KAIJUBASIS: Godzilla In Hell Canto I

On May 16th, 2014, mere months before his 60th birthday, Godzilla died. Again. He's been through this before, nearly 20 years prior, but thanks to his enduring spirit and legacy in modern culture, he was able to rise again. Now, the odds are stacked against him, and many are actually quite happy with current events, and they would prefer that Godzilla finally die for good this time, to make a profit off of his name. But it's not over quite yet, as this little comic shows us, there is still some fight left in the monster. Godzilla may rise from the grave yet again... but he's going to have to go through Hell to get there.

The Second Death
The snowball in Hell first started accumulating as far back as the 1970's. Godzilla was in his Champion Festival phase and was treated as a superhero for children's matinees. And he was pretty good at it, too. However most of the people who had grown up with the monster up until this point were now teenagers or - worse - adults, and the new tide gave them free reign to disregard children's things. In the west, particularly in the United States, the attitude was becoming far more disdainful, as the "inferiority" of special effects and Japanese films only added to the pyre. Godzilla was a big seller to kids in the late 70's U.S. too, but it all came to a head in the mid-80's when Godzilla himself finally tossed aside childish things and returned to his roots. For those who understood Godzilla, this was something to be celebrated, but to the Americans, it was all a big fucking joke.

So the international love affair ended and Godzilla became "kitsch" and "silly," even while films like Godzilla vs. Biollante and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II were released each New Years. Understanding that there was still some profit to be made, of course, Hollywood couldn't just leave well enough alone and decided to have a go at "fixing" Godzilla for America's far more sophisticated tastes. And they succeeded, of course, and Godzilla died. This is a story for another time.

It didn't stick and he came back, but here's the thing: the damage was already done. If you look at the make-up of what passes for a "fanbase" now the problem is immediately apparent. "Zilla apologists" and Zilla deniers." Just like the children of any other generation would, Godzilla became important, only now the children were raised in a time when Godzilla simply wasn't worth anyone's time. The kids of the actual G-Fans weren't allowed to touch ZILLA, it was poison, but to everyone else it was just another blockbuster, no more vapid or stupid than any other one. Fast-forward 16 years and you've got a generation of teenagers to whom the exploitation of the most important figure in modern mythology IS the mythology. Exploitation IS the myth now, and the suits are the mythmakers, and they simply don't know any other way.

So, when Hollywood made another gino, it didn't flop, it wasn't disregarded, and it wasn't poison. We all just... stood there... and we let them do it. We paid our $10 and watched Hollywood beat Godzilla to death. I mean, what else are we supposed to do, think for ourselves?

Unburied Souls 

So if Godzilla died over a year ago, why is he only just moving on now? I think it's safe to say that Godzilla is an unburied soul, although an argument could be made that he was buried under a mountain of festering rushed licensed bullshit. Eschatology, as a thing, is rooted in burial which is known from further back than any clear mythology is. Known, mind you, this doesn't eliminate the possibility of an afterlife predating burial, just that currently there's no proof of such a thing. The major sources of modern Hell are Dante, Doom, and Milton, and Dante is heavily based on Virgil, and according to Virgil those who went unburied and without proper funeral rites had to remain on the shores of Acheron, as the ferryman Charon refused to let them by. Well, that explains why it took Godzilla so long to move on, but how did he manage to get across?

Hell doesn't want you, and it will do everything in its power to keep you out, just as much as it wants to keep the souls it already does have. Demons like their souls evil, they want to do their thing without being constantly molested by the living or those likely to be redeemed, and Hell is very good at two things to keep souls out: violence and bureaucracy. The dead usually have to pay some sort of a toll to get across Acheron and this is nearly universal, relating directly to the concept of "grave goods." For the living, you've got to be a little more inventive, such as Aeneas with the Golden Bough, or failing that, for the post-Dante pilgrims "the formula" will suffice just fine. That is, of course, "this has been willed where what is willed must be" as it is so often repeated in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno and its sequel Escape from Hell. Even the demons who know this is a ruse don't fight it because what if it isn't?
In the comic itself, we aren't shown Godzilla using brute force to cross the Acheron which is patrolled by a demonic version of Ebirah, unlike my prediction, and the only formula he knows is "SKREEOOONK." He does better in the grave goods department, but unfortunately that's more or less what killed him and he hasn't technically been buried. Then again, he can't, really, because he's not a physical thing to bury, but we can give him funeral rites. It just so happens that fairly recently the giant scale statue of Godzilla's head was unveiled and, with it, the announcement of Godzilla officially becoming a Japanese citizen. Uh-FISH-ully. And there's a bonus too: the mayor of Tokyo declared that any place destroyed by Godzilla will be "fortuitous," blessed by the gods, if you will. This is important for two reasons, 1.) because we have officially transitioned from applying older mythologies to Godzilla (such as the blessing of King Kong vs. Godzilla's filming by a Shinto priest) to Godzilla being the mythology applied to our current lifestyle, and 2.) obviously he's not talking about the cumulative past or else most of Japan would be blessed, no, he's assuming Godzilla will resume his yearly cycle of films because this is a tradition and tradition must be upheld. So with his proper funeral rites, Godzilla's underworld descent can officially begin.

