GODZILLA LEGENDS #4: HEDORAH
STORY: CHRIS MOWRY
ART: E.J. SU
COLORS: PRISCILLA TRAMONTANO
REVIEW: MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER
Greetings, Godzilla geeks! ‘Tis I, noted kaiju scholar and local indie horror icon MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER with a review of GODZILLA LEGENDS #4: HEDORAH! At the end of my review for LEGENDS #3, I stated that there’s no way they could fuck up a comic book that featured a three-way rumble between Hedorah, Godzilla, and Mechagodzilla. So, now that I’ve actually read it, do I still feel the same way? Or did the latest LEGENDS creative team prove me wrong and botch up a seemingly sure thing?
In short, this comic fucking rules. It’s the best one since ANGUIRUS, and is at least as awesome as that book, if not better. Allow me to provide some context. Somehow, in the world of pop culture, something as awesome as Hedorah, THE SMOG MONSTER has existed since 1971, and yet, perplexingly enough, this is the very first time he’s ever been featured in a comic book. Mind boggling, isn’t it? Well, since IDW picked up the comic rights to GODZILLA, several classic kaiju have made their comic book debuts. Only the Big G himself had ever starred in comics before. But The Smog Monster (“Smoggie”, as I affectionately refer to “him”), is so unique, so bizarre, that something more should have been done with this creature over the years. At least the other monsters got to be in other movies. Smoggie debuted in ’71, and (outside of welcome appearances in a few of the Godzilla video games) didn’t make a single goddamn appearance in anything until his wretchedly miniscule cameo in 2004’s GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (Great flick, but definitely not enough Smoggie).
Now, 8 years after being humiliated in GFW, Smoggie is BACK. And I am thrilled to report that he is, at long last, treated with the respect that he deserves. He gets loads more to do than TITANOSAURUS did in the previous issue, and probably more than RODAN did in issue #2. He makes his grand entrance behind Mechagodzilla on the fourth page, and I’m pretty sure he’s on every page after that.
How’s the story? Well, truth be told, the story itself is pretty flimsy. A team piloting Mechagodzilla is sent to investigate the destruction of Linfen, China, presumably by Godzilla. Once they touch down on the disaster site, they get more than they bargained for in Hedorah, the one and only Smog Monster, and true culprit of the catastrophe. Then Godzilla joins the fray, and all Hell suitably breaks loose. That’s it. That’s the entire story. No subplots. No character development (One pilot is the leader, one is the navigator, one is the weapons specialist, one is the science officer, and one is the engineer. That’s the extent of the character development). There’s not even an environmental message like they had in Smoggie’s 1971 debut film. I’ll just come right out and say it: The story is nothing more than a flimsy excuse to get three monsters in the same place so they can battle it out.
Now, let me say this: THAT IS NOT A BAD THING!!!! To the contrary, it’s a GLORIOUS thing. Most kaiju movie plots serve little more purpose than to get the featured monsters of that film together for a mammoth slugfest with Tokyo (or some nearby city) as their Thunderdome. Does that mean that a well-crafted original story is unwelcome is this genre? No, of course not. But if the story is barely-present, then there had better be gobs of monster action, which this issue has covered, and then some. So, do I fault CHRIS MOWRY for not delivering a satisfying back story, or character arcs? Not at all. The TITANOSAURUS issue was much more ambitious in that regard, but ultimately came across as disappointing to me, for the scarcity of kaiju spectacle. When I pick up a GODZILLA comic, I want me some monsters! And Mowry delivers. So kudos to him.
Let’s shift our focus to the art, shall we? Here’s where the book REALLY garners rave reviews. E.J. SU’s work is really mind-blowing here. Why this guy wasn’t drawing KINGDOM OF MONSTERS is beyond me. I think this is the best art of any of the IDW GODZILLA titles thus far. Certainly far better than anything we’ve seen in KOM (Which is good, but this is just on a whole other level). The second page full reveal of Mechagodzilla? Awe-inspiring. Which is just what a giant dinosaur robot should be. Godzilla’s emergence from the sea is also a highlight. With that one panel, Su became my new favorite Godzilla artist. He handles action brilliantly, as well. Some artists get the characters down, but their action scenes can come across as kinda stiff, but this feels as fluid as a real Godzilla movie. A really good Godzilla movie, at that.
Smoggie is all kinds of hard to handle here, as well he should be. He was very difficult to defeat in his debut film. Not only was he immune to Godzilla’s most powerful attack (the radiation blast), but he could alter his shape. I’m happy to report that we DO see Smoggie take flight in this book. I especially loved the detail in his “Gluk, gluk, gluk” parry move. That’s right from the movie, and they captured the motion and sound of this as perfectly as could be done in a non-moving, silent medium. The last page is a thing of sludge-smothered beauty, and a love letter to Smoggie fans everywhere. In summary, if you’re a Smoggie fan, rejoice and be glad! This is a comic book made just for you. It’s a good feeling. Embrace it. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait 8 years until we see him again.
Next up, we’ll have issue #5, the final installment of this LEGENDS series. Nooooooooo!!!! This is too much fun to be nearly over already!!!! The featured monster for the (hopefully) thrilling conclusion will be KUMONGA (known to a generation of US Godzilla fans as “Speiga”), the giant spider. Will LEGENDS end with a bang, or a whimper? Tune in next time to find out!
And THAT is THE WORD, so sayeth THE MASTER!!!!
Mark Mackner is the Mastermind of Monstros Madre, the Philly-based production company responsible for such experimental short films as “bored.dumb” and “Skee-titzin”. He is the writer/director of the forthcoming feature “Daisy Derkins vs. the Bloodthirsty Beast of Barren Pines”, starring Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman and Poptards founder Johnny Destructo. He is also developing EMBALMO!, a new web series based on his 2010 short film of the same name, as well as SILAS KILLINGTON’S CAVALCADE OF CARNAGE, a late-night horror hosting show. Check out a bunch of his short films, as well as updates on all his projects in the works, at monstrosmadre.com.
Tags: Anguirus, Chris Mowry, E.J. Su, Godzilla, Godzilla Final Wars, Hedorah, IDW, Kaiju, Kingdom of Monsters, Kumonga, Mark Mackner, Mechagodzilla, Rodan, Smog Monster, Titanosaurus