Review: “Godzilla: Awakening”

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Legendary Entertainment’s upcoming Godzilla reboot is one of the most hotly anticipated flicks of the year. The trailers have been epic, and the hype is through the roof. In an effort to gear you up even more, Legendary Comics released a prequel graphic novel, “Godzilla Awakening,” something they’ve been doing for all their big films. Unfortunately, the book is inconsistent and haphazard in both story and art, and gives an all-too extensive history of Godzilla that takes away from the glory established by the trailers.
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WRITTEN BY: Max Borenstein, Greg Borenstein
ART BY: Eric Battle, Yvel Giuchet, and Alan Quah
PUBLISHER: Legendary
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASE: May 7, 2014

A lot of you are probably wondering how they could pull off a prequel comic without ruining the film. Well, I’m not sure they did. The story dives into the history behind Godzilla and how the creature has been around for eons. We see this through the lens of Serizawa, a Japanese military man, retelling his multiple “Gojira” encounters to his son. It’s almost Lovecraftian in its approach, and I appreciate the attempt to offer a concise history of Godzilla, but it’s not all that engaging and it’s hard to follow because it jumps all over different time periods. Knowing that humans have seen this monster before takes away from the upcoming film as it means this is not a totally foreign force of nature.

Max and Greg Borenstein co-wrote the book. Max wrote the film, and based on the trailers alone it makes me question how much he was actually involved here. The writing in “Awakening”, from story to dialogue to pacing, leaves a lot to be desired. This is very clearly written by people who do not have extensive experience working in the medium. Exposition is key for any story, but there is no attempt to mask it here. There are scenes, such as the opening boat scene, where the characters explain what is happening in the panel. The art and panel flow should be able to communicate the majority of the action. The exposition takes you right out of the book, and draws attention to the fact that this is a comic book.

The biggest issue is that there is no real emotion in the storytelling. There is a lacklustre attempt to create characters we care about with the father and son relationship, but it is so secondary that it hardly matters. Even in the final pages when things come together, I have no idea whether the son is going to be a major player in the film or not. The script is rushed and devoid of empathy. Part of me likes that Legendary get the screenwriters from the film to write these prequels, but it’s just a different medium and storytelling does not transfer naturally from one to the other.

There are some interesting aspects to the story for Kaiju fanatics. The science fiction behind the Shinomura, the other monster in this book, is quite inventive. They are organisms that feed off of radiation and multiply with ease. I’m not sure how or if they have any relevance to the film, but they work in the comic as an unique visual and something to draw attention away from the lack of Godzilla.

There are three different pencilers on the book – Eric Battle, Yvel Giuchet, and Alan Quah – which means you get three completely different styles. Naturally this leads to an inconsistency in the book’s aesthetic. While the art is sometimes kinetic with some unique line work, it feels so rushed. There are even re-used panels, which is either a sign a lazy artist or lack of time, and it’s clearly not the former. There are also plenty of coloring woes. Some pages are look great, while others are barely colored. The backgrounds range from extremely detailed to non-existent. There’s just no consistency to be seen here. I genuinely like the work from all three pencils involved, however, it is evident that this project was executed with haste, and there is simply no masking hurried art.

“Godzilla: Awakening” is a tough one to recommend, especially because I haven’t seen the film. As it stands, I don’t think this book offers anything of substance as a prequel. I would go as far to say that this book could potentially ruin the film by giving too much information. Then again, the information might not mean anything in the film.

I love that Legendary is making efforts to produce movie prequels, but something needs to change. This book is plagued by the same problems that the “Pacific Rim” prequel graphic novel suffered from: lazy storytelling and rushed art. While I hope Legendary continues publishing film-related material, they need to be handled with more care if they expect comics fans to continue supporting them.

Official Score