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here
This is the famous inscription written above the Gate of Hell in Dante's Inferno, at least it is in Longfellow's original English translation... sort of. Here's a quick rundown of Dante's original and a number of translations:

Dante Alighieri Original Italian
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi chi'intrate.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow English Translation
Abandon all hope, ye who enter in!
Allen Mandelbaum English Translation
Dorothy L. Sayers English Translation
Robert Pinsky English Translation
Marcus Sanders & Sandow Birk English Adaptation

So the most famous and well known permutation of this line doesn't seem to have an exact source as far as the translations I've read, but the line has differed very little throughout, with even the hip and modern Birk/Sanders adaptation sticking to the script (and Sayers going a little off-book). Point is, Godzilla's not getting through Hell without seeing this message in some form, regardless of whether or not he understands it.

But now we have another issue, because that message is for those that enter by a gate and... well, Godzilla might, er, bump his head on that. There are but two ways to enter Hell, come in the door or fall into it. The living, like the other mythic heroes who have taken this journey, always have to find the entrance somewhere on the surface, which can sometimes be a journey in and of itself. Some versions of the 12th Labor of Heracles maintain that in order to discover the gate at all he would have to be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, and Doomguy had to fight through a whole moonbase just to find the teleporter that would take him in. For the dead, it can really go either way, but the common depiction of the "drop-in" features ludicrously enormous numbers of souls raining into the mouth of Hell seems to indicate most newcomers don't use the door. A recurring theme in NDE's is the experience of traveling through a long tunnel before being dropped into your destination. More over-the-top depictions have characters undergoing a harrowing plummet into Hell, while other times people will simply open their eyes after dying only to find themselves already there, no doubt only recently gaining consciousness after a long fall. And here is Godzilla's experience, falling in just as any other dead soul would do.

Hell's solution to the problem (and Stokoe's of course) is simple and ingenious. How to you get the attention of a gigantic monster? Show him something even bigger. The "Abandon Tower" isn't just a building or a mountain, this thing pops out of the ground in an instant and towers above Godzilla. It doesn't seem to bother him much. Outside of the phantoms hanging around the Elm tree of false dreams and the intention of the Guardian boss of DOOM 3 being from ancient Dinosaur Hell... and of course Dinosaur Satan himself, Hell doesn't cater to anything on Godzilla's scale. Hell operates under the assumption that the most evil beings, your Hitlers and your Draculas and your Emmerichs, are still only human vessels, and the souls they contain are, for all their fury, weak and frail. They need the world's mightiest warriors to still burn in the Phlegethon, because without it they have nothing. Godzilla swam through a river of lava and melted a mirror made of synthetic diamonds. You can't "intimidate" Godzilla. Godzilla wasn't unshriven by violence, he was taken by corruption and circumstance. For all of Hell's sound and fury, the best it can throw at Godzilla is a rock which, despite being over 25 times his size, crumbles into dust like the hollow facade it is. See, Godzilla isn't just any mythic creature, he's the monster created by the bomb, and his fury is totally unlike anything Hell has ever known before, because Hell is the myth of cavemen, and Godzilla is the myth of people who play god. If Godzilla is cognizant of where he is, he certainly doesn't seem to care.

Strangely, the dust and debris of the wreckage of the "Abandon" Tower form the word "LUST," which is the absolute least applicable sin to anything Godzilla has ever done, both in-universe and otherwise. I can only assume this has something to do with Stokoe's own placement, but this is not the last we'll see of lust on Godzilla's journey, even if the connection is a stretch.

