After a five-year hiatus, the King of the Monsters is back on the comic scene in IDW Publishing's Godzilla: Monsters and Protectors #1. A middle-grade limited series by Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening, Godzilla: Monsters and Protectors #1 tells the story of an eighth-grader who helps save the world from the threat of Godzilla. It's a book that doesn't forget the themes of its titular character and while it should entertain its target audience, older Godzilla fans may find their appetite for destruction unsatiated.
Written by Erik Burnham
Art by Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado
Letters by Nathan Widick
Published by IDW Publishing
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
The issue opens up with a MeToob vlog entry by Cedric Nishimura, the comic's eighth-grade protagonist, as he recounts his story about saving the world. The idea of using a vlog feels appropriately modern, and having Cedric tell the readers this story helps establish the stakes a bit – if Cedric is recounting the story, readers don't have to be too concerned about him dying.
Artist Dan Schoening economically uses the page in this scene, at one point showing Cedric in the background, while the digital viewfinder for the camera gives readers a closeup of a cheeky wink without the need to delineate a new panel. Letterer Nathan Widick also helps establish Cedric's vlogging style, and so when 'Godzilla' is rendered in oversized font, you can imagine the way that Cedric is saying it to his audience.
Cedric's story takes readers to a day in class where their science teacher had them watch a presentation by the head of the Unival Corporation, who unveils a new energy source that will revolutionize industry. Dan Schoening's illustration style gives the characters a lot of energy. There's a moment where the teacher interrupts two students who are passing notes in class, and the way Schoening poses him leaning in with a smiling face helps sell the pleased-with-himself attitude of the teacher. The comic doesn't stray away from the weightier ideas the franchise is known for, either. Between the CEO's presentation and Cedric's vlog commentary, writer Erik Burnham explicitly links corporate greed with technological innovation and environmental concerns in a way that doesn't feel preachy or dull. When the side effects of the new energy source cause Godzilla to attack Unival's factories, we understand why.
Godzilla's a character that's gone through a number of permutations throughout the decades, and while Schoening's design doesn't visually evoke the version from Legendary Pictures' Godzilla vs. Kong, this take on Godzilla is similar to that film's in that Godzilla is presented as a maintainer of balance rather than the destructive force in the original film or the superhero that shows up in the '70s films like Godzilla vs. Megalon.
Godzilla: Monsters and Protectors #1 preview
As far as Godzilla himself, he makes a decent appearance here. The use of Unival as a human antagonist allows for Godzilla to destroy factories rather than ravage cityscapes. Dan Schoening accomplishes a really cool two-page spread with Godzilla destroying various Unival factories, and while there's some implied city destruction, it's not inappropriate for the comics' intended audience. Color artist Luis Antonio Delgado helps in that balance of the tone, emphasizing the warmer tones of the fires in Godzilla's wake rather than giving the book a grittier feel.
This all works really well for the comic's targeted middle-grade audience, but given that Godzilla hasn't had a book on comic book shelves since 2016, older readers may be a bit disappointed. While another of Toho's monsters makes a cameo and yet another is teased in the final page, there aren't any really dynamic monster fights or engaging adult characters to latch onto if the kids don't quite cut it. The concept of the limited series also lacks the experimentation of some of IDW's previous efforts. Ultimately, Godzilla: Monsters and Protectors gets off the ground with an effective debut, but one that hasn't yet made its mark.
Interested in the new film? Here's how to watch Godzilla vs. Kong online.