Godzilla in Hell #1
Godzilla/Gojira created by Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishirō Honda, Shigeru Kayama, Eiji Tsubaraya.
Whether acting as an agent of destruction or as a defender of humanity from other kaiju, Godzilla is more a force of nature than an individual creature whose behavior can be characterized as exhibiting clearly recognizable motives. So does the concept of eternal damnation even apply to such an entity? How'd you go about punishing him? Wouldn't the mercurial monster be perfectly at home settling into such a horrific place? The 5-part miniseries Godzilla in Hell takes a stab at answering these questions with the creative teams changing for each issue. For the opening chapter, the writer/artist is James Stokoe, whose excellent Godzilla: The Half-Century War was a clever commentary on Godzilla's ever-changing film career. So he's a pretty good choice to start the series.
Like Alice disappearing down the rabbit hole, Godzilla enters Hell by falling down his own very large, very dark, deep pit. I like how Stokoe's large vertical panels seem to suggest that he was cast out from a higher realm like another fallen angel. After finally crashing and pulling out of the resulting impact crater, Godzilla encounters the famous epitaph "Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here" carved out as a gigantic stone relief many times his size. Hell is built on a suitably massive scale to say the least. But an unimpressed Godzilla simply burns the sign down with his radioactive breath. Does our angry protagonist even feel "hope" or "despair"?
This Hell is fantastically surreal. A desolate landscape as far as the sky can see that glows faint red, dotted by deformed structures. Stokoe's art is very lush with textures rendered by delicate cross hatching. The overall effect is that the setting isn't just grandiose, but vaguely threatening and extremely claustrophobic. This looks like a separate Hell designed for kaiju, as it's largely bereft of human or demonic presence with one notable example I'll discuss shortly. A smoke plume created by the destruction of the epitaph implies that Godzilla has skipped Limbo and entered the Circle of Lust. Indeed, the comic's most impressive visual, which is a reference to Dante Alighieri, is a violent superstorm composed not of clouds but of countless human forms that engulfs and even manages to push the mighty Godzilla around.
Otherwise, this part of Hell just feeds into his appetite for stomping on other kaiju. And my final impression is that Godzilla hasn't so much been punished as been tested and came out on top. But there are still 4 issues left before his journey through the underworld is over. So it's a little hard to predict if events will always play in Godzilla's favor. But I'm hoping he gets to bump into his many kaiju rivals before the story's over.