Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Intrigued to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.
By Arpad Okay. If you walked into Godzilla in Hell hoping it recalls Dante’s Divine Comedy, your wishes are soon granted. But things are going to be weirder — so much weirder — than two friends taking a stroll through a catalog of physical punishment. The first pages see Godzilla confronted with Hell’s obelisk doormat. It is a tower of rock thousands of feet tall, with giant letters carved into its face: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here. Godzilla’s reaction to Alighieri’s greeting is to utterly demolish it with his breath ray. Blow it up and stand there, being pelted with smoking stones, looking like a boss.
Godzilla in Hell is utterly surreal. There are elements of it that closely resemble Gustav Doré’s interpretation of the Inferno, but where Doré saw billowing clouds comprised of the Host, shoals of millions of angels, Godzilla’s Hell has Lovecraftian living smoke comprised of the naked bodies of the damned. This blasted hellscape is populated with elements Godzilla (and his fans) should find familiar, dark reflections of urban industrial waste and roiling oceans. The sea of Godzilla’s birth in Hell is a frozen cavern beneath the fire, an ice prison for all Godzilla’s fallen enemies.
This is the vision of Godzilla that was lost in tokusatsu translation. He isn’t the lumbering hulk we think of when we think “atomic monster movie”. Tripping over power lines isn’t going to be an issue here, as Godzilla has skills like Ninja Gaiden. This Godzilla isn’t the butt of a MST3K joke, he bounces around Hell like Sonny Chiba, fighting a kaiju version of John Carpenter’s Thing.
That is just the first issue.
Godzilla in Hell is five stories by five artists. The issue with Rodan uses the color palette of Gauguin. Hell remains painterly and beautiful. See King Ghidorah, rendered in the style of a Dragonlance book cover. Godzilla in Hell draws upon classic Enlightened art, but twists the familiar into something unexpected. As a long time Godzilla fan, this is all really, really doing it for me. Yet I imagine that a fan of monsters at any level of familiarity is going to find this book a uniquely wild ride. It is nothing but violent conflict, to be sure, but the lack of gore paired with the relentless spectacle makes it actually a rather fine book for folks of all ages. You don’t have to know who Godzilla or SpaceGodzilla is (or know that the setting is some kind of bizarre ghost-Brazil) to appreciate the epic nature of what you are witnessing on the page. Godzilla, on fire, wreathed in purple smoke, standing Kali-style over another gargantuan, fallen monster that crackles with electric blue energy.
The colors in this book are incredible. The variety of artists gives you every kind of flavor from issue to issue, but the colors are uniformly breathtaking throughout. Each page is on fire with energy. Hell is a candy-colored wonderland, quite beautiful for something that is so ceaselessly chaotic and destructive. But, even when the writing appears to be nothing more than a comic book corollary to Rampage, it is secretly playing with larger themes. Godzilla never dons the smoking jacket and sits down to wonder why he does the same thing over and over, but you can’t explore Hell without examining your life at least a little. What lies beyond for Godzilla? What is Godzilla?
Godzilla is a spirit. An idea that can be torn from its bones and still survive. Godzilla is a force that can rock the very pillars of Hell. The conclusion of Godzilla in Hell is the definition of transcendental, an absolutely astonishing, Homeric mixture of philosophy and violence. And yet, for all the references, Godzilla in Hell is unlike anything I’ve ever read. If you are in this for the violence, it will not disappoint. But there is an actively contemplative element within that will also titillate the sequential art literati. This book, simply put, is insane. It can be used to gain a deeper understanding of Godzilla. Can it be used for a deeper understanding of the self? Possibly.
Written by James Stokoe, Bob Eggleton, Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, Brandon Seifert, and Dave Wachter.
Art by James Stokoe, Bob Eggleton, Buster Moody, Ibrahim Moustafa, and Dave Wachter.
Letterer/Creative Consultant: Chris Mowry.
Cover by James Stokoe.
Edited by Bobby Curnow.