How tall is the "Abandon" Tower? I've done some maths (get out your copybook now) and I think I've arrived at an answer. I've used two panels to calculate Godzilla's distance from the tower, being the tower's P.O.V. panel on page 5, and the "LUST" panel on page 6, because the other two panels are more or less edge-on and it's extremely difficult to calculate edge-on distance in a comic book about Hell. In the P.O.V. panel, we're looking down from near the top of the tower at Godzilla. Using an online calculator and some rule of thumb degree estimations, assuming Godzilla is 55 meters high, since he is about 2 degrees across on the page, the distance from him, diagonally, to the top of the tower is 1575.47 meters. The "LUST" panel is a bit of a stretch because we don't really know how far away from the base of the tower all that rubble fell, but assuming the edge of the panel is good enough, using advanced photoshopping techniques, I've expertly determined that the base of the tower was 6 Godzilla lengths plus one Godzilla tail length away, and assuming Millennium Godzilla proportions again this is 813 meters. NOW it's easy, as all we have to do is find the length of the remaining side in a right angle triangle, which is simple grade school stuff. Plugging in our numbers we get an Abandon Tower that's 1349.49 meters tall, and allowing for margin of error and just to bring it up to a nice round number, we're probably looking at a height of around 1350 meters.

Impossible City
Godzilla walks away for some distance, though we can't tell exactly how much. Are we skipping huge chunks of time? When faced with an eternity, the notion of "time" is kind of meaningless, it's not like you can run out of it. Perhaps the most striking take on the passage of time in Hell I've ever read is in Niven and Pournelle's Inferno. When the protagonist dies, he finds himself in a bronze void, experiencing sight and proprioception and totally aware, but with absolutely nothing happening. He loses his mind in there, and how much time passes we can't say, and throughout the rest of the novel there's a lot of waiting, and without any sort of objective time keeping devices the only thing that exists is the perception of time, and soon even that stops having any purpose. In the sequel, with its many references to 9/11 and the death of Anna Nicole Smith, we know that Carpenter was in that bronze bottle for over 30 years. Godzilla has the rest of eternity to fight demons, does one suppose only a few minutes pass between panels? I wouldn't bet on it.

But we never see him actually cross the Acheron, instead we smash cut to Godzilla appearing on the outskirts of a city in Hell. Hell is a naturally chaotic place, so organized structures and societies are rare, but they do exist in a fashion, only there's always something... wrong with them. This doesn't look much like Limbo, and it sure as "hell" isn't Dis or Pandemonium, so we must be seeing something new here. Perhaps a decidedly more infernal version of the villas, since technically Limbo and the Vestibule aren't part of Hell-proper at all. There are plenty of demonic settlements scattered around if DOOM has taught me anything, and the cities seem to be of a temporary sort. However, this is Godzilla's hell, and it's certain that most of his experiences here will undoubtedly involve even more cities, and suddenly the improbable becomes the likely, and we're back in Hell's nonsense again.

Godzilla passes through a small town composed of faces and towers, which all bear glowing red eyes which I assume are functional, and that the city is capable of watching you. This appears to be (although much more time and distance could have passed) a suburb on the outskirts of a city with impossible architecture, not because the angles are weird but because the weight distribution looks all wrong. Giant tetrahedron shapes atop thin rods, impossible physics and... oh yeah, Godzilla. Godzilla's all about being impossible, it's kind of his bread and butter. A totally mundane animal that died when exposed to lethal amounts of radiation wouldn't make a very good symbol of nuclear horror, would it? The power and fear that Godzilla exudes comes not from his well understood nature, but precisely because he exists in a world exactly like our own, the world of science and logic, yet seems to challenge everything we know about... everything. There are explanations for all of these things if you look hard enough, or at the very least hand-waves or "eh, good enough for me's," but none of that changes the fact that the reason Godzilla defies the square cube law is because if he didn't he wouldn't be the irresistible force or the immovable object. And what does Godzilla find nestled in this utterly alien city of impossible angles that mocks his own defiance of nature? A nuclear power plant. Oh, I guess this is the circle of the "virtuous pagans" after all.

