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Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths Review

Posted on November 23, 2011 by Flames


Available at Amazon.com

    IDW has a lot to live up to now that it’s acquired the rights to bring Godzilla over to American comic readers. The Big G has been through the wringer twice before: first, in a widely beloved, if short-lived, stint in the Marvel Universe, and once again, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics, which produced some of the most enjoyable adventures starring the King of the Monsters yet, owing to an incarnation that far exceeded the House of Ideas’ degree of faithfulness to the source. This time, IDW hopes to one up these previous efforts by bringing over, not just Godzilla, but the entirety of the kaiju eiga franchise’s rogues gallery.

    Finally, Godzilla will get to tangle with the comic book counterparts of the likes of Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah, and IDW’s marketing strategy points towards showcasing as many of them as possible, all at once. It’s an ambitious endeavor that, unfortunately, mars Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths (unappealing title notwithstanding), an otherwise excellent miniseries from John Layman, writer of the critically acclaimed Chew, and artist Alberto Ponticelli. While all the elements are as good, if not better, than can be expected, the last issue of the recently concluded series proves that the comic simply isn’t big enough to
    contain all these giant monsters in a meager five-issue run.

    The story centers on a Japanese detective and his dealings with a crime syndicate that somehow culminates in an all-out monster invasion of Tokyo. Fairly reminiscent of the Showa Period of Godzilla films, it plays out as a parable on the evils that men do and how far they’ll go. Layman conducts this little morality play masterfully and plays it fast and loose with chronology, resulting in a pace that never seems to let up and a rhythmic narrative that plays all the right notes.

    While the characters are seemingly conventional, the depiction is nuanced enough and the use of setting feels genuine. The cat-and-mouse game between detective and gangsters is engaging and reaches an irresistible fever pitch when the monsters come into play. It’s an earnest and compelling plot that creatively brings kaiju into the mix in a manner that is mostly natural and firmly grounded on the Godzilla mythos. Layman has had experience in writing for licensed properties and it shows through his faithfulness and understanding of the source.

    In terms of art: though nobody can draw Godzilla like Art Adams did during the Dark Horse era, Ponticelli absolutely delivers. While his interpretation of the Big G looks a little too cat-like, the monsters are generally spot on and menacing. He allows them the grandeur they deserve while never losing sight of the people in the middle of it all. The dynamic art style gives the characters a real sense of humanity in a grittily portrayed setting that is on the verge of chaos. When the action hits, it hits with all the intensity and brutality one can expect from a story involving what are essentially forces of nature having at it with civilization. Through impeccable style and vivid panels, Ponticelli depicts the saga like the grand epic it wants to be without losing its verisimilitude.

    Needless to say, the creative team hardly could’ve done better and had the series been granted a couple more issues, there would be no doubt that it would reach the heights of perfection. The siege on Tokyo, in particular, which involves no less than seven of Toho’s iconic creations, could have been more fleshed out and satisfying. As it stands, there’s not enough action in the climax to justify their inclusion and the closing chapter isn’t as impactful and as memorable as it easily could have been. Godzilla fans may be reminded of the films Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars, both of which attempted to insert more of the roster than had been previously seen. Although those movies are highly enjoyable, they ultimately end up promising more than they could deliver.

    Comparisons to them aside, Gangsters and Goliaths is still quite an achievement and is sure to please Godzilla fans and non-fans alike.

    It’s a fantastic romp through a majestic land of monsters all the way to Tokyo’s seedy underbelly that would probably read much better all in one go.

    Review by Chad Cabrera

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