The one-shot comic series Godzilla Rivals is slowly making its way through some of the biggest names in the Godzilla franchise, having brought the King of the Monsters up against Mothra, King Ghidorah, and more. This issue it’s everyone’s favourite cyborg space chicken, Gigan!
As with the previous entries in the series, this issue is set within its own continuity, picking and choosing which parts of the Godzilla mythos to include. In this world it seems like the Earth has been relatively peaceful for a while, with no real sightings of Godzilla in decades. It’s in this peaceful world that we meet Nancy, a computer scientist working in cyber security, and her younger brother Joaquin. Whilst Nancy is out working all day her teenage brother seems to spend his time shut away in the house, playing video games.
The quiet night that the two of them have planned is interrupted, however, when they hear news that Gigan is attacking the Seattle Bay area, and that Godzilla is there trying to stop him. The fight comes with an accompanying transmission from some insectoid aliens, who announce that they’re using Gigan to conquer the world. As Nancy watches on in horror Joaquin refuses to care, focusing on his video games. Luckily, together, the two of them might just figure out a way to help Godzilla to save the planet.
Most of the other issues of Godzilla Rivals have offered something unique: the issue with Mothra was a fairly traditional adventure; the Ghidorah issue saw Godzilla battling monsters in an alien arena; and the Battra one had a message about ecological dangers. Each one was trying to be something different to the others, and had pretty clear identities. But I don’t really know what this issue wanted to be. To talk about it in more depth, it will involve some spoilers.
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Over the course of the issue, Nancy learns that the aliens controlling Gigan are feeding him combat data from everyone on the planet playing a certain brand of video games; using the online connection to send Gigan fighting moves. She will eventually use this to help win the day, by hacking in from her living room and ruining the system. This is a pretty unexciting story, and watching a couple of people on their sofa typing on a laptop or playing a video game doesn’t add a whole lot of excitement or awe. The fact that it doesn’t make much sense either doesn’t help. Video games have their moves pre-programmed into them, so just the games existing should give Gigan access to the moves. Yet somehow players doing them allow him to, and when no one is playing the game Gigan just stops. I read through this a couple of times, and still don’t understand how this was supposed to work.
The writer seems to try to add more drama into the high stakes finale of not playing a video game, by continually hammering home throughout the issue that Joaquin retreating into gaming after losing a family member in 9/11. Joaquin refuses to watch the news because he doesn’t want to see more buildings destroyed, and focuses instead on his games and keeps playing. So when he has to save the world by not playing a video game it’s treated as some huge moment full of emotional angst, and it just doesn’t land at all. I’m sure the panel of the game controller hitting the floor, discarded, is supposed to be seen as some huge moment, but it feels almost ridiculous. Well done kid, you helped save the planet with the grand task of not playing a game.
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The inclusion of 9/11 in a world where buildings are regularly destroyed and broken down feels very weird too, and it almost feels jarring. It’s like the time Marvel Comics had Doctor Doom crying because of 9/11 like he hasn’t killed thousands of people himself. It’s like tonal whiplash that throws you out of the story. Perhaps in a different genre it would work, but in a Kaiju story a building being destroyed is nothing unusual, and shoehorning a real-world tragedy in like that feels so out of place.
Outside of that, the fights between Godzilla and Gigan are the only parts of the book that are enjoyable to read, and the combat between them is done surprisingly well. The creative team make good use of the versatility of Gigan, having him deploy most of his tricks at some point or another. The art team of Sid VenBlu, and Valentina Pinot make it all look dynamic and action packed, and the panel of Gigan squaring off against Godzilla whilst using an aircraft carrier as a shield was particularly cool.
Overall, Godzilla Rivals: vs Gigan was the first real disappointment of the series. The fight between the monsters was great, but the story and how everything unfolded was borderline ridiculous to the point of almost feeling like a bad parody. Hopefully the next issue in the series will be an improvement.
Godzilla Rivals: vs Gigan is out now from IDW Publishing.