Book review of Essential Godzilla: King of Monsters

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Buy your copy from The Essential Godzilla: King of Monstersstarstarstarno starno star Author: Moench, Herb Trimpe, Jim Mooney, Tom Sutton, and friends
Publisher: Marvel (2006)
Genre: Fiction

There’s a line in the original 1956 “Godzilla” flick that goes, “You have your fear, which might become reality…and you have Godzilla, which IS reality.” While reality, in this case, is decidedly relative, it’s kinda funny to think that, once upon a time, Godzilla shared his reality with the universe of Marvel Comics.

Yes, in the late ‘70s, Marvel managed to briefly obtain the rights to use everyone’s favorite radioactivity-mutated lizard in their comics…but rather than simply publish a magazine that was owned by the company but didn’t take place in the midst of the continuity of their super-hero creations, they decided to throw the gigantic green behemoth right smack-dab into the middle of the Marvel Universe. From the “first fantastic issue” (as it was described on the cover), Godzilla was battling it out with S.H.I.E.L.D. – Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division…and, thankfully, yes, I did have to look up the meaning of that acronym – as well as the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and…the Champions? They’re another ‘70s artifact, but proper comic geeks know that they consisted of two X-Men (Iceman and the Angel), two Avengers (Black Widow and Hercules), and Ghost Rider…which means that, if the Nicholas-Cage-starring “Ghost Rider” flick takes off upon its release, count on seeing the Champions reunite not long afterwards.

But I digress. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is a decent-enough blending of the faux drama of the Godzilla flicks with the standard Marvel comic book action. There’s a team of Japanese scientists who are experts at dealing with the giant lizard…as you’d expect they would be, given how many times he’s destroyed Tokyo…as well as a 12-year-old boy named Rob Takiguchi, who’s the only one capable of communicating with Godzilla. These folks team up with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s so-called Godzilla Squad, who travel around the country and do a pretty poor job of stopping the monster. (It took 24 issues to calm him down, and, in the end, all it took was little Rob saying, “Godzilla, please go away so they’ll leave you alone.”)

Unfortunately, while the price tag for this collection ($19.99) makes it an affordable way to travel back in time and enjoy the kitschy fun, this black-and-white newsprint presentation – the format of all Marvel’s “Essential” series – doesn’t do the material justice. The combination of Herb Trimpe’s pencils and Jim Mooney’s inks on full-page pin-up-styled images of Godzilla battling beasts with names like Batrigon (a bat-like creature) and Yetrigar (a giant Yeti who’s the size of Godzilla) really deserve to be seen in full color. Still, it’s somewhat surprising to see this collection at all, so kudos still go to Marvel for appealing to a niche market.

~Will Harris