Comic Review – Godzilla: Cataclysm #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

This week was expensive. Urgh. So I decided to review the first issue of the new Godzilla: Cataclysm series, written by Cullen Bunn, art from Dave Wachter and letters by Chris Mowry, published by IDW. This being the King of the Monsters 60th anniversary, and what with a fairly successful film out this year from Legendary (we reviewed it a couple of months ago, relatively spoiler free, in this episode of the Weekly Rapture podcast), it seemed worthwhile picking up, especially as I already enjoy Bunn’s writing anyway. I’ve always been particularly interested in Godzilla and kaiju films in general. They manage to be big, exciting and (on the surface) dumb while often having an intelligent underlying theme. Unfortunately, the last two outings for Godzilla on the big screen have been somewhat lacking. The 1998 film is pretty terrible, completely missing anything that made the films great (though I seem to remember really liking it at the time. I was 10. Plus that Jamiroquai track was great. You know it was. Don’t lie), and this year’s was only great for about 10 minutes total, the rest was fairly average if not dull.

Cataclysm picks up nearly twenty years after the destruction of ‘the world that was’, where human civilisation has been all but extinguished by the dozens of kaiju appearing all over the world, both through collateral damage as a part of their own fighting, or through directly being targeted by these ferocious leviathans. Humanity was brought to  the brink in this age of monsters, but then almost as soon as they turned up they disappeared again. We are shown this in the form of an old man’s dream, remembering the events that led to the world being as it is now: crumbling overgrown cities, shanty towns full of the survivors and hunter-gatherer groups heading into the city ruins for supply runs. No one has seen a kaiju for decades, to the extent that there are those that no longer believe them. It is reflected that they have been allowed to become myth and legend. Gods and devils as part of a new mythology. But this old man (I don’t think he is given a name…) knows better, because he is one of the few still around that actually remembers it all happening, and he is convinced that the monsters will return. His grandson Arata isn’t convinced, and he heads out with his friend Shiori (and a bunch of nameless other characters destined to die) into the city to look for supplies for their village. Things go sideways pretty quickly, as you would expect, and by the end of the issue we see that Arata’s grandfather was right. For whatever reason, the kaiju are coming back. And the titular character is one of them.

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It is early days for the story yet, and I’d like to see where it is going to go besides awesome giant monster throw downs and the potential clean up of the rest of humanity through the ancient art of stomps and nuclear breath, but this is a strong first issue. The dream/nightmare/memory sequence at the start is a nice exposition device to show us how we got to the world now. Bunn’s script is solid, with none of the dialogue seeming wasted, though the lack of names for ancillary characters basically made them red shirts in my eyes – doomed from the start. The musings about where our myths and religions come from at the start was especially interesting. The art is excellent. The bleak, ruined cityscape near the village looks chilling, with the overgrown metropolis the group walks through (complete with giant footprint they walk straight over) adding to the impending doom. The insect creatures Wachter draws look terrifying, with their dripping mandibles and sharp legs, and they are around just long enough to make the impact of something even worse killing them seem all the more scary. The best piece though is the image above, from the old man’s flashback dream at the start of the issue, with Godzilla, Anguirus, Mothra and King Ghidorah brawling in the middle of a city, and military jets pointlessly trying to have any impact on the fight.

A good start to what I hope will be an interesting story, and the art is particularly strong. I may be biased because I like this brand of fiction, but it is a bleak read that manages to be fun at the same time. Check it out at your local comic book shop, or on your digital media doohicky, before the cataclysm happens, destroying all the shops and probably the infrastructure for digital comics too.

Score: 8 Kaiju out of 10

Comic Review – The Empty Man #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

No review last week, long story short I was insanely busy. The few things I did read were largely ongoings or mid-series so I decided to skip a review. Anyway, this week I read The Empty Man #1 from Boom! Studios. It was written by Cullen Bunn, with art by Vanesa R. Del Rey, colours from Michael Garland and letters from Ed Dukeshire. I heard about this last week, so picked it up when I saw it on the rack.

The Empty Man takes place one year since the first case of the ‘Empty Man’ disease, a mysterious illness with unknown causes or transmission, that causes suffers to hallucinate or descend into a mad rage, with them either dying or entering an empty catatonic state. The FBI and the CDC investigate cases of the disease, hindered by various cults that surround it mistaking it for the work of God or some other delusion. The issue uses religion to frame the story too, which highlights this cultist turn later on for it’s general craziness. We follow Special Agents Langford and Jenson on a case of a family with the parents having succumbed to the Empty Man, and the children missing. The agents try to find out what happened to the kids, interviewing neighbours and interrogating suspects.

I’ve not really done the story justice, but I don’t want to give too much away. I got a real True Detective vibe from it, with the whole issue having an excellent sense of impending dread throughout all of this, and the characters seemingly knowing as little about the condition as the reader. The story is very well paced and the dialogue is sharp. I really liked the layout of the interviews 1-8 with the neighbours being so brief they felt like vox-pops. The art is really gloomy and shadowed, which just adds to the mysterious feeling. There were maybe two panels where I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on straight, in the shower scene (not nearly as sexy as it sounds) and the last page, but I got it from dialogue or the next few panels. Everything else looked great, and there is one panel that was so terrifying that I’m certain it is going to be a fixture in my nightmares for the next few nights.

I love a good mystery, and this series presents a very interesting one. The art was great, complementing the ominous overshadowing of the story. I’ll be carrying on with The Empty Man, and I’m definitely recommending people pick this up.

Score: 8.5 Fortunate Ones out of 10