Virtuous Pagans
In Dante "virtuous pagans" were distinct from outright atheism, since the denial of a soul is in itself a sin. This, objectively, doesn't work, because pagans are also inherently blasphemers AND heretics, so according to his own logic all pagans would be sent to Dis by virtue of them believing in the wrong god. But Dante is a poet, and we have to let him say what he wants, internal consistency be "damned." Modern versions of the virtuous pagans shuffle the deck a little bit, both non and wrong believers needing to be guilty of some other sin in order to be sent lower. Compare your average youtube atheist to someone who just isn't crazy, normally that would be anger but here that's bad enough to go all the way down to the 6th or 7th circle.

But all of this is totally alien to Godzilla because he isn't a product of the age of belief, he's a product of the atomic age, the age of reason, logic, science, and knowledge. There are theological elements peppered throughout, of course, mostly reserved for his run-ins with Mothra, but for the most part Godzilla's schtick is, again, that he's scientifically terrifying, not supernaturally so. And while the Limbo of the fathers isn't really the place for Godzilla, we do see that in his Hell those who created him are where they should be. In Honda's utopian future, international cooperation was the key to peace, and when we worked together we could literally move the Earth. To the souls here, the nuclear reactor and the "impossible" physics are a reminder of their work on Earth, virtuous pagans who worked to understand Godzilla and tried to use this understanding to save lives. Their gods were many, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, but their paganism led them to the path of prosperity, and that's why Godzilla finds lunch here.

The "Limbo" sequence is the shortest section of the book, only 2 pages long. Nothing in the city bothers him, which is fitting given it's somewhere (presumably) in the first circle, but he meets his first demon here, and it isn't Minos... is it? In Dante Minos is depicted as a giant with a serpent's tail, and after judging souls he would wrap his tail around them as many times as the number of the circle where they belonged, and then flung them out into the bowl of Hell. This demon is nothing more than a blob, a heap of organs and tendrils reminiscent of the Great Old One M'Nagalah. The first time I read the book I was under the impression that the second demon Godzilla meets is just another form of this creature, and after changing my mind, I'm starting to come around again, although in a modified form.

You couldn't judge Godzilla, not directly, since there's really no guarantee he'd understand you, you'd have to judge his actions and in order to do that inside the Inferno you need to get him to do the same things he did in life. How do you do that? Lead him to a city with something familiar, then let him do what he's always done. This demon, Minagalos as I'm calling him for now, is everything ugly and terrible about Godzilla, all the pain and terror of the bomb manifest as a writhing mass of tumorous organs, crawling out of the smoke stack of a reactor to claim Godzilla as one of its own. And really, it's his own fault, he didn't have to look. Godzilla has never struck me as a particularly gluttonous individual, he only seems to head for a reactor when it becomes a necessity, but keep in mind he probably has no conception of where he is. Godzilla doesn't know he doesn't need to feed just yet, and with the potentially enormous distances he's covered, logically (oh, there's that modernism seeping back in, and in Limbo? no way) he'd probably take what he could get because... who knows?

For his troubles, Minagalos is stomped to death, but the damage is already done, and Godzilla's act of gluttony won't be forgotten. But this is hardly the all-knowing, just judge of the underworld we're familiar with, how can we know for sure that this judgement even makes sense? I already have my doubts, and you also have to consider that if Godzilla doesn't know the rules, is it even possible for him to be judged? The attempt as finding a substitute Minos is a pretty huge failure, but how far is Hell willing to take this probable mistake?

Gustave Doré
Godzilla passes yet another city, before finally coming face to face with one of the single most memorable images of Hell, the one which is displayed on the standard cover: the winds. In Canto V of Inferno, Dante enters the 2nd circle of Hell to find the souls of the lustful high above him, being blown around by a massive storm, the contrapasso being that as in life they let their desires control their actions, so in Hell are they blown around by external forces powerless to control themselves. When prolific 1800's artist Gustave Doré did his take on Dante's first cantiche, his imagery of an enormous cloud of souls twisting around in the hellstorm became one of the iconic staples of Hell, right up there with his rendering of the Malebranche battle from the 5th bolgia. For Doré, this is more or less par for the course.

