Godzilla in Hell #1

hell1After almost two years since his masterful Godzilla: Half-Century War storyline, James Stokoe returns to IDW with the new comic Godzilla in Hell. Devoid of any dialogue or narration, the first issue of this new miniseries impresses with something fresh and fascinating. Godzilla in Hell #1 is an abstract, twisted comic that portrays a disempowered and frightened Godzilla: a far different angle than is per usual. Stokoe’s incredible, highly-detailed and sharp art carries this creepy, weird, and most importantly fantastic comic.

Godzilla is dropped into Hell, or at least an approximation, and is forced to deal with strange monsters that dig into his psyche and unsteady his footing. To an entirely-literal eye, this first issue doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that isn’t the point. Stokoe skips over a grander narrative and gets right to the action and to his scared, desperate Godzilla. Figuring out exactly what is in these panels takes time because of their esoteric visual nature and lack of any text description, which really is genius; this commands the reader to examine the art thoroughly, which leads to deeper interpretation conjured up by the imagination. Formations tempt Godzilla into thinking this new landmark he discovered is primed to be ruled over by him just as other places have been, but these formations are mean tricks.

What the monster is actually subjected to is much uglier monsters that are genuinely discomforting to look at. Just like the obscure, dialogue-free art forces the reader to process what is happening visually more thoroughly, these beasts featured without any text to distract from them forces the reader to myopically focus on the horrific designs of these creatures and imagine the rest. Tension and dread is created through lack of detail, giving readers only enough to serve as a beginning to whatever the caverns of their minds put together.

Absolutely essential to this comic’s effectiveness is Stokoe’s art, which is as phenomenal as ever. All the facial expression on Godzilla’s face is exaggerated enough to effectively paint a picture of the trauma he’s put through. The level of detail is insane, perfect for a story like this that calls for a lot of scanning. The colors are suitably dark and lacking in much variety, creating an unsettling atmosphere. Some zoomed-out shots show off impressive scale, but a general lack of background detail helps to make the comic feel dream-like.

The comic really does read like a particularly nasty nightmare for Godzilla. This is such a treat because it allows for the disempowered Godzilla on display here. Depictions of Godzilla have always been varied, but that variety is usually about his morality, while empowerment stays more of a constant. The interesting decision to forgo text isn’t the only unique thing about this stellar first issue.

Story and Art: James Stokoe
Story: 9.5  Art: 9.25  Overall: 9.5  Recommendation: Buy

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