Recently, I picked up two beautifully illustrated comics, which for wildly different reasons made me feel intensely sentimental. AND HERE THEY ARE:
Godzilla: The Half-Century War
1954, Tokyo Bay, Lt. Ota Murakami and Kentaro Yoshiara are a tank crew standing by on orders to expect… something. You can guess what happens next. A fateful encounter that sparks a fifty year obsession with Murakami, as he pursues Godzilla and his various antagonists on a global tour of apocalyptic proportions. The parallel here is obvious: this is a story about Godzilla fans by a Godzilla fan.
This isn’t a particularly complicated tale – plot twists and character development are completely dwarfed by the spectacle of space lizard wrestling. However, the crucial difference here is that the human element is still compelling, where as in a traditional Godzilla movie it is an exercise in tedium so exact that it is almost scientific. Which is just about the only departure (and very welcome one) from the typical Godzilla format. Otherwise this is a proper rogue’s gallery of studio Toho villains engaged in multi-panel swathes of municipal destruction, all with the proper amateur-wrestling-with-fireworks vibe of the old movies.
Of course, the primary reason to pick up a Stokoe is the artwork. Half century war certainly doesn’t disappoint. The work has a glossy, almost greasy feel to it, with a heavy focus on purples and reds which is incredibly arresting. What really makes it pop though is the paradoxical balance the art strikes between intricacy and clarity. It’s like when you were a kid and tried to draw a battle scene, spending an entire afternoon jamming in as many incidental details – fighter jets, exploding paratroopers, tommy-gunning yetis – as possible. Stokoe is exactly like this, but in his hands, rather than becoming a complete mess of leaking felt-tip pens, it all comes together into an elegant tapestry. Special mention going to his character designs for the Anti Megalasaurus Force – if these don’t form the basis for Pacific Rim 2’s jaeger crews it will be an absolute crime.
This is the perfect adaptation of the B-movie into comic form by someone that really understands and appreciates the original subject matter. It’s a chance to take a guilty wallow in a small, but highly nostalgic facet of childhood, but minus the 45 minutes of mind-numbing nonsensical exposition and a dubbing track that makes the cast sound like concussed robot yokels.
I think it’s time to go and watch Godzilla Vs. Kumonga (feat Baby. G) on youtube again.
Jane, the Fox & Me
Bullying. Everyone’s experienced it, either a victim or perpetrator and often as both.
Helene is a young victim from the city of Montreal, a metropolis of muted greys, downcast eyes and identity crises. Her only escape comes through the pages of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and the stoic wisdom of the titular heroine, which is a somewhat novel way of dealing with ones problems (OHOHOHOHOHOHO).
Britt has perfectly encapsulated the isolating environment that bullying is capable of producing; so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this book is at least slightly autobiographical. Helene lives in a bubble, cut off from her peers by their scorn and from her family through a misplaced sense of guilt. Her self-image entirely at odds with reality, which hardly seems to matter in her muted wrung-out world. The insults of Genevieve, off-hand antagonist and memetic genius, echo round the school corridors and weigh on her soul. It’s a bit emotional really.
For a story that focuses on such depressing themes, the beauty of the artwork is phenomenal. Penciled almost entirely in various shades of black and grey, the artwork has an amazing grace which belays the cartoonish depiction of the characters. A still and Lowry-like world, but one filled with a wonderful sense of motion and vivacity, especially in the carefree body language of Helene’s classmates. There’s a lot of life in Montreal, but not one Helene can experience through her grey filter. This funeral parlour atmosphere only relents during her brief escapes into Jane’s world, where colour splashes out across the page in a manner almost as startling as it did in Schindler’s List. A lot of these panels would not be out of place on gallery walls.
Of course this may seem a bit heavy for what is ostensibly a children’s graphic novel, but this is also story of progression, sensitively told, of a life waiting to fill itself with colour. Plus, if that’s not enough, Helene’s musings on the difficulties and similarities of Jane’s world contains what must be one of the best parody scenes of all time. Of all time.
For any British readers who manage to grab a copy of JFM: Jujubes are essentially Midget Gems.
Having now seen the 2014 Godzilla reboot I wish I’d just stuck with the Half Century War.