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Review: Godzilla: Awakening

Godzilla: Awakening
Written by Max Borenstein and Greg Borenstein
Illustrated by Eric Battle, Yvel Guichet, and Alan Quah
Legendary Pictures/DC Comics, 2014
ISBN 9781401250355
$19.95, hardcover

Godzilla is back in a big way in theaters this summer. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the original film, the brand new U.S. release of the famous monster from Japan opened up this past weekend to a monstrous $93 million dollars over a 3-day weekend. Those who are looking for more of the giant movie monster can read more about him in Legendary Pictures and DC Comics’ Godzilla prequel graphic novel Godzilla: Awakening. The graphic novel is written by the film’s screenwriter, Max Borenstein, in collaboration with his cousin, Greg Borenstein.

The graphic novel is an excellent set-up for the new film and firmly establishes Godzilla’s role in the film and the graphic novel (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the film) as not really a bad guy monster. He’s not so much a guardian of humankind—we’re basically still ants compared to him—but he’s the alpha predator out to beat the larger monstrosities out there that arise to threaten the planet.

The graphic novel prequel focuses on the father of Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, the lead Japanese scientist played by actor Ken Watanabe in the film. Serizawa’s father claimed that he worked for a shipping company, but in secret he was part of a team of men who began to investigate MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms). The secret government organization’s goal is to hunt and kill potential threats to prevent a world-wide panic. Serizawa’s father tells in flashbacks to his young son of his unbelievable original encounters with a giant bat-like flying beast he first spotted at Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. The parasitic beast, named the Shinomura, has been causing destruction in search of radiation to feed on and multiply, but Serizawa’s father realizes that there’s an alpha predator out there, named “Gojira,” that appears to be destroying the ever-respawning beast before it can take over the planet.

Those of you looking for a comic that features non-stop Kaiju vs Kaiju in every panel may come away disappointed, but the setup of the graphic novel is worth it and helps to expand on the events from the film. Like the film itself, Godzilla isn’t the main character of the book; the human characters are. Serizawa’s father and subsequently his son Ishiro are trapped in a new world where they have no control against unbelievable beasts. The book also elaborates on the plot alluded to in the film of when Godzilla first appeared and the original time the US used an atomic bomb on him in 1954. Other elements from the film include Godzilla’s atomic breath and the origins of the MUTO, which are better fleshed out.

I’d highly recommend this title for teen collections or higher. It’s a great book overall. The art is done by three artists, but their styles aren’t too different to be distracting. They do a great job and draw the humans and the monsters with clarity. There are some minor swear words in the book like “damn” and there’s one panel where the Shinomura attacks a naval officer and punctures him through the chest, but it’s a very successful movie tie-in graphic novel. It advances the plot of the movie, gives a taste of what’s coming in the feature film, and serves as a perfect source of entertainment for those looking to read more about Godzilla.

The cover art for the book is done by legendary comic book artist Art Adams, who is no slouch when it comes to drawing Godzilla. A Godzilla fan himself, he has illustrated many drawings of Godzilla over the years and also did one of my personal favorite Godzilla stories published by Dark Horse Comics, the Godzilla Color Special from 1992. The back of the book also features concept sketches of Godzilla by artist Eric Battle as well as the work-in-progress of Art Adams’ cover design.

I’ll be looking at the other IDW Publishing titles as well in the coming weeks, so stay tuned and Go Go Godzilla!

Mike Pawuk About Mike Pawuk

Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, published by Libraries Unlimited in 2006 and is working on a followup to his book.

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