It’s been a few months since IDW Publishing graced us with another issue of the Kaiju sized Godzilla Rivals series, but after a long wait we get a real treat in Godzilla Rivals: vs Battra.
All good protagonists have a dark version of themselves. We’re not talking about their biggest villains, but those characters who can do everything the hero can, but use that for evil. Superman has General Zod, Spider-Man has Venom, Mario has Wario, and Mothra has Battra. Only appearing in the one film, 1992’s Godzilla vs. Mothra, (I’m not counting the archive footage reused in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla) this dark version of the Queen of the Monsters has had very few appearances, and is one of the more overlooked entries in Godzilla’s rogues’ gallery. However, the monster makes for an interesting choice for the story being told here.
Godzilla Rivals: vs. Battra, written by Rosie Knight, shifts the action away from Japan, and takes readers to the quiet British sea-side town of Hackney-On-Sea in the year 2027. We discover a world where humanity has been suffering from the effects of pollution and climate damage, and people have created robot helpers to clean the environment, pick up waste, and help humanity where they can.
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Robbie, a young woman with an obsession with monsters and the unexplained, calls Worthing-On-Sea home, and lives in the Babbling Book bookshop (the name alone makes it a winner), and spends her days trying to solve the mystery of the strange earthquakes and tremors that have been plaguing the town. Her young friend Kemi has been playing around with their old radio, and has found something strange on one of the old frequencies: a warning about the monster Battra.
Believing that Battra may have a connection with her small town, Robbie uses the tools at her disposal to track down the origin of the disturbances, and finds Battra. However, the giant moth creature takes a liking to Robbie and her home, and doesn’t seem to pose a threat at all. But when other monsters begin to close in on the small English town it looks like disaster may be looming on the horizon.
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Godzilla Rivals: vs. Battra feels like a different kind of story from the other entries in the series. In each book so far readers have been treated to a big story, set on a grand scale with huge destruction and big battles. In the case of the last issue the fate of two different planets were on the line! But here we have a story that feels like it’s being told on a much smaller scale, with much fewer stakes. There’s actually very little monster on monster action here compared to some other Godzilla stories.
But rather than that being a bad thing it works to the advantage of the story. It makes this issue stand out, and makes it a great contrast to the last issue that opened with all out global war and just escalated. Much of this story takes place in a small, sleepy English town with gloomy weather and simple people. It feels very grounded and real, and it shows a different side to one of these kinds of stories. Even when Battra emerges and takes to the skies he’s not raining death and destruction. The book has a different approach, and it felt incredibly refreshing.
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That being said, this is a Godzilla comic, and so there is Kaiju fighting at least once. And this book does it really well. The monsters get to engage with each other in creative ways, in an environment that we don’t normally get to see them in, and I think that it gives all of the monsters that feature here a decent enough spotlight, and doesn’t favour any particular one, allowing fans of all of the monsters to come away satisfied with their performance.
The artwork on this issue, by Oliver Ono, is my favourite on the series so far, and doesn’t really fit with what you expect from these kinds of comics. Ono’s work is very neat, with thin, delicate line-work, and is packed full of tiny details. Some of their art has a very cyberpunk kind of feel to it, and the mechs look great, but they’ve also able to create characters and environments that feel very reminiscent of Studio Ghibli at times. It’s beautiful work, and I’d definitely recommend checking out more of Ono’s work if you like the look of it.
Godzilla Rivals: vs. Battra delivers a very different experience than what we’ve had before, but remains entertaining and delightful throughout.
Godzilla Rivals: vs. Battra is out now from IDW Publishing.