Godzilla is a tough endeavor. Godzilla is to Japanese pop culture as Superman is to American pop culture—something that gets passed down and shared between generations as a story. So what is it, what makes Godzilla able to cross decades, and how does one make a story that can resonate with readers who have maybe watched one classic (rubber suit) or a horrible big budget American (CGI) interpretation? James Stokoe’s mini-series closes with this fifth issue, and he ties a bow on a story of obsession by pondering the relationship between man and nature while continuing to provide detailed, imaginative artwork.
What is Godzilla? Is it a punishment for trespasses upon nature? Or is Godzilla apart of the chaotic tendencies of nature, something that just happens when the right mix of the elemental chart come together? Stokoe’s human protagonist has been chasing this question for fifty years, literally watching the world burn along the way, teetering on the brink of a precipice of unrecoverable destruction. While the first few issues had me leaning primarily towards a Herman Melville (Moby Dick) or Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness) theme of obsession, Stokoe modifies that classic literary obsession by sprinkling in moments about relationships between men and creatures alike, and the resolution is, in my opinion, satisfactory.
In thinking about the art of the series, not only for issue five but as a whole, James Stokoe stands out to me— along with Brandon Graham, Milo Milogiannis, Simon Roy and Farel Dalrymple—as one of the top indie creators working on sci-fi and fantasy in comics right now. His world that Godzilla exists within is crowded and destructive, coated in a fog of ash and dust in the heavy populated urban areas that fall into the path of destruction of our radiated beast of mystery. Stokoe and colorist Heather Breckel give the smoggy, chocking cities great detail for the eye to scan with glorious stacks of rubble coated in grey smoke and orange red rays of light, compounded with outrageous scenes of monster fighting/destruction (it IS a monster mash book after all!) This is why time is important in comics, so the level of detail that can happen on the page has time to be created. I realize that the super-soap operas cannot realistically achieve this in their current form, but I hope that if people pick up books like Godzilla: The Half-Century War or Orc Stain (both by Stokoe), they can see what happens when artists (solo or working with others) are allowed to draft pages that hold up to re-examination again and again.
Godzilla isn’t going to be a cup of tea to every person’s taste, and it shouldn’t be. But I came into this series having no love for the character, and Stokoe has pulled that magic trick that I have come to love about comics handled well—he put the hooks in me and made me a believer, at least in his interpretation.