Doré has illustrated Dante, Poe, Don Quixote, Milton, and even the bible. His etchings tend to have a long focus, using different light levels to create depth, making his work feel expansive. This style was a huge influence on the design of Skull Island in the original King Kong and the second Kong film. The stop motion sets were layered, made up of a series of paintings on glass with extra set pieces placed between them, creating the look and a dense jungle with only a limited desk space to work with. Doré's vision of Inferno has become the default, and it's an extremely rocky place, with deep, high-walled canyons and stark, high-contrast lighting. Smoke and dust are also large portions of the aesthetic, with the actual fires of Hell usually being obscured. Doré leaves a strong impression of the underworld being literally underground, which of course in Dante it is, as the whole thing seems to be carved out of solid rock, a mountain in negative space.

Since the first cover was released for Godzilla in Hell, the legacy of Doré has been evident and the issue itself is par for the course. Stokoe's issue is every bit at home alongside the canyons of Doré as it is with the extreme orange tint over everything that was present in Half-Century War as well. Everything here is made from stone, although the architecture of the cities he encounters changes, they always have the same texture and trademark Doré-esque depth. This is not an isolated incident either, as Eggleton's cover shows us, and we can probably expect to see this theme continue all the way down to Cocytus.

Cloud of Souls
As I mentioned before, Godzilla isn't really applicable for the sin of lust, and not just because none of the on-screen Godzillas seem to have mated more than once, but because the perversion and fear of sex is so uniquely human that it doesn't really work outside of that context. No other sexually reproductive organism is ashamed of coupling, that would be outrageous. Truly, truly outrageous. So a show of force against Godzilla for such a sin would be totally pointless, right? Maybe.

But let's get the obvious thing out of the way. Sure, you're going to see a cloud of souls in Hell and go "yeah, this is lust, I know this" but you'd be forgiven of coming to a totally different conclusion with Godzilla involved. I would be extremely surprised to discover that Stokoe's intention was not to evoke all of the victims of Godzilla's rampages. Duh. Obviously that's what's going on here, that's the image Hell and Stokoe are confronting Godzilla and us with. But Godzilla's rampages were indiscriminate, killing the guilty and innocent alike, and surely they weren't all lustful, so the cloud is breaking the rules of Hell by confronting him in such a manner. I mean, think about it, if Barlowe's Inferno has taught us anything, it's that human souls are maleable, and if Lucifer wanted to construct a Mechagodzilla made of damned souls to stop Godzilla from tearing down all of the work Mulciber did, he would. Humans are limitless, but fallen angels are a commodity and demons... probably don't grow on trees? Also, that would be super metal, like just imagine its finger missiles are souls from the 8th bolgia, how wicked awesome would that be?

Hell does have to follow some rules, even if it doesn't do it well, and we should imagine a cloud made up of all of Godzilla's victims would be a "hell" of a lot (look guys, this pun is going to keep happening, and I'm not going to apologize for it) more of an impediment that what actually happens. So we're left to believe that this is probably the lustorm with some hand-picked Godzilla rampage casualties being used to the best of Hell's abilities, but Godzilla quite literally just walks through the thing without much of a fight, all signs point to lust, a thing Godzilla couldn't possibly be guilty of. However, when he emerges into a clearing into the eye of the lustorm, he finds another Godzilla. Here? Godzilla seems just as confused and suspicious as you'd be, and here's the thing: you've seen this dumb ruse a thousand times, and I'll get into that in a minute. But there's one panel in particular that really interests me. On the second panel of page 14, just before the doppelganger's eye changes, Godzilla seems to be... inspecting the creature in a way we've never seen two Godzillas act before. It could be a million things, suspicion, curiosity, looking around for some space titanium... but deep in Hell in the center of the howling winds of the lustful souls... could Godzilla be... guilty? Whatever his interest truly is (outrageous?), his curiousity gets him for the second time and Hell seems once again fit to judge, and punish.

