Most licensed comics, let’s be honest, are terrible. Comics as merchandising spin-offs are usually afterthoughts, completely irrelevant to the movie or TV show that spawned them. Nothing happens in licensed comics, and somehow the approval of a fleet of corporate lawyers makes the officially licensed spin-offs feel even more like bad fan-fiction. They’re safe and boring and bland.
But every so often you’ll encounter the proverbial exception that proves the rule. And sometimes that exception is titled Godzilla in Hell. IDW’s miniseries is exactly that: a miniseries about Godzilla in hell. Each issue is written and drawn by a different artist, with the flimsy insinuation that Godzilla is descending through the various circles of the underworld providing the barest of narrative threads between installments. Luckily, these comics are so fun and so unrepentantly weird that they don’t need a narrative.
The first issue of Godzilla in Hell, illustrated by rising indie star James Stokoe, was so simplistic that it was almost too slight. In a wordless comic, Godzilla fell into Hell and then fought his way around. Only Stokoe’s noodly, effervescent art kept the issue from being a pantomime bore; you could stare at the whorls of fire and brimstone that Stokoe layered into the back of every panel for hours. The second issue, by Bob Eggleton, was a bit more traditional for a Godzilla comic: giant monster fights overlaid with some overwrought narration.
The third issue of Godzilla in Hell, written by Ulises Farinas and Erick Frietas with art by Buster Moody, is a nice blend of the two issues that came before. Godzilla wanders around hell and fights Space Godzilla, but he also encounters a hive of angel-Mothra hybrids that try to trick him to do their bidding. Christian imagery is everywhere — at one point, Space Godzilla shatters a hellish replica of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue with a force bolt — and then Godzilla stares at a giant purple mountain made out of angry eyes that tries to hypnotize the giant lizard. “SUBMIT, SERVE PEACE SUBMIT, SERVE PEACE SUBMIT, SERVE PEACE” the eyes chant at Godzilla, whose scowl gives away the fact that he’s not having any of it.
Godzilla in Hell is one of those batshit ideas that offers no clue as to how it came to be. Was it really just as simple as someone watching a creature feature and thinking, “I wonder what would happen if Godzilla starred in Dante’s Inferno?” Because if so, that person deserves a medal. So far, Godzilla has not squared off against Satan himself. If the series ends without that showdown, I will be very disappointed. And if the quality holds up, I’m hoping for some sequels. Godzilla in Heaven, perhaps? Godzilla Vs. God? Godzilla starring in Paradise Lost? Why not? The lawyers don’t seem to be watching, so we might as well have some fun.