By now you all should be aware that I’m a Godzilla fan and a comic book reader, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I would collect Godzilla comics. There have been three runs that I know of available in the US, a run by Marvel, one by Dark Horse, and the current IDW printings. While a video production this week slowed the intended project and my review of the Marvel run has come to a close, I thought I would give some final thoughts on The Essential Godzilla a black-and-white collection of all 24 issues of Marvel’s series. Down below should be some samples of reviews I’ve done of the individual issues. Zemanta, the service WordPress uses to find related links, probably won’t have all 24 reviews.

I have managed to pick up a handful of issues of the actual comics but these are old and probably hard to find. So Essential Godzilla was my best bet to follow the whole run, and thankfully it lived up to expectations…most of the time.

In the late 1970s Marvel acquired the rights to Toho’s king of the monsters, but only Godzilla. None of Toho’s other monsters would appear in a US comic until the recent IDW run, where they took a gamble and licensed Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, and all of the other Toho “kaiju”. Marvel, however, did something interesting by setting the story in the Marvel universe, and it’s still considered canon to this day. While various artists worked on the comic over the two years it was published Doug Moench was the writer throughout. In this version SHIELD sets up a special task force to deal with Godzilla when he begins a tour of the United States, ending in New York. Along the way the Big G deals with a mutated Sasquatch, a lot of space monsters, gets shrunk and lost in the New York sewers, befriends a 12-year-old Japanese boy who for a time gets to pilot a giant robot that still pops up now and then in the Marvel universe, travels through time, and fights three different superhero teams (the Defenders, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four) as well as Dum Dum Dugan and SHIELD. It’s kind of crazy and kind of awesome.

Moench keeps Godzilla’s nature ambiguous throughout the story via captions. Is he a good guy as the later movies prior to this comic depicted him, or a dangerous threat like the earlier monsters and the way he’s been depicted ever since? Is he smart or dumb? Moench leaves it up to the reader to decide, and I respect that. Although I would have rather seen him as full guardian monster as he was around this time in the movies and Hanna-Barbera cartoon. There are only two stories I didn’t care for. One is Godzilla ending up in Las Vegas. The focus shifts to this one guy obsessed with winning money for his mother’s operation (spoiler: she already died so he’s just obsessed with gambling and not very good at it) and he’s just not interesting to read. The other is a story where Godzilla’s presence interferes with a cattle-rustling operation so the rustlers trick the cowboys into blaming and attacking Godzilla. It’s as lame as it sounds and is sadly a two-part story. We want to see more monsters, not cowboys!

The art is very good, even if Godzilla’s design is slightly off to my eyes. (Not that I can do any better and as of late I’ve drawn Godzilla quite often.) However, we do reach the flaw in the Essentials series, which includes other Marvel comics collected. (I have the first two Iron Man collections.) These comics were never designed to be black-and-white. They were color comics and you miss out of that. Sometimes the art can work both with and without color but here I’ve read some of the color issues and the absence is obvious. Grey shading just doesn’t compare. On the other hand, it would have cost a lot more even with the newsprint-quality paper to have all 24 issues in color and I knew when I ordered it it wasn’t in color. Due to licensing this is probably the only chance I’ll have to read all of the issues I’m missing until I can find all 24 issues alone, which won’t be easy.

If I do I’ll probably get rid of this since unlike the Simon Furman Transformers comics I actually enjoy this and want to find them all. Right now, though, this is what I have and it’s not bad. It is, however, out of print and running between $20 and $50 on Amazon. (I paid about $20 new.) Still, however you find it I recommend it for any Godzilla fan who doesn’t want to hunt down all of the individual issues.