I really wish James Stokoe did more work, or even that this current giant monster book were an ongoing rather than a miniseries, because he is just hitting it out of the park with Godzilla: Half Century War (on the subject of baseball James Stokoe’s Sullivan’s Sluggers is similarly the bees’ knees).
So, let’s get ready to rumble!
Despite Hedorah being featured on the cover he doesn’t really have a prominent role in this issue. Not that he isn’t there, just that he’s sharing the stage with six other kaiju! The stage in this case is Accra, Ghana. The year is 1975 and Ota Murakami, like the city of Accra, could be doing better. You can tell he’s starting to get beaten down by two decades of losing fights with Godzilla. Hid monolog through the book is tired and cynical, driving home the point with his very own angst beard. The Anti-Megalosaurus Force (I ‘need’ one of those patches…) has diversified to combat and even broadening array of kaiju, using fringe science and a hell-for-leather attitude in a desperate struggle to stay one step ahead of Armageddon. Unfortunately nothing in the A.M.F. arsenal can handle a monster melee of this scale, and the remains of Murakami’s unit are found in a crumbling building waiting out the disaster around them. The machine revealed at the end of the last issue turns out to have been a psionic transmitter which acts as an attractor for kaiju, this explaining Godzilla’s strange behavior in Vietnam. The inventor of the device was a rogue A.M.F. scientist (who’s name is a subtle dig at the writer/directors of the much-maligned American Godzilla film), and it is obvious that he is the mastermind of the mayhem in Ghana. The pieces of Murakami’s command set out across the urban warzone to track him down, and not all of them will come back alive.
Most of the action in this issue is focused on the human protagonists of the A.M.F. with Godzilla and his friends forming the backdrop. While I wish we’d maybe been able to see a little more of it, Stokoe still treats us to some tremendous splash pages of the free-for-all that totally make up for it. It’s got the operatic quality of an classic Toho film with the driving momentum of a punk rock ballad. I could gush some more about Stokoe’s art… so I think I will. Even though I just complained about not having more Stokoe, I understand that might be a labor-intensive request. Every page is exploding with visceral detail. The hyper-real cartoon chaos of every panel is what makes this absurdest exercise so much fun. You can’t just read it once. If you do you’re only cheating yourself. There’s so much to linger over and chew on, and every facet of this world is imbued with its own unique character. You get the feeling that Stokoe has constructed far more of this vision than we’ve been able to glimpse. Everything teases at a deeper wellspring of characterization. The time jump between issues is less jarring in this volume, possibly because Murakami looks noticeably aged between installments. On the other hand Kentaro feels like he has even less to do in this issue than the one before, becoming more or less sublimated into the growing cast of background characters.
Despite the great collection of monsters in this issue, I’m still waiting on some of the big guns. Neither King Ghidorah or Mechagodzilla have yet made an appearance, though it wouldn’t surprise me at all if those two were being saved for the big finale in issue five. In the meantime the teaser for issue four pretty plainly lays out the King of Monsters’ next challenger. Even if you’re not a hardcore giant monster aficionado I think you’ll find this series very entertaining, I really cannot recommend it enough.