As I mentioned earlier, my initial assumption was that the first demon, Minagalos (a portmanteau of Minos and M'Nagalah, get it?), had somehow copied some of Godzilla's DNA and formed himself into a clone, and then Thinged-out at Godzilla. Whether or not that's the case, this is the consequence of Godzilla's gluttony and, in the real world, his greed. And, yes, no one in the audience is fooled by a second Godzilla (two Godzillas? How can this be?) because they've seen it too many times. Mechagodzilla, Biollante, Space Godzilla, Orga, King Godzilla, Barbaroi, Ghost Godzilla, Trilopods, and on and on and on. The "face yourself" trope isn't anything new to Godzilla, mirror matches as a form of an ultimate or penultimate battle in a way which combines internal and external conflict is recurring because it actually works. Forcing a character to match their own physical or mental capabilities can really be a pretty daunting contest. But Godzilla has done it so much. When Mechagodzilla was so well received after Megalon, Toho reused the monster hoping to ride the wave, but it turns out the target audience wanted variety and the same schtick twice in a row wasn't working, compared to, say, a season of Ultraman where there's maybe two evil Ultra episodes a year with ~50 other monsters in between. Kazuki Omori turned the original Biollante treatment into a more focused story about Godzilla, and in the process Biollante became not just a plant but a half-clone of Godzilla, and it loosed upon the world the trope of G-Cells. Mechagodzilla was revisited, the Biollante was turned into just another Godzilla, then when they needed something to kill Godzilla they brainstormed the ghost of the original one, then a shape-shifting Toho version of The Thing. Three years later Hollywood opposed Godzilla with their own abomination, and Toho responded by creating another monster spawned from G-Cells whose face was a caricature of Zilla's. The ghost of the original Godzilla eventually was dug up and incorporated into the infrastructure of a fourth Mechagodzilla, and finally Godzilla physically confronted Zilla himself. Flash forward a decade and Godzilla takes on Hollywood's second doppelganger as the final boss in a video game, and did I mention that Super Godzilla's Bagan was powered up by the addition of G-Cells?

This encounter might as well encompass greed, too, although in Escape from Hell there is a phantasmal city in the 4th circle that constantly reforms so... we'll see what Eggleton has in store. While it's hard to be too critical of the doppelganger trope, as a lot of these ideas are still innovative and interesting even if the ultimate point of them is more or less the same, in the end it was a doppelganger who killed Godzilla, and that doppelganger was created purely by greed, and devoured everything that Godzilla once was, spitting out a fetid, shrink-wrapped bag of "gamer food." So goes the reality, but what is the myth? Because Minagalos had "judged" Godzilla as being... what, hungry? Once past the winds Godzilla comes to the 3rd circle, for the gluttonous, land of legendary monsters like Cerberus, Scylla, and "Acheron." More on him in a bit. So of course this demon's method of attack is to attempt to eat Godzilla. Gosh, that sounds familiar too, don't you think? Godzilla does, and he's dealt with exactly the same kind of situation before, and he knows how to handle it. It's a tougher fight than he's had so far, but it seems as though Minagalos' "judgement" didn't really stick. I imagine trying to swallow Godzilla is like trying to eat a miniature sun, and I bet Godzilla does too. Biollante, Orga, gino 2, whatever. They're all flawed copies, and they can't take the heat.

The design of the doppelganger demon is inspired. It is incredible, and I'm usually good with overblown adjectives but this thing just takes my breath away. Obvious stuff first, it's clearly a combination of Orga, with the swallowing shape-shifting, and miniature "phase 2" spines running along its back, and Biollante, with its grotesque tendrils, gaping, needle-lined maws, and even the whole broad form of the creature resembles Biollante's general outline. The very ability of the demon to "Thing-out" shows us that Stokoe was probably watching The Thing while working on the issue, whether he knows about Barbaroi or not. But there's more too, especially the doppelganger's true face. I could go on and on about concept art for Orga, I mean you could probably associate most Orga concept art with the doppelganger's design, but there is one in particular with a saucer-shaped head that I got strong vibes from, which I'll picture here. But if you want to talk about saucer-shaped heads, you can't forget about Zeram, basically one of the coolest monsters ever, designed by the incredible Keita Amemiya who, if you are a fan of the second season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers or Dairanger, maybe you'll remember Fourhead? The doppelganger's head is an unmistakable pastiche of Zeram and the saucer-Godzilla Orga concept, but there's no creepy faces, only a single, gigantic eye and a wide toothy grin. You'll need to go back to remedial Hell School if you don't get this right away, that, my friends, is an elder Cacodemon trying to imitate Godzilla, but that cute little smile gives him right away. It goes further than that, though, as taking a look at the Cacodemon's *ahem* "inspiration" reveals a much stronger connection to Stokoe's demon. You've got your long arms with clawed hands, Cacodemons don't have that, and take a look at the Astral Dreadnaught's neck... looks sort of like a disc-shaped protrusion, doesn't it? Up until this point the allusions to DOOM haven't been basically non-existent, so it's quite a treat when Godzilla's first serious opponent is a giant, Thinged-out Cacodemon.

