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Godzilla: The Half Century War #4 (IDW): In this issue, James Stokoe builds a three-way brawl between regular Godzilla, a Mecha-Godzilla robot created by the AMF, and a crystalline Space-Godzilla conjured by the impropriety of a scientist in 1987 Bombay, India. This series has been grand because it attacks the audience on three fronts as well. If you’re part of the base audience that just wants a good old-fashioned Godzilla monster fight, you will be perfectly sated by the masers and panicked residents fleeing down crumbling cityscapes. If you’re purely an art nerd who values the aesthetic over the narrative, it’s literally impossible not to be drawn to Stokoe’s insane level of minute detail poured onto every immersive page. He follows in the tradition of Geoff Darrow and Rafael Grampa and Juan Jose Ryp, etc. If you want a little more meat on the bone, you also get this extended treatise on man’s own mortality juxtaposed against the beast, as seen through the eyes of the weary AMF soldiers tasked with combating this monster for 3-plus decades now, finally coming to the realization that it’s probably going to outlive them all. The only slightly unfortunate part of this issue is a double-tap typo in the same sentence. It reads “...regulated to surveilliance work” when it should have read “...relegated to surveillance work.” That aside, you’re looking at a perfect comic book and I’ll be sad to see it go next issue, but here’s hoping that Stokoe either does more with the property, or that this higher-than-usual-profile project leads to additional different projects. If I had any power whatsoever at DC or Marvel, I’d be beating down Stokoe’s door for pitches and trying to tie him up on a multi-year exclusive contract like my job actually depended upon it. Grade A.
Prophet #32 (Image): I’ve been keeping my eye on Simon Roy ever since I found his old creator-owned book called Jan’s Atomic Heart last year at San Diego Comic-Con, so it was great to see him “own” an issue of this series from top to bottom. The narrative thrust is a little cleaner and clearer than it’s been in the past from Brandon Graham, so that was a welcome shift. The art is just as strong too, using all sorts of little visual shorthand flourishes, like the way the “King of The Feral” Brother’s brain stem lights up when the neuro-drone latches onto him. It was great to see the POV shift away momentarily from the main John Prophet we know to a female advance recon model while the larger story about the Earth Empire still played in the background. One of the great things I’m just now noticing about this incarnation of Prophet (I’m slow this way) is that it’s set in a world where man is no longer the dominant species in the galaxy, or even around Earth. It lends a sense of desperation and importance to this series, which is largely lacking from other space-faring adventures. Grade A.
Punk Rock Jesus #6 (DC/Vertigo): I think this was the last Vertigo book I was actually picking up regularly (and one of only two DC books, counting Batwoman), so I’m kind of sad to see it go for that reason alone. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s in sharp relief here that Thomas McKael is, and always has been, the main character of the series, not Chris the clone, aka: “Punk Rock Jesus,” lead singer of The Flak Jackets. It’s ultimately his story of redemption, in the same way you might say that the original trilogy is actually about Anakin Skywalker’s denouement more than it is the ostensible Luke Skywalker story, if you wanted to use a familiar Star Wars analogy. I can’t get too much into the plot specifics without ruining things, so let me just say that everything that happens in this issue follows through to its logical, realistic conclusion, and as far as I can tell, Murphy hasn’t left any loose threads, calling back to events in the first issue. His fine anemic lines are full of life and energy and just when you find they’ve pulled you into some small little detailed corner of a panel, you get slapped in the face with a big bold one-page spread like the downed chopper with the busted up rotor blades forming a rudimentary cross. It’s really special. It’s been a frenetically paced series from the start (word has it there will be extra story pages in the trade), but hasn’t been mindless action, always stopping to consider the morality of the players’ actions and the very nature of belief in the absence of empirical evidence. It’s been thoughtful and fun, well-constructed and well-dialogued, and though the black and white was a nice play on the gray area ambiguity of moral flexibility that worked, I enjoyed it, the only way I can think of to improve up on it would have been to soak it in color (like Joe The Barbarian). It’s solid work and I’m up for whatever is next from Sean Murphy. If DC hasn’t locked him up on additional projects, well, that’s just being foolish. All in all, a very strong week, 3 books, 3 Grade A’s, and all three of these titles just recently appeared on my best of 2012 list. Grade A.