Sunday we honored the 10th anniversary of a terrorist attack that destroyed one of our financial hubs, assaulted the main headquarters of our military, and if it weren’t for a noble sacrifice might have damaged our government system. Just recently, hurricane/tropical storm Irene did some major damage, but it was nothing compared to her friends Katrina and Rita, which did a number on one of our cultural sites (New Orleans) and wiped some towns literally out of existence. Some years prior the Mississippi River overflowed, causing major flooding. Then you have some of the more recent earthquakes and tsunamis in foreign countries, each of them devastating to their locals.
In each of those cases, especially the domestic ones, Americans came together to pray for and aid their fellow humans in cleaning up, morning, and searching for reasons. These were moments to realize that the human race as a whole may still have a chance of being human as we often define it. It was a sign of hope and compassion you sadly don’t see enough of.
This is one of the reasons I have a problem with Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters. Not the only one, and it’s hardly the worst thing to feature the reigning king of kaiju. However, it’s still a big issue and it keeps getting worse.
Now I’m not expecting the comic to be anything like my “Team Godzilla” concept (for those who missed it I did a three part article prior to IDW’s launch of the series as to what I would do with the license). And if you caught my review this morning of the latest issue of Gangsters & Goliaths, you know I can enjoy a Godzilla story just fine without matching “my vision”. I’ve also never said I hate Kingdom, because part of it is quite good. It’s the other half that I have a problem with. I’ve said before that this comic feels like it has a split personality, and it does.
The first part is the story I want to see: Monsters have suddenly started appearing, battling each other and heading for one position. What are they after? What will they do when they get there? In Paris, two twin girls are telepathically connected with each other and the monster Batra, a sort of evil version of Mothra. They kill with a thought and have declared themselves queens of France. Where did they come from? How did they get their powers? What, if any, is their connection to Mothra’s twin faeries or the appearance of all the kaiju? This is the story that interests me.
Then there’s the second story, about how the people react to the monsters. With the monster story (allegedly) so dark, they wanted to lighten the mood. As I said in this morning’s comic review, Godzilla 1985 (with the bumbling homeless man taking advantage of an empty city to take food from fine restaurants and swipe booze from stores) and Godzilla 2000 (the scenes with the otherwise competent family that are the kaiju equivalent of “storm chasers”) did just that without taking you out of the story. Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh, the writers of the comic, thought that to lighten the mood they’d go with satire of our culture and government. I don’t have a problem with this, but there’s a point where satire can turn insulting, and they’ve skirted that more than once.
The first problem is the stereotyping. I’m certainly not Obama’s biggest fan, but with the world being devastated by these monsters, I would like to think the economy wouldn’t be our top priority. The scene where his counterpart, President Ogden, is contemplating whether or not to use poisoned gas against Anguirus made sense. Making a Mechagodzilla makes sense for the Godzillaverse. And yes, I could see GM’s counterpart sticking their logo on there (unless that’s a coincidence). But using it to “boost the economy”? Leaving something important like shielding out to stay in budget and you don’t think he’d be attacked from behind? How stupid are you? The “war room” scenes have usually made sense.
The response by the general people, however, runs counter to our response to ACTUAL disasters. When Katrina and Rita hit, of course you had looters and what not, and you’d have it in a kaiju attack. However, what about the counterbalance to that? What about the people who are actually trying to help? Getting food and water to victims, helping with evacuations, and being honestly concerned? The part where Mechagodzilla goes on a rampage and the family who was about to buy a house says “I’ll give you 12 bucks” because they know it could become Mecha-smashed in a moment was funny. See, it can be done.
However, then you have the Texan governor that blames Ogden (who is obviously the other political party), the rednecks, and the pop culture icons–yeah, let’s talk about “Girly Yaya” for a moment. I’m hardly Lady Gaga’s biggest fan, either, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t calling for Godzilla’s head, but there’s a scene where she’s wearing a Godzilla costume. That would be like Lady Gaga wearing a tsunami costume while doing a concert for Japan’s last natural disaster. She wouldn’t be that foolish or lacking in compassion. As Weird Al says in his parody, Gaga only performs this way. She may show up to whatever charity group she works with wearing something outlandish (less so than videos and concerts) but she gets down to business and is just drawing attention to herself and her causes. Give her some credit. Instead they kill her off and make a lame pun about one of her songs.
Then there’s Sgt. Woods. When we first see him he’s about to appear on a talk show because he won a medal in Iraq. Instead he’s outdone by the cast of “Jerzyfied”, a Jerzy Shore parody that is about to release a 3D movie. I kind of see this going on until Anguirus and Godzilla show up in LA so that works. However, Woods is supposed to act as a hero in later stories by protecting a little girl from thieves and looters after she survives Godzilla while her family doesn’t, and here he complains about how pop culture is out of control. Take the rant for what you will, but what happens when he comes upon the Jerzyfied cast after the aforementioned Angurius/Godzilla fight? Lets them die. This is our hero? I look back on issue two and see the guy who tried to suicide bomb Godzilla after he eats his kids (not on purpose, but still, killing kids as the FIRST thing you do in a Godzilla story?) and failing miserably as more of a hero. Woods still has no remorse about his LEAVING PEOPLE TO DIE! I don’t care if he doesn’t like them, but that seems like a violation of his duties as a soldier. I can’t even feel sorry about his mom dyeing during the attack.
I can understand the writers trying to balance the dark moments with light ones, but satire this heavy in the MAIN STORY feels wrong to me. It actually pulls me OUT of the story that I really want to see: the monster attacks and the evil French twins’ possible involvement. Marsh and Powell need to go look at the movies to see how light moments should work in a Godzilla story. Even Godzilla Vs. Megalon did a better job, and that’s the one with the Seatopians and sadly fan-trashed Jet Jaguar.