Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tales From the Vault: GODZILLA #23

Next up in our week long exploration of Marvel's licensed properties is a review of Godzilla #23, where Godzilla comes face to face with... the Mighty Avengers! Oh, yeah.

Details: This instant classic comes to us from the halcyon days of June, 1979. The unbeatable creative team behind it? None other than the legendary duo of Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe. Now, I know what you’re thinking: where did I leave that bottle of sleeping pills? But don’t worry, we’ll get through this together. Plus, this is actually during Trimpe’s strongest Kirbyesque era, so it’s pretty decent, and Moench has his moments as well. And, hey, it could be worse: Al Milgrom is the editor and he could have assigned himself pencils. Anyway, let’s get to it.

Synopsis: We jump right into the action (apparently continued from Godzilla #22) to find Godzilla rampaging through Manhattan. The only people who can stop him? The Mighty Ave… wait, it’s the Fantastic Four. Hmm.

Okay, whatever. Yes, the Fantastic Four – and by “Fantastic Four” I mean Reed Richards and Johnny Storm, because the others aren’t anywhere to be seen – are duking it out with Godzilla while high overhead the SHIELD Helicarrier watches the action. And by “high overhead” I mean, they’re floating about 50 feet off the ground. Maybe I should choose my words more carefully from now on.

Anyway, for whatever reason, Godzilla has become enthralled with the Helicarrier and has decided to bash it to pieces (my guess? He’s a skrull). I should also note here that this version of the Helicarrier is basically a big floating Lego; it’s little more than a big flying brick. I imagine this was much easier to draw than the original version, but it also looks like total crap compared to the awesome design the Helicarrier used to have, so I’m a bit put out by this.

Reed uses his gigantic brain to come up with an infallible solution to this problem: have the Helicarrier lead Godzilla to the river and then, I dunno… hope he’s made of salt. While Dum Dum Dugan complies with the order (no sign of Nick Fury anywhere – they probably realized Fury could have beat Godzilla with one hand tied behind his back so they had to leave him out of the story), Reed rushes off to find Ben and Sue while the Human Torch goes to summon the Avengers. That’s right, you pussies, go bring in the real heroes.

While they do this, Godzilla continues on his rampage and we meet some weepy little snot of a kid (Rob Takiguchi) who apparently loves Godzilla or something. You know the type – this kid is almost certain to save the day by making everyone realize Godzilla is gentle. Plus, judging from the name he’s part Japanese, so he probably has a leg up on Godzilla to begin with just through genetics.

At this point we get a fantastic little vignette of Godzilla approaching the Daily Bugle. J. Jonah Jameson is reading the riot act because nobody can find Peter Parker to take photos of Godzilla when the Godzilla shows up right behind him. JJJ’s response? He leans out the window and starts screaming at Godzilla, shaking his fist and warning the dinosaur not to mess with J. Jonah Jameson. It’s fantastic (go ahead, click on it to enlarge).

Of course, Godzilla basically sneezes and blows JJJ’s entire office to hell, then wanders off while, across town, the Human Torch arrives at Avengers Mansion to find them all sitting around playing Monopoly. A caption here says that this story takes place prior to the roster shake-up in Avengers #181, which makes sense; even the Avengers themselves appear to have been bored to tears by the fill-in issues that came after the end of the Korvac Saga.

Johnny quickly brings them up to speed and now we get something really interesting (well… to me, anyway). It seems that Thor is now chairman of the Avengers (which… he definitely was not during this era). We discover this because, as they rush out to fight Godzilla, he decides they need to leave people behind in case a bigger menace shows up somewhere (like… Ego the Living Planet? What’s going to trump Godzilla, exactly?) and so he assigns monitor duty to, um, Captain America and the Scarlet Witch.

In other words, we now know why Thor is rarely chairman of the Avengers, because that’s maybe the worst command decision in Avengers history. But I’m not too surprised at this, because I’m not quite sure Moench and Milgrom have a handle on the Avengers – for example, Cap says that if they need more help, he and Wanda will “come in the RAMJET.” Like, wtf, bro? The Ramjet? Jesus H. Christ.

Back aboard the Helicarrier, Kid Godzilla (who I guess is the Helicarrier cabin boy?) arrives and tells people they shouldn’t F with Godzilla. Thanks for the news flash, kid. But the Avengers are now on the scene, along with the entire Fantastic Four, so it’s time for a big league throwdown. They attack, and Godzilla begins smacking them around in a pretty beastly fashion, even flinging Thor into the atmosphere with a mighty roar.

Luckily, the Avengers have two aces in the hole (quite literally, as we’re about to see): Wasp and Yellowjacket. While everyone else makes fools of themselves, Hank and Jan hang out on a nearby windowsill and watch, talking about how tiny and insignificant they feel. Of course, in the words of Crow T. Robot, they always feel insignificant, but this is even more so. While Hank complains about being useless, Jan comes up with an idea (dammit, Jan, that’s always your mistake, isn’t it?!). The conversation goes like this:

Wasp: I just had an idea. Godzilla is already on the docks – close enough to topple into the river. If we were to fly into his –

Yellowjacket: I get it – and it’s the best idea I’ve heard all day. Let’s go.

So as you can imagine, in the next scene Wasp zooms right into Godzilla’s ear, while Hank unfortunately flies up his urethra instead. Whoops!!! Dammit, Hank, let the woman talk!

Okay, no, they both fly into Godzilla’s ear and for some reason instead of using their blaster guns or whatever, they decides to irritate him by flapping their wings really fast against his ear wall. Ew, now my wings are covered in Godzilla wax! Gross! It does work, though, if by “work” you mean “has no effect”. Oh, sure, Godzilla does fall into the river. And then in the next panel he just stands up. In other words, now we’ve got him in the river, Reed, so what exactly is the next part of your big plan? Oh yeah – there is no next part. Good one, big brain.


Yes, that’s the end. It’s continued into the next issue which we’ll take a look at… Tomorrow!

Extras: The letter column is interesting, as the letters seem to be fairly split. There are a couple people that like the series, but most of these are kind of along the lines of “considering how terrible this comic should be, you’re not doing so bad I guess.” Not everyone is so charitable, however, as seen from this missive:

Godzilla #17 is the worst, most insulting piece of garbage on the stands.”

Yup. Also of interest in this issue is a house ad for the new Fantastic Four cartoon featuring Herbie, the Robot! It’s “the boldest, most exciting animated action series” around. Huh. I wonder how that worked out for them? There’s also a blurb welcoming Michael Fleisher to Marvel, in which they actually mention his DC stuff, going so far as to cite his “superb work on the Spectre and Jonah Hex”. And there’s a mention of another Avengers crossover the same month, into Doctor Strange #35 where they finally get around to investigating the mystery of Black Knight’s statue from Avengers #157, which was a full two years earlier.

My Grades: Despite my reservations about the creative team, I really like this issue so I’m giving it an A- overall, an A+ for the JJJ scenes, the Avengers playing Monopoly and Thor being chairman, and a F- for calling the Quinjet a Ramjet. In fact, I might give them a G for that, it’s that egregious.

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