GODZILLA – THE HALF CENTURY WAR, available from IDW Publishing on September 2nd, follows Lt. Ota Murakami, over 50 years of military service, as he hunts, tracks, and eventually reckons with the King of the Monsters. This is a passion project from writer and artist James Stokoe, and while there are some technical flaws, they’re more than outweighed by the sheer heart and evident love for the material.
Stokoe’s style is very reminiscent of a Western-stylized manga. Heavy lines and high volumes of lines to add detail and shading at the same time. Characters have bright eyes when their faces are deeply shaded, and the destruction stops just shy of being cartoonish. Stokoe’s style is unique, and I’m interested to see more of it.
Writing [No Spoilers]
The story plays out like one of the better Godzilla movies you remember watching on TV as a kid. At least, that’s how I felt about in the best nostalgia-inducing way. The story is told through the eyes of Ota as he has various encounters with Godzilla over 50 years. Along the way, various other monsters appear from Godzilla canon to up the ante on humanity’s survival.
In many ways, this book is a love letter to Godzilla films, and Stokoe takes every opportunity to topples buildings, destroy cities, and revel in creating big, loud monster fights. The beginning has a slow pace, but once the action kicks in, this book is a page-turner.
If there’s one area that didn’t work, it’s the dialog. Despite being set almost entirely with a Japanese military cast, the language is very Western slang. Especially as you progress through the decades, the dialogue didn’t quite match the characters in their roles and the setting.
Stokoe’s love and respect for the material is evident in the level of detail in his drawings. Every scale and tooth and claw is painstakingly rendered individually. It must have taken days to do some of the panels in this book, and that’s a testament to the care Stokoe must have had for the property placed in his care.
As with the cover, it’s a very manga-inspired art style with a bit of Western flair. I enjoyed it for what it was, especially when it comes to the lettering (more on that later). Godzilla looks great. The destruction is more than epic. And you feel like a kid again, wanting to take your Godzilla toys and smash them against each other as you howl with monstrous glee.
Heather Breckel is in for coloring assistance, and my hats off to Breckel and Stokoe for the sheer amount of meticulous work it must have taken to fill in individual scales and skyscraper windows by the hundreds. The majority of the story is tinted in shades of red to highlight the burning fires and explosions that litter nearly every page. The prevalence of red instinctively makes you, I suspect by design, at bit meaner and angrier to pull you into the monster fights. It’s simple coloring but highly detailed and massively effective.
Godzilla’s roar is one of the few iconic sounds in all of film history. Stokoe took the time to develop the lettering for Godzilla’s roar that looks unique, and yet, “sounds” familiar. In the extras section in the back of the book, Stokoe goes into the creative process he went through to create the roar lettering, and it’s that kind of inventive process you wish you would see more of in comics these days. You can almost feel the vibration as Godzilla roars, and that’s because the lettering is produced with actual sound waves. Brilliant choice by Stokoe.
GODZILLA – THE HALF CENTURY WAR, available from IDW Publishing on September 2nd, takes everything you love about the loud, exciting, and sometimes corny elements of Godzilla movies and gives you one heck of a fun ride. The art’s not perfect, and the dialog is a little clunky, but you quickly forget about the nitpicks when the story comes to a satisfying and surprisingly heartfelt conclusion. Long live the King of the Monsters.