When I say, “I really love Godzilla”, I feel like the first thing I need to do is be more specific. After all, even if we narrow it down specifically to comics, Godzilla is one of those iconic characters that will pretty much always have a chance at a comic book, because there’s just something in all of us that sees a giant dinosaur on the cover, smashing up a city, and says “WANT.” But in this case, I’m talking specifically about the 1977-1979 run that Marvel did, the one they later collected in ‘Essential Godzilla’. Because not only does this one feature the giant lizard we all know and love, it’s actually set in the Marvel Universe.
Why is this important? Because I love superheroes even more than I love giant monsters, and a comic that combines both of them is just sheer, undiluted joy from beginning to end. The premise involves Godzilla heading to America, so you get SHIELD hunting the beast in their helicarrier (I’ve described the series in the past as “like ‘The Fugitive’, with Godzilla as Richard Kimble and Dum-Dum Dugan in the Inspector Gerard role.” If you don’t see this as instantly awesome, I feel a little bit sad for you.) Doctor Demonicus, in his first appearance, takes on the role of primary villain…and frankly, Doctor Demonicus is the world’s best at being the world’s worst evil super-genius. How can you not love a mad scientist who exposed himself to exotic radiation, only to get a painful skin disease instead of super-powers?
The first half of the book (and this, more than most series of the time, really reads like one 24-chapter story, albeit slightly shaggy-dog in form) involves Godzilla stumbling across various other monsters, usually ones created by Doctor Demonicus, and fighting them while SHIELD tries to figure out which monster is the bigger threat. SHIELD, in turn, creates a giant robot to fight Godzilla called Red Ronin…like you do…only to have it stolen from them and used for other purposes. This is the merely entertaining chunk of the book…
But it’s the last half where things really get nuts, as creators Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe really go all-out in showing the war against Godzilla. The Fantastic Four and Hank Pym get enlisted, using Pym particles to shrink Godzilla down to a size where he can be managed easily. But a rat-sized Godzilla escapes into the sewers of New York…and Pym’s research reveals that he’s already developing a tolerance to the gas. With time running out, the FF go on a desperate lizard hunt…which leads to a fight between the Thing and a human-sized Godzilla…which leads to the team banishing Godzilla into prehistory using Doom’s time machine…which leads to the inevitable Godzilla/Devil Dinosaur team-up…which finally leads back to the present and an all-out gigantic battle between the Avengers and Godzilla that absolutely has to be seen to be believed. The last issues move at a ferocious pace, each time upping the stakes and presenting Godzilla’s rampage as something that really is a crisis-level threat to the Marvel Universe, and while some might call the ending a cop-out, really, I feel like it’s the only way the series could end. (No spoilers, of course, but does anyone really think it ends with Godzilla dying?)
On the whole, this is the kind of series that could only be made in a big, sprawling shared universe like Marvel and DC, and it’s genuinely thrilling to see such an iconic monster being let loose into that universe…and then treated with considerable respect, albeit in a goofy sort of way. You will finish this book smiling, and there’s nothing wrong with that in my book.