Godzilla: The Half-Century War

Story and Art by James Stokoe

Published by IDW

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During thirty years of indifference to Godzilla I had managed to avoid nearly all contact with the legendary beast. Barring the odd glimpse across the channels of his 90’s American movie, I knew little and cared less. Turns out all it took was the work of one very talented cartoonist to get me deeply involved in the world of rampaging radioactive lizard monsters and the men that struggle to contain them.

Skillfully tying fifty years of Godzilla movies into one focused narrative, the Half-Century War tells the tale of Ota Murakami and his encounters with the famed lizard. It begins with the first time Godzilla stomps out of the sea to destroy Tokyo and continues as he rampages across the planet while pursued by the AMF (Anti-Megalosaurus Force!).

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My only previous exposure to James Stokoe was his Orc-Stain comic but that made me a fan for life, he is firmly on my must-buy-no-matter what he’s producing list. His hyper-detailed art style is a skillful blend of Japanese and Western influence. Reading his work makes me want to put some serious time studying Asian comics, a favourite touch is how he has everyone break into the classic manga sweat when under pressure.

Stokoe is a very detailed artist who crams a ton into each panel and also combines dynamic lettering and explosive SFX seamlessly on the page. Godzilla’s sound effects are amazing, it looks like he’s emitting a force field of screeching sound. Explosions (of which there are many) and the resulting dust clouds are used to great effect. Often with the massive lizard looming out of a cloud of dust to spew forth a cone of violent force from his mouth. It turns out Godzilla has Radioactive Blast Breath.

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Each issue starts with a large panel containing an overview/map of where the action takes place, be that Tokyo or Bombay. It’s great at setting the scene locally and often has smoke billowing out over the trail of destruction but it’s also perfect for establishing that this is a global threat that storms the planet wreaking havoc.

The AMF have to develop their own crazy tech and crackpot science weapons to try and take down Godzilla as he is immune to conventional weaponry. And then we meet the others. I am by no means a Kaiju scholar but it seems many of the most prominent are included, Mothra, Megalon and King Ghidorah among them. We are treated to many epic battles between the mighty beasts, intercut with the puny humans scrambling around trying to stop or at least divert Godzilla.

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Should I buy it? If you are a Godzilla or a Stokoe fan then this is a must. If you think you might enjoy reading a magnificent looking comic about rampaging giant monsters then it’s for you too. If you don’t like any of that then you might need to re-examine your priorities.

Next time: Godzilla is a hard act to follow, so I am going to take things in a completely different direction and write about The Massive by Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson and Gary Brown. A look at the world after the water levels have risen through the eyes of an enviromental activist group. A tightly written eco-thriller with sharp art that might be the smartest thing Brian Wood has written, which is saying something.

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5 Responses to Godzilla: The Half-Century War

  1. Jennifer says:

    The art is gorgeous.
    I always get a kick out of comic sound effects because the concept is so absurd at first glance and yet it works so well. I wonder how quickly someone who has never seen a comic would pick up on it without explanation.

    • I know, I do think about about people who don’t read comics when I write my reviews and how they might perceive a page. Scott McCloud goes over it well in his Understanding Comics.

      SFX when they are done well are one of my favourite things about comics. Thanks for reading Jennifer

  2. Rui Esteves says:

    This is really out of my “comfort” zone for comics. I’ve watched a couple of Godzilla movies but never been a great fan.

    While I’ll probably wont be buying this, I have to say that the art looks really good.

    • I’ve never been a Godzilla fan either Rui and even though I enjoyed this comic I probably won’t be buying any others.

      I will however be buying whatever James Stokoe puts out next.

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