Godzilla Rivals: Round One (2023)

My review of Godzilla Rivals: Round One is available to read at Bloody Good Screen.

Released by IDW Publishing, Godzilla Rivals is a series of one-shot comics focusing on the titular creature fighting a different foe. Each story has its own distinctive visual style, capturing the Kaiju carnage and human reactions as the stories span different time period and locations. The first volume, entitled Round One, collects the first four issues.

The first issue is set in 1971, during Hedorah and Godzilla’s battle in New York City. While the titular creature tries using its atomic breath to combat the foe’s burning remains, a young man called Todd is escorting a gravely injured woman to hospital, sharing that her status as the director of the Kaiju Defense Research Center means she should be prioritised. Writer Paul Allor delivers compelling human drama amidst a feeling of futility when these people can be destroyed by Kaiju carnage at any time, with such impact and scale effectively conveyed by E.J. Su’s artwork.

Mary Kenney begins the next story in Lake Ikeda, 1984, where a curious light is emitted under the water. Journalist Mima discovers the light source is a chained-up Mothra, who is reacting to the oncoming terror of Godzilla. Mima believes that Mothra can help quell things, although this goes against a Rear Admiral’s orders, who wishes to avoid another released monster potentially destroying humanity. While the arguing characters can grow wearisome, it’s worth the thrilling battle where each Kaiju must combat unique abilities their foe emits.

Adam Gorham starts his story in a curious place, as flying saucers assault Tokyo in 1996. As a fighter jet squadron struggles combating the invaders, Godzilla steps in until the aliens entrap and abduct the Kaiju. As world leaders meet in the secret lair of international supervillain Dr. Ogilvy Hu, this leads to much exposition from Hu’s machine-man creation, Hoshi, about how the intergalactic beings are called Xiliens and pose a threat to humanity. While a plan is launched to use an Electro-Bomb to stop the Xiliens, Godzilla battles against King Ghidorah within an intergalactic fighting arena. This is a story worth it for the artwork, particularly when the striking visuals capture the Kaiju terror from their first appearance. The writing is on less stable ground, as a Xilien admission about the fighting distracting from a costly war feels undercooked, while the scenes of a Captain and their robotic assistant talking about human emotions feels too familiar.

The last story takes place in the future of 2027, as Rosie Knight sets it in Hackney-On-Sea. The quiet seaside town is polluted due to being every evil corporation’s dumping ground. As the tides and earthquakes worsen, Battra arrives to target the humans whose ravaging of Earth has left it in peril. Adding to the issue is ecofascist Sawyer Smith, who speaks environmental doom messages to fund himself, and Godzilla, who clashes with Battra. What occurs is a stronger use of real-world issues for a Kaiju fighting story, complete with the wonderful sight of Godzilla’s roar being stylised with a font that resembles something a heavy-metal band would use. All of these stories add up to a fun graphic novel that’s worth reading.