Fresh off of Godzilla in Hell, IDW Publishing is releasing another comic putting Godzilla and other monsters in places they don’t normally belong – this time, across time and space. Jeremy Robinson writes and Matt Frank illustrates the first issue in this five-part miniseries (something of an anthology, actually) that explores Godzilla in previous eras throughout history; in Godzilla: Rage Across Time #1, the famous monster shows up in feudal-era Japan in 1274, rampaging through the countryside during Kublai Khan’s Mongol invasion. In case you were worried about rotting your brain with comic books, never fear – Robinson and Frank have a healthy dose of kaiju monster violence and historical education.
The first thing readers will notice is Frank’s artwork, mimicking traditional Japanese art from various artistic eras. Frank does a beautiful job with the stylizing, and it’s aided by coloring by both Paul Hanley and Goncalo Lopes. With a series like Godzilla: Rage Across Time, the artwork has to effectively capture the essence of that time period, and Frank has done an excellent job in this first installment, setting the bar high for the artists who follow in other time periods.
Robinson’s script follows two warriors, at first battling against each other during Kublai Khan’s invasion before being tasked with finding an ancient force on the summit of Mount Purotekuta that can stop the coming Mongol invasion. Neither Gorou Suda nor Akio of the Bamboo Forest seem to be real historical people, but their tale takes them on a quest to disturb Godzilla to reign destruction on the Mongol empire. For their part, the Mongols have enslaved both Gigan and Megalon to do their bidding, so it makes sense that the Japanese would need their own giant monster to stop the Mongol forces.
Robinson quickly forces Suda and Akio into a buddy comedy of sorts, their challenge being to overcome some undisclosed familial rivalry in favor of figuring out how to tame the rampaging kaiju. Since Godzilla: Rage Across Time is basically an anthology of loosely-connected historical fiction stories, Robinson rightly eschews character development to get to the meat of the action while still maintaining some distinctive personalities with dialogue during fight scenes. Suda references Akio’s femininity in a chauvinistic display of authentic Japanese belief, and Akio manages to hold her own with her spiritual exclamations to the ancestors.
There’s a lot of action throughout, but most of it is relegated to person-on-person battles toward the beginning of the issue. As Akio and Suda seek out the ancient power on Mount Purotekuta, they begin to experience more authentic monsters, including heikegani (Japanese crabs said to be reincarnated spirits of Heike warriors); later on, even Yamata no Orochi shows up, again referencing Japanese mythology and spiritual belief. A powerful statue can be used to control Orochi, although he’s no match for the goliath Godzilla (here referenced as Gojira!), who rises up from the depths to combat anyone who gets in his way.
Thankfully, Robinson doesn’t use Godzilla as humanity’s savior; instead, Godzilla is simply angry at everybody who has dared to disturb him, and the finale of the book finds Akio and Suda luring Godzilla back to their camp so they can use him to fight against Kublai Khan and his two kaiju Gigan and Meglon. There are a number of great fight scenes between the monsters thanks to Frank’s artwork, and eventually Godzilla does get the upper hand; however, the conclusion doesn’t really explain Godzilla’s eventual departure after he’s defeated the Mongols, an explanation the reader will never get.
While much of Godzilla: Rage Across Time #1 is effective, there’s one big setback: Robinson’s framing story. There’s only a page and a panel devoted to what I’m assuming is meant to be setting the series up for a larger scope that explains the reasoning behind Godzilla’s temporal reign, but it’s oddly placed in the middle of the book with barely a reference to it before or after. It introduces two characters in 2016 exploring the ruins of the Mongol ships, with one conspiracy theorist believing it to be the work of Godzilla. Robinson only returns to this framing story in the last panel, hinting that as the series moves through time, so too will these archaeologists; but I fail to see the point in their story, especially if Godzilla: Rage Across Time is only going to feature the characters attempting to explain real-life historical ruins by blaming Godzilla. Instead, I’d rather see the writers use that page to flesh out the time period.
Still, Godzilla: Rage Across Time #1 is an interesting experiment in the Godzilla comic universe, and I’m excited to see where this series goes in its next four issues. Jumping through time and space makes sense for these monsters, especially considering their ancient origins, and attributing them to huge historical moments should make for some intriguing storylines. So far, Robinson and Frank have gotten this series off to a good start, and they’ll be handing the series off to Chris Mowry and Tadd Galusha for the next installment.