Legendary’s take on the iconic movie monster Godzilla is due out in a little over a week, but you can get your hands on the film’s prequel story with the new graphic novel, “Godzilla: Awakening.” Co-written by Max and Greg Borenstein, with artwork from Eric Battle, Yvel Guichet, Alan Quah and Lee Loughridge, and cover art by Arthur Adams, the boldly illustrated novel tells the story of humanity’s first clash with the gigantic monsters dubbed MUTOs in the wake of the Hiroshima bombing. While it pays homage to the original creation of the title monster, “Godzilla: Awakening” also sets up the Gareth Edwards film by centering on Serizawa, a military scientist who deduces the secret of the MUTOs, and just so happens to be the father of Ken Watanabe’s character, Ichiro Serizawa. Hit the jump for my review of the Godzilla graphic novel.
Legendary has taken an interesting approach to building their extra-cinematic universes. In an age when comic books are being optioned for multi-picture deals, the studio is almost reverse engineering the trend by publishing prequel stories in the form of graphic novels. This is Legendary’s follow-up to their Pacific Rim effort, but unfortunately it seems as if no lessons have been learned from that go round.
While “Godzilla: Awakening” certainly does set up quite a bit of the silly science and language used, presumably, in the feature film, it’s also very dry and expository. It was seemingly put together as an explanatory manual for just how these creatures can exist and persist, and a “How to” guide for their elimination or proliferation. If this was done in a more self-aware, tongue-in-cheek sort of way, that would have been an interesting take on a prequel story. Instead, the writing speeds from one discovery to the next , accompanied by frenzied flurries of panels in which it’s not immediately obvious just what exactly is going on. It’s an unfortunate rush job that, while filling in the backstory of the film, does so without any emotional grounding or establishing of just what the stakes are.
All that being said, there are a few images and story moments that are memorable. In particular, my favorite illustration is that of a hibernating Godzilla/Gojira curled up into a ball as illustrations representing the ages of the Earth encircle him, ending in a mushroom cloud that awakens the great beast. I also appreciate the fact that Watanabe’s character now has an established backstory, even if it’s the equivalent of reading his resume. I’m not sure how big a role he’ll play in the full film, but now his screentime is just that much richer.
For those of you looking for the next Alan Moore or Frank Miller collector’s item, this isn’t it. But if you’re just interested in getting your hands on more from the new world of Godzilla, then this is certainly worth a pick-up if only for its informative layout.