GODZILLA LEGENDS #5: KUMONGA
STORY: Bobby Curnow
ART: Dean Haspiel
COLORS: Ronda Pattison
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 #5: KUMONGA! This is the final installment of the LEGENDS mini series, and that’s a damned shame. Does the series end on a high note or a pathetic whimper? Read on!
Sad that, with the last issue of the series that they’ve actually created a human character that has personality and whom I found myself caring about, but that’s what’s happened here. Prior issues delivered on the monster action, but didn’t offer much in the way of humans to root for or to despise. Enter one Bryson Allworth, retired adventurer. The framing device of this story is that of a television interview with this man, who had traveled the world, facing danger squarely in the eye and surviving everything that was ever thrown at him. He cliff-jumped the highest waterfall, spelunked the deepest cave, canoed down the Nile River. Then he got married and put his life of death defiance behind him.
One day, he’s approached by the government with an odd but irresistible challenge… “We want you to climb Godzilla”. BUH-WHA???? What possible logic could be behind this? “To figure out how to beat him, they needed a bunch of scientific malarkey like tissue samples and whatnot. So they asked me to scamper up and collect some.” Ah. It all makes sense now. Insane as it may be, this is one of the most creative Godzilla stories I’ve seen in a while. Once he accepts the task, the story follows Allworth as he scales the, uh, scales of Godzilla (sorry). He gets fitted with a special radiation-proof suit, which sort of brought to mind something from BATTLE OF THE PLANETS.
Allworth proves to be a charming and charismatic guide as he recounts his tale. He witnesses such strange things as mutant birds nesting in Godzilla’s sails, and such awful things as Godzilla laying waste to a small village. But even then, Allworth pauses to remind us that Godzilla is an animal, not a force of pure evil. Looking back at the destruction in their wake, Allworth asks “You didn’t even notice, did you?” Still, even after all of this, nothing could prepare Allworth for what happens next. KUMONGA (known to some as “Speiga” here in the States, depending which movie dub you saw) appears and challenges Godzilla for the title of baddest beast around.
So, in the creation of a decent human protagonist (Bryson Allworth) and a truly unique situation (climbing Godzilla), BOBBY CURNOW scores major points for story. And how’s the art? It’s different than anything we’ve seen in the IDW books thus far. Godzilla’s big bulky legs bring to mind his Heisei incarnation, but much cooler for me (being an oldhead who grew up on Godzilla movies) are the close-ups which bring to mind the 70’s Showa Godzilla. The best panel in the entire book has Godzilla powering up, flexing his arms like a pro wrestler trying to intimidate his opponent. Since most fans prefer Godzilla as a mindless machine of mass destruction to the Earth-protecting super-hero of the late Showa era, he really hasn’t had any funny “human” moments in the comics. You know, like when he made the ULTRAMAN pose in GODZILLA vs. HEDORAH, or when he shook hands with JET JAGUAR in GODZILLA vs. MEGALON. Those were always my favorite moments. Lots of movies had rampaging dinosaurs trampling through cities, but Godzilla (for a time) was the only super-hero dinosaur. That’s a can’t-miss combination there.
OK, so I’m loving the story thus far. I’m loving the art. But what of KUMONGA, the titular beast, and featured monster of the book? Kumonga is the giant spider who first appeared in SON OF GODZILLA, and put up quite a fight against our hero. He returned via stock footage in ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (aka GODZILLA’S REVENGE), and for real in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. He last faced Godzilla in FINAL WARS. IDW gave us his comic book debut in KINGDOM OF MONSTERS, and later appeared briefly in the mini GANGSTERS AND GOLIATHS.
I’ll be blunt. Kumonga is not the star of this story. He’s not even the most prominently featured monster here. Having said that, you won’t be disappointed with his role. He makes a grand entrance, and puts up a pretty good fight against Godzilla.
Well, that’s it, folks. No more LEGENDS. I wish this was the ongoing series, to be honest. In the end, I found it to be more enjoyable than KINGDOM OF MONSTERS. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed KOM, but LEGENDS was overall a more fun read for me. I liked that it wasn’t bound by continuity. After all, continuity hasn’t been a big issue in the film series. It just makes for more possibilities. I also liked having different creative teams each time out. The art in each issue was definitely superior than what we saw in KOM. Here’s hoping they do more LEGENDS in the future.
So now, both LEGENDS and KOM are over. A new Godzilla series debuts in May. Looking forward to it!
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: Battle of the Planets, Bobby Curnow, Dean Haspiel, Destroy All Monsters, Gangsters and Goliaths, Godzilla, Godzilla Final Wars, Godzilla Legends, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Jet Jaguar, Kaiju, Kingdom of Monsters, Kumonga, Mark Mackner, Son of Godzilla, Ultraman