How do you wrap a cohesive plot around Godzilla? IDW proves your best bet is to not even try – just let the monsters trash the world and see how the humans cope with the carnage. The new Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters comic series is pure monster mayhem.
Three issues in, the series introduces giant monsters to a world that has no idea what they are or how to stop them. Writers Eric Powell (creator of The Goon) and Tracy Marsh unleash the beasts as forces of nature that seem to crave wanton destruction. So far, Godzilla, Anguirus, Rodan and Battra have made appearances, with Mothra and King Ghidora set to appear soon. There's no underlying plan (yet), no alien menace controlling the monsters to destroy Earth, no ancient prophecy foretelling humanity's doom. The monsters aren't cute or cuddly, and they don't speak or have thought balloons. They roar, smash, and go.
That lack of a broad plot makes the series feel a bit like an anthology as it briefly follows a few hapless humans who find themselves in the monsters' paths. Without giving out too many spoilers, let's just say most people who encounter a giant monster don't fare too well. Their ineffectuality against the giant monster menace is played for laughs. It's actually this bleak, black humor that I find most appealing about the series. It turns the monsters into an existential menace, where the real threat isn't that they do horrible things, but that there's nothing you can do about it. They hardly seem to notice humans in any way.
The rest of the series' humor is hit or miss. It's a bit unfortunate that they spend so much effort trying to be funny, because there'd be a lot of potential for drama as nations deal with the monster threat, uniting or pointing fingers at each other. Instead we get several pages devoted to a lame Lady Gaga gag. Her "Monster Rights" campaign would be fine for a three-panel joke, and she gets at least one good line ("For the greater good, Texas should be destroyed"), but it goes on too long. There's a funny moment where the Texas governor's border fence gets trampled by Anguirus, and some satirical sparring between this universe's President Obama analog and the White House press corps, but I wish there was less, "Haha" and more, "Oh God NO!"
The art is penciled by Phil Hester, who's worked on Swamp Thing and Green Arrow. I find it solid, if unspectacular, though the monsters themselves look great and he does a great job invoking their massive scale. That's probably the main thing you want in a Godzilla artist.
There's some unintentional tension in all the scenes of obliterated Japanese cities and fishing villages, since the first issue came out shortly after the earthquake and tsunami. Of course the lead time for publishing a comic book means it was pure coincidence, but IDW has donated proceeds from the book to relief efforts in Japan to show they meant no disrespect. That's admirable, and it has to be said that in a grim way those real world events to add to the emotional impact of Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters.
In the end it doesn't really matter what we think. Godzilla's gonna do his thing.