Saturday, February 21, 2009

Essential Godzilla

Written by Doug Moench
Art by Herb Trimpe, Tom Sutton, and a pile of inkers

I scored this as a freebie at a boxing day sale, and it's taken me a while to get through it. This is very much a classic 70s Marvel series. The art is straight-forward and unadorned with any flourishes. It tells the story effectively and simply. The story is much the same - the plots are well-paced and narrated in that classic Marvel style of bombastic (and slightly pretentious) language that I remember so fondly from my childhood.

I've never really understood the appeal of monster characters like Godzilla. Sure, it's cool to see them stomp on buildings for a while, but there's nothing else to them. You can't expect any real character development or drama surrounding the monster itself, so instead, you have to create some ancillary characters and put the burden of making the stories interesting on them.

In this case, the main characters are pretty much all stereotypes. You have Dum Dum Dugan spouting off his sailor-esque one-liners and acting consistently like the least intelligent person in the room. You have other SHIELD agents like Gabe Jones (who gets called 'black man' by one villain - ahh, the 70s) and Jimmy Woo. You get the group of Japanese scientists (old man and his pretty assistant). Somehow, there is a pipe-smoking helicarrier pilot named Hughes Howards (how did that ever seem like a good idea?). And, sadly, there's a kid, who everyone calls Little Rob, even though there isn't a big Rob; following convention for kid and his _____ (whale, robot, dog, etc) movies everywhere, the kid is the one who can get through to the robot. We also get a range of Marvel guest stars. The Fantastic Four and Avengers make sense in the context of the series. The appearance of the Champions is excellent. Devel Dinosaur and Moon Boy? Not so much.

The plot for the first year or so of the series, involving attempts to stop the monster in the western states, works really well. Things progress logically, and there is a real sense of rising tension and drama running through the series. The Red Ronin battle robot is very cool.

After that first extended story line, you start to see that Moench really had to stretch to make this series work. I'm still not sure I understand how a bunch of cowboys think they can 'rustle' up a monster Godzilla's size. The plot involving alien races is ridiculous (The Megans from planet Mega???), as is the time-travel plot. It quickly became clear that they had no idea how to keep this series going, and so then they mercifully put it down.

This is a fun collection of comics to read, but I don't think it's one I ever would have paid for.

No comments: