I’m beginning to understand the “sorry I haven’t updated” complex that seems to plague bloggers. By and large I’ve just been letting myself be carried along by the daily routine. Winter hasn’t helped either, as some of you may recall from my moderately disaffected postings this time last year (has it really been that long?). So, Happy Valentines… ish! In order that we might properly honor this feast of Christian martyrdom I will be bringing you a number of updates over the course of the next weeks.
Now where were we?
There we go. In this the penultimate episode of Godzilla: Half Century War, we creep ever closer to the present day or something resembling it. Accordingly, the King of Monsters is facing one of his more esoteric adversaries from the modern era; the dreaded Spacegodzilla!
No seriously, that’s its name.
This issue is a little incoherent at parts, but maintains a forward momentum throughout that carries it from start to finish pretty smoothly. The year is 1987, India. Godzilla is doing battle with the new young guard of the Anti-Megalosaurus Force and their increasingly advanced weaponry. One of these new toys is the long-awaited appearance of Mechagodzilla! (also its actual name) Looking on enviously at the technological titan is an aged and haggard Ota Murakami. Now in full-on old soldier mode with a mustache and everything, Murakami and the long-suffering Kentaro have been largely relegated to the rear echelons, saved from being put to pasture entirely by using their experienced kaiju tracking skills as “glorified weather watchers.” While on one of his trope-mandated chain smoking breaks, Murakami spots AMF nemesis Deverich in the fleeing crowd and sets out after him in a last attempt at revenge. There’s a bit of a teaser for the fans in the depiction of Deverich’s shadowy new masters, who bear a passing resemblance to the (slightly goofy) aliens periodically popping into the Godzilla mythos. Murakami puts the fists to Deverich, with a good pistol whip to grow on, but discovers too late that the transmitter Deverich has built in Mumbai is much larger and more powerful than anything he has made before. The device has summoned not only Godzilla, but something else from the distant eldritch depths of the cosmos.
Conveniently, that something else crashes to Earth pretty much immediately after this discovery, which is a little odd being as it would have basically already been entering the atmosphere, but whatever. The thing in question is precisely what you see on the cover; the crystalline incubator of Spacegodzilla. There isn’t really any explanation given for the extraterrestrial kaiju’s existence, which leaves the question of why it so resembles Godzilla kind of hanging. Then again, if we’re already allowing for the other shenanigans inherent to the setting we might as well just let it go. When the alien incursor starts wiping the streets with Godzilla the AMF is in a bit of a bind. Do they take advantage of Godzilla’s weakness to finish their longtime foe once and for all? Or do they help the devil they know rather than take their chances with the one they don’t? Murakami doesn’t let us down, hopping in the cockpit of the downed Mechagodzilla and tag-teaming the cosmic monster with his old adversary. The wounded Godzilla escapes once more as the dust settles while Murakami has his moment of ambivalent respect. Its really the only way it could have gone down, but in the end that’s okay. The final ominous panel portends that Deverich’s legacy may yet bear menace, and promises a potentially epic showdown in the next issue’s conclusion.
I’ve lauded James Stokoe’s sense of place before, but in this issue we really start to feel a sense of time. The characters all exude exhaustion, and despite only being four installments in we can feel the years that have passed for Murakami. Moreover, the changing of the guard is evident. The colorful cast of the Showa era has given way to the stark lines of the Heisei. Murakami and Kentaro feel like relics, with a foot in both worlds but at home in neither. This coincides with a tonal shift in the films themselves, moving away from the bombastic trumpets and whizz-bang sensibility of the 60’s and 70’s into the more grim and gritty aesthetic of the 80’s, 90’s, and onward. There’s really not anything I would change about this series, except maybe to make it longer and not deprive us of it so soon. It is a comic book that is very much unashamed to be a comic book. It isn’t trying to be heady or edgy, and that’s okay. It’s fun.