Every issue of Godzilla in Hell has come with a change in lead artist and writer, and four issues into the series the swaps are quickly becoming both Godzilla in Hell’s biggest strength and largest stumbling point.
Issue 1 had story and art by James Stokoe, using a moody and almost surreal art style with a wide-eyed, expressive Final Wars-style Godzilla, fighting enemies out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. It was completely free of dialogue and initially made me concerned that the series would feel too experimental to gain a wider audience, though I was a massive fan of the art direction and mood.
Issue 2, with story and art by Bob Eggleton, felt like a biblical epic thanks to the painted illustrations inspired by John Martin’s The Last Judgement paintings and the works of Gustave Dore. It pitted a Godzilla 2000-style protagonist against four of his classic foes and used prose in narration boxes to make the issue feel like some ancient legend. I liked issue two much more for the gravitas it added.
As we look at issue three, which uses a much more cartoony style and the series’ first instances of spoken dialogue, I have to wonder how much communication there was between the writers. Buster Moody‘s art is bright and colorful, with very expressive kaiju in the form of Godzilla and Spacegodzilla, and the angels having Mothra wings is a brilliant touch, but the seeming new direction that Ulises Farinas and Erick Frietas add to the story is a little odd. I’m still not sure if the series is going to end up being a surreal dream Godzilla is having or if this is just a weird, experimental plot the way Toho Studios did movies like Godzilla’s Revenge or Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, which took the series in different and unique directions. I love the idea of the angels wanting Godzilla to join their war against hell, and the demons wanting to serve Godzilla and follow him into battle against Heaven, but what I appreciate most is Godzilla’s refusal to help either side in exchange for trying to find a way out of the whole conflict. Godzilla kind of speaks for the audience here, in my opinion: he just wants to know what’s going on and when it’s going to end. Issue three has gorgeous art and if the story felt consistent, it would have worked much better. It feels more like issue three tossed a wrench into the works that later issues will either have to ignore or find a way to explain away.
Moving on to issue four, we see a Godzilla with a design that falls somewhere between his ghostly appearance in Giant Monsters All-Out Attack and the classic Toho designs of the Hesei-era movies, like Godzilla vs Destroyah. Written by Brandon Seifert and showcasing some gorgeous art by Ibrahim Moustafa, this one goes back to the experimental setup of the first issue, in a way: no dialogue, no exposition, just Godzilla in a fight. The surreal imagery returns as well – Godzilla’s battle against Destroyah and King Ghidorah cannot end. Each time one of the three kaiju dies, they heal their wounds and return to life. This is exactly what the Godzilla in Hell premise ought to be used for, but coming off the plot elements of issue three, it doesn’t make as much sense. Is Godzilla still being pursued by angels and demons who want him on their side? Is this his punishment for not choosing a side?
With only one issue left in the series, I have no idea how it’s going to end or if it will end in a way that feels satisfactory and explains how all of this happened in the first place. Maybe we’ll never get an explanation – which would make the existence of this series as strange and unusual as the plot itself. If Godzilla in Hell the comic book begins and ends without explanation, the way the plot of the comic appears to be heading, it would be an oddly fitting but ultimately unsatisfying way to close the series out. I’m enjoying Godzilla in Hell because I love Godzilla and the franchise he represents, with all the awesome kaiju designs and fights we’ve enjoyed for decades, and every artist has brought their A game to the series, but the story is leaving me ultimately unsatisfied. Here’s hoping that issue five lives up to the franchise and the level of storytelling Godzilla deserves. I’ll be waiting for it, but I’ll be doing so with a little more worry than I would like.
Godzilla in Hell #3
Story: Ulises Farinas, Erick Frietas Art: Buster Moody
Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7 Recommendation: Buy
Godzilla in Hell #4
Story: Brandon Seifert Art: Ibrahim Moustafa
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy