11.16.2011: Godzilla Legends Issue #1 Review

Godzilla Legends by IDW Publishing

Matt Frank and Jeff Prezenkowski's tale of terror featuring the title's dueling daikaiju, Anguirus and Destoroyah!

As many Godzilla fans are aware, IDW Publishing has been producing comics based on the Godzilla franchise since March of this year. While I have enjoyed the ongoing series, Godzilla: Kingdom Of Monsters and it’s apocalyptic tone, it hasn’t really evoked the feeling of watching a great Godzilla film. IDW’s next entry, Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths, was a miniseries written by John Laymen (Chew) and drawn by Alberto Ponticelli (Unknown Soldier). The series reminds me of 1960s-era Toho production with an engaging story and strong characters, but the monsters (despite their size) played a smaller role in the tale than one might hope. IDW’s newest step in their nonstop kaiju-crushing world domination tour is a miniseries of one-shots called Godzilla Legends.

Godzilla Legends‘ debut issue was written by Jeff Prezenkowski and long-time Godzilla fan Matt Frank, an artist well-known within the fandom for both his devotion to the Kaiju genre and artistic talent to match his love of all things giant, rubber and monstrous. Matt Frank also illustrates the book, with Josh Perez coloring.

The story opens with one of the most powerful Godzilla foes, Destoroyah, appearing out of nowhere, wreaking havoc and catching the G-Force completely off-guard. The defense force’s only hope is to use the “G-Signaler”, a device they have been developing in an attempt to call Godzilla. The king must have been busy, because the monster that answers the call is none other than the kaiju-niverse’s underdog of destruction, Anguirus. As the two proceed to pound the wasabi out of each other, what ensues is a battle that fans have surely fought in fighter games like Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee and Godzilla Unleashed.

I won’t be going into any of the other details about this book’s plot, but as a fan -a fan who obviously so obsessed with Godzilla that he starts his own podcast- I was quite thrilled by not only the prospect of this series of one shots, but also by the execution of this first issue. I’m a sucker for anthologies and short stories – a big fan of DC’s Jonah Hex series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray in which you can hop on at any issue and enjoy a single story instead of having to dredge yourself through major story arcs and events that branch out to countless other books. The fact that in just one issue, fans get to see Anguirus and Destoroyah pitted against each other, smashing buildings, causing chaos and generally destroying everything all around them is HUGE! Next month’s issue will feature totally different monsters and focus on something totally different. How could any fan resist that call?

As a Godzilla-enthusiast, the no-brainer topic to discuss is that one of our own fan-boys, Matt Frank, is getting his due. Matt has been drawing Godzilla since he could hold a pencil and his style has developed into something amazing to behold. Fans should know his work, not just from the “foot crush” promotional covers of Godzilla: Kingdom Of Monsters or his retailer incentive covers for the same title, but also for his long history in the fandom as the re-imagineer of all things kaiju in his “Godzilla Neo” series of fan art. Seriously, if you are unfamiliar with these, you need to check them out on his DeviantArt page! Matt Frank’s deep knowledge of these monsters and their behavior is apparent. For perhaps the first time, fans will be able to actually follow the monster action. It’s very cool to see on paper: Destoroyah kicks Anguirus into a building, who then follows up with smacking debris into his attackers face with his tail to which Destoroyah responds with his mirco-oxygen ray. It’s all very sequential, just like the action in a comic book should be.

I keep referring to the masterful monsters, but another key point to this tale is the human element. Prezenkowski and Frank haven’t abandoned the scientist or the military. Their story co-mingles with the monsters and is reminiscent of established dramatic elements from Godzilla’s existing filmography. It was noted in our interview with Matt, that my co-host Heather actually was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t be seeing these characters in the remaining issues of the mini-series.

If I had any minor criticism of the book, it would lie solely in the visual portrayal of the humans. It would be no surprise to find out that Matt Frank has drawn the monsters in this book hundreds of times, but the depiction of human characters aren’t as polished. I feel confident in predicting that Matt Frank’s style will continue to improve as he refines and perfect his techniques. I really hope to see more from this team in future Godzilla titles from IDW Publishing!

The first issue of Godzilla Legends is available everywhere on November 16th from IDW Publishing. There are a total of five different covers available featuring art by not only Matt Frank, but also veteran kaiju artists Bob Eggleton and Art Adams. For an interview with Matt Frank, make sure to listen to episode 45 of the Kaijucast!