago I got a single issue Godzilla comic out of the $1 bin from the 90s by Art Adams. The art was gorgeous and the story was good and within that book was an ad for this trade, so I decided to see if my local comic store carried it and if so what it was about and what the price was. Lo and behold not only did they carry it but it was in their discount section for $7 (cover price is $18); on top of that it promised both a time travel story and a battle with alien hunters to which the Predator fan in me was like “f*ck yea.”
The Plot: This book is a 270-page anthology, featuring several different self-contained stories by different authors and artists. They all feature Godzilla, who is presented as malevolent force of nature circa the Godzilla 1985 reboot film. Godzilla himself has no speech or thought balloons in any of the stories. Instead that perspective is relegated to G-Force–a group of Japanese scientists who follow Godzilla in a UFO-looking aircraft to either study him and or contain him when he goes on a rampage. I should add this book is in black and white and it is digest-sized.
The stories are: (with minor spoilers included)
“Target Godzilla!” – 101 pages long with story and art by Art Adams. A group of Alien Hunters, who are clearly modeled after the Predator in terms of their culture and ship (albeit increased greatly in size so they can better fight Godzilla and visually different enough to avoid copy-right infringement) are coming to Earth seeking prey. Meanwhile in Tokyo Godzilla is fighting a giant robotic spider that’s been constructed by the military while G-Force looks on. The Alien Hunters notice Godzilla and think he’ll make a fun hunt and intervene to first help him defeat the spider and then attack him. We get a fairly epic 40-page fight going back and forth with Godzilla killing a few Hunters but taking severe damage from their weapons and traps. Meanwhile G-Force begins to sneak aboard the alien ship while the Hunters are occupied, but just as they are about to secure it a group of Planet of the Apes rip-offs (by which I mean time-traveling ape-men with a really similar origin) attack G-Force, reveal themselves as old enemies of the Hunters and steal their ship. They also reactivate the robot spider and suddenly we have a 5-way battle that rages on until Godzilla kills everyone who isn’t G-Force and leaves Tokyo.
“Lost in Time” – another 100 page story, starts with Godzilla on the West Coast of the U.S. destroying what is clearly meant to be Disneyland (but again changed just enough to avoid trademark infringement). G-Force blasts him with a new laser weapon and he disappears, at first they think they disintegrated him but in fact a mad scientist has used a time machine to take Godzilla into the past. His plan is to take Godzilla to the site of famous natural disasters and loot their historic treasurers for profit while minimizing damage to the time-stream since everything was destroyed originally anyway; so we get to see Godzilla in Pompeii and sinking the Titanic and a whole bunch of other stops that I won’t spoil. In the meantime G-Force is able to figure out what happened and then build their own time machine and begin chasing Godzilla and the scientist through time. They eventually wind-up in the future where everyone is genetically-engineered to be non-violent and so mad scientist dude is all like let me grab some future weapons and Godzilla and conquer the world but of course G-Force eventually shows up and stops him and Godzilla is warped back through time.
There also three other stories collected in the anthology, which were probably single-issue stories in the original comics this trade collects:
“Turf War” sees Godzilla wander to a mysterious island where a large mole monster is nesting. They of course fight while G-Force narrates, apparently Godzilla considers the waters his territory but the mole is protecting its young. They fight to a stalemate and Godzilla wanders off.
“To Climb the Highest Monster” – Godzilla is on another island terrorizing the local populace. G-Force deploys two agents to climb up his body using mountain gear until they can insert an electrode in his neck which stuns him unconscious. For all of 1-page they’re like “yay we can study him” and then a volcano randomly erupts and Godzilla wakes up and heads off to sea.
“The Yamazaki Endowment” – Godzilla is standing on a beach off mainland Japan not bothering anyone, but the military is still understandably nervous. Meanwhile on a nearby mysterious island an evil female scientist who survived Hiroshima lures some American nuclear scientists to her lair. She then unleashes a lobster-monster that she engineered with radiation on their families, and once the monster is done with that it decides to attack Tokyo where Godzilla intercepts it and saves the city in what is a very well-drawn fight scene.
Finally, there’s a 6-page story where G-Force and the evil female scientist from the last story debate Godzilla’s origins via instant messenger.
Critical Thoughts – I liked this. I mean there is very little depth here, but it’s a bunch of Godzilla stories. If you’ve seen the movies you should know what to expect: big fight scenes interspersed with dull human protagonists who talk too much.
As a whole, here my thoughts: The first story is a fun box of crazy. Godzilla vs. Predator rip-offs is fun enough but when you throw in Planet of the Apes and robot spiders on top of that; well if that idea doesn’t make you gleeful then this isn’t the book for you. The Planet of the Apes reveal is a wonderful WTF moment, while the robot spider is a cool enough monster that I wouldn’t mind seeing him in an actual Godzilla movie. Otherwise there isn’t much more to say; of the100 pages this thing runs I would say close 90 are fight scenes as you have Godzilla vs. the Spider, then Godzilla vs. the Hunters and then five-way chaos. And of course the art by Art Adams makes this all look great.
The time travel tale is a much better story as far as it goes, but I’ll admit I’m a sucker for time travel anyway. Godzilla makes several stops through history and each time he disappears its fun to see where he is going to end up next. Sure there are some eye-rolling moments like G-Force influencing Shakespeare to become a playwright and how ridiculously easy it is for G-Force to create their own time machine and track the villain. But again you either want to see Godzilla eat the Titanic or you don’t when it comes to this kind of story and on the front it delivers the goods.
The mole monster story is by far the weakest entry. For one I don’t buy that a giant mole can fight Godzilla to a stalemate. Two, on the heals of the massive civilian deaths Godzilla caused in the last story seeing him attack a nesting mother for no reason makes the reader begin to lose all sympathy for Godzilla, at least as these authors portray him.
The mountain climbing story is also kind or arbitrary and dumb. The lone highlight is seeing Godzilla have over-sized dangerous parasites over a decade before Cloverfield.
On the other hand I thought the final story was excellent. The human villain is really creepy, while the Hiroshima back-story gives her a bit of nuance. It’s also more in line with the beneficial protector Godzilla I grew up with and the art is truly spectacular even in black and white.
Grade: B. I enjoyed myself while reading it. I paid a ridiculously low price for it and in return I got a pair of 100-page stories both of which were fun (with a few bonus stories to boot).This is probably the kind of thing that is best in small doses so I doubt I’ll be running off to buy more Godzilla books anytime soon (just like I only own 2 of his 40-plus movies on DVD); but as a change of pace from the usual super hero fair I’m willing to give it a positive recommendation.