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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


GODZILLA IN HELL ended last week with its fifth issue. For a short review, it was definitely interesting. Dave Wachter wrote Big G well and the art was very good. The shocking thing was the ending.

Godzilla rises out of the ocean, in real time.

So apparently the entire series featured Godzilla not in the actual Hell, but in his own personal hell. Basically, he goes through inner demons and eventually...conquers himself?

I will admit the concept is pretty interesting. Godzilla never actually died...or did he? As I type this it becomes a little more confusing because Big G could have died but somehow came back to life after going through all this. I'm inclined to believe, based on the quote provided in the last issue, that he never actually entered Hell, but as started earlier, he went through hell in the mind, which is definitely interesting.

Still, it could also be a disappointment since the descriptions kept telling us different things. Sure, one could make an argument that all the summaries were talking about hell inwardly. But one description talks about King Ghidorah sending him there, while another instead shows us the world blowing up because of a battle with SpaceGodzilla.

As you can see, continuity wasn't consistent, making this the most confusing Godzilla related thing yet. Confusing doesn't equal bad, of course. There's too much unique storytelling for any fan to miss. The first issue established the tone with the "Abandon Hope all ye who enter Here." It was the perfect starter as Godzilla battled a nightmarish version of himself. The second issue might be my favorite, for Bob Eggleton's elegant writing and incredible art. (It was the first actual painted Godzilla comic!)

The third issue was perhaps the most strange. We had these Mothra angels trying to get Godzilla to enlist in battling the demons. As I said in my review, that was too cool of a concept to bring up and throw away. I was also not a fan of how it tried to depict these angelic beings as antagonistic. Considering the title, it would have been nice to see some angels aiding Godzilla out of the place.

(But if this is some kind of dream landscape, then technically none of this actually happened in real time.)

Issue 4 had Godzilla's two greatest enemies: King Ghidorah and Destoroyah. If this is a personal hell, then it's fascinating to see this since Godzilla himself considers battling these two together one of the most brutal things imaginable. The final issue sort of brings it all together. As already stated, it ends with him rising out of the water.

So looking back, when looked at from #5 ending's perspective, GODZILLA IN HELL offers a very unique view into the mind of the monster, which very few things have done in the past. We see G enter his hell in the first issue, fighting a nightmarish version of himself. At the end of Issue 2 he battles whom he considers his greatest adversary. In Issue 3 we see the world, his home, blowing up. Issue 4 we see a nightmare scenario: him battling his two greatest foes. And finally we see him literally being turned into a skeleton in the final issue which is the final hell, death. But it doesn't end there. He rises, beating death, eventually reaches the summit, and rises out of the water.

Still, there are those strange dialogue inconsistencies. The issues are 95% without dialogue, but there is some contradictory narration detailing the events. This makes me think that the original idea was to have G go through the actual Hell, but in the end was changed. Besides the inconsistencies, the story is a definite must read. The Big G has never been in a story like this, and probably won't be again anytime soon.

Monday, November 16, 2015

ULTRAMAN Volume 1 Review

Ultraman is one of the most popular TV/toy properties in Japan right now. Since its debut in 1966, it has remained consistently a hit over there. The actual quality of the shows has waned in recent years, but that's an article for another day. Interestingly, there hasn't been that many manga for the series. (Or at least, some we can find out about!) That's part of the reason why ULTRAMAN was highly anticipated. After being out for four years in Japan, it has surprisingly been licensed over here. Volume 1 nicely establishes the story and provides plenty of references to the original series while being something intriguing for new fans.
Decades ago, a being known as the Giant of Light joined Shin Hayata of the Scientific Special Search Party to save Earth from an invasion of terrifying monsters known as Kaiju. Now, many years later, those dark days are fading into memory, and the world is at peace. But in the shadows a new threat is growing, a danger that can only be faced by a new kind of hero—a new kind of ULTRAMAN…
Shinjiro is an ordinary teenager, but his father is the legendary Shin Hayata. When he learns that his father passed on the “Ultraman Factor” to him, and that he possesses incredible powers, nothing will ever be the same again.
What I found most appealing about the story is that it places itself in continuity after the original series. The intro was great, giving us a rather intriguing scenario: a future where Ultraman is only a memory. The Science Patrol museum was a lot of fun, showcasing Ultraman's final fight with Zetton in figure form. Interestingly, we have Hayata straight from the original show. It's really cool how it looks like he'll be an ongoing character. Then we have Ide also. If you're a fan of the 1966 series, there's a lot to like here. The beginning introduces us to Shinjiro, our main character in child form. There's a nice slow buildup of intrigue as we see he has certain abilities. This leads us to Hayata himself revealing to Ide that he too has powers. "The Ultraman Factor" the manga is calling it. It's quite fascinating, though explained rather quickly. Hopefully in the next volume it'll go into that a bit more.

In modern day the story really heats up, and also where we find at least one negative. Shinjiro might have been a happy kid back then, but here the writer (Eiichi Shimizu) goes out of his way to make him the stereotypical high school student. I suppose with not comprehending his powers it could be understandable. Still, it was grating to get through some of those school scenes. He seems to pick up later on when he's given the Ultraman armor. The pacing is very good. The slow unveiling to the antagonist is great. Is that Ultraman? Why does he have a center hole like him? That's why when Hayata says "That's NOT Ultraman" the reader is extra intrigued. So then who is he?

The answer to this day is still one of the coolest scenes in the first volume. This alien revealing himself to be Bemular changes things quite a bit. Longtime Ultraman watchers will remember Bemular to be the very first monster Ultraman fought. This adds a mystery element to the story: has this monster transformed into an alien? Is this a new Bemular? His dialogue is a bit confusing when he says, "My name is Bemular...and I'm your very first enemy!" Is he referring to the fact that he was Ultraman's first foe? Or that he's the first to come? It seems like the latter, so it should be interesting to see how this Bemular connects to the original.

The art by Tomohiro Shimoguchi is definitely very good, even great. The Ultraman armor looks really well done. Bemular however deserves even greater recognition. The art succeeds at making him appear mysterious and ominous. The fight in the climax between them was fantastic and if that's any indication we have many more incredible fight scenes to look forward to. The ending leaves us with a nice cliffhanger, introducing Alien Z-Ton to the mix. These guys have been a fixture in Ultraman since the original show, so it's a really neat ending. Plus, the art nails the design perfectly.

Overall, ULTRAMAN starts out strong. The writing is very good. It's obvious that both the writer and artist care about the source material. It is a must-read for longtime fans. It connects in a fascinating way to the first TV series and continues the story of Hayata, arguably the best Ultraman human host. Shinjiro I'm more mixed on as the protagonist, but it's only the first volume so we'll see where character development takes him. Bemular is firmly established as a great antagonist. Combine that with an intriguing cliffhanger and you have a reader greatly anticipating the next installment.