Down or up? You'd be forgiven for forgetting that the lustorm is still raging all around the monsters as they fight each other, but this monster clearly doesn't belong here, he's from the 3rd circle, and they're clearly not in the sludge, and there's no hail or acid rain, so did this doppelganger demon climb up the wall to get to Godzilla? So now that the question is out there, I want to go back to the question of time and distance again, because we really don't know if Godzilla is still in Limbo or really whether he even crossed Acheron to begin with. I mean, you gotta give Stokoe room to move here because he's only got 20 pages to clear four levels, and he's done so masterfully, but we really just don't know where Godzilla is for sure outside of context clues. Is greed up here too? Has the lustorm accrued all of Godzilla's victims from the incontinent sins of Lesser Hell to assault him, and brought along a gluttonous doppelganger with it? Or has Godzilla really traveled down this far, and the lustorm picked up his victims and traveled inwards to meet him? And keep in mind, although we, the audience, can see this comic as Godzilla's symbolic crossing of Acheron and beginning his katabasis, he still hasn't crossed Acheron. This is kind of an enormous deal.

It's not all Dante, folks, and the answer doesn't lie in his poetry but rather in the Medieval story of Tundale. I'll be honest, after getting though most of Eileen Gardiner's collection of Medieval spirit quests Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante I was a little underwhelemed. As a history piece, it's great because you can see ideas evolve and develop over time, but in the process much of the geography is suggested at most, sins are compounded and uncomprehensive, or sometimes too specific, and most of it lacks that contrapasso that made Dante's version so poetic. After all, the authors of these things were not poets. Tundale's Hell is striking not only because it is one of the most wildly differentiated versions, but because it is totally unavoidable. Souls on their way to Heaven have pass through the whole thing first, and any torments they endure along the way counts as their purgation, but whether or not it applies they have to traverse the whole thing. Tundale and his angelic guide come across a valley which is basically a giant grill, a "Hailfire Peaks" mountain of fire and ice which is itself borrowed from the earlier Drythelm's Vision, and a black, putrid pit. Yawn. What happens next is totally unexpected:

Tundale sees a gigantic demon as huge as a mountain with its mouth propped open. In his mouth are two strange parasitic demons with backwards heads stretched between the upper and lower lips, Fergusus and Conallus, acting as pillars that divide the opening in three. This beast, Tundale's guide tells us, is called Acheron, though he seems to allude to an identification with Behemoth as well. Acheron has always been a river since at least the Homeric epics, could everyone have been so wrong? The angel tells Tundale that in order to progress he'll have to go through the beast and come out the other end, just as all souls must, and if he isn't greedy, he won't be assaulted by the multitude of ferocious, ravenous monsters living inside the monster's belly. This is a well established doctrine of Hell in Medieval times, the literal hellmouth, which is also associated with drop-ins as Hell literally swallows up souls. Literally. In order to get anywhere, especially deeper in Hell, everyone has to do this, Tundale tells us, and in the process of punishing Godzilla for his greed and gluttony, Godzilla reacted the only way he knows how to deal with giant monsters that want to swallow him: give them what they want, and nuclear pulse their guts into smithereens. This probably wasn't exactly what Hell was expecting, but it more or less does the job.

Godzilla's entire life was spent in violence, there was really no way his crossing from the vestibule was going to be quiet or simple as crossing a river. Godzilla is a deep sea creature, a river, whether it's made of woe or water, isn't quite the hellish baptism you give him. Instead, Hell pulled out a serious deep cut and gave him Acheron not as a river but as a gigantic, mountain sized, doppelganger-Cacodemon thing. But Godzilla crossed Acheron according to the rules, and Hell has to follow the rules, so whether he was physically on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd circle (the vestibule isn't a separate level, it's only separated from Limbo by the river Acheron), he has to descend now, as the rickety ledge finally gives out after being blasted to pieces. While the story by the end of the first issue has Godzilla being nearly at the city of Dis already, we the audience have waited over a year to watