Godzilla: The Half-Century War, No. 1 of 5
IDW Publishing, August 2012
(c) Toho, Co., Ltd.
With sidekick Kentaro Yoshihara at the wheel, L.T. Ota Murakami sets eyes upon the greatest white whale since Moby Dick. I don’t say that to make “The Half Century War” out to be something that it’s not, but to draw a line indicating the ancestry of the particular kind of story that James Stokoe has crafted in this book. This is a man versus whale story. And Godzilla might be the biggest whale in popular culture.
L.T. Murakami doesn’t lose a leg or anything like that. He does witness Tokyo leveled. While that’s a greater loss than a single person’s injury, it doesn’t draw the stakes as close to the reader’s heart as a disfigurement to the protagonist might. However, this comic is only part one of a five-part story which promises to span fifty years. And L.T. Murakami is only human.
The main draw of course is the fine pen detail that James Stokoe brings to the page. His intricate, manic attention to small things placed inside large landscapes has made him a crowd pleaser among readers of comic books. Stokoe’s gooey, bleedy, glowey colors (this time, assisted by Heather Breckel) have been probably the greatest revelation in his work during the past few years.
Reading a James Stokoe comic is like reading a James Stokoe comic. It is a special event only directly comparable to itself. Some comics trade on familiar intellectual property, some trade on readers’ interest in a subject matter, some trade on the craft of the comic makers themselves. While this is certainly a Godzilla comic, meaning that it trades on familiarity and interest in subject matter, the primary hook here is Stokoe.
James Stokoe inspires me to be a better cartoonist. A better artist. A better reader, even. Sometimes when I read his work, I regret that I’ve placed drastically inferior comics in front of my eyes. Like, this work deserves a clean palate. A clean eyeball-and-brain palate.
His no-nonsense comics have insisted upon an uncompromising approach to cartooning that yields breathtaking results. Stokoe makes pop comics. Grungy genre comics about supernatural beings and 80s action movie tropes and twentieth century wars. But he’s an artist, ever an artist about it. Never a cog in a machine, he IS the machine. The comic book industry actually bends around him. He makes what he likes and the industry moves to accommodate him. After all, he’s been working on this Godzilla comic book before Toho even asked him to. Gotta love that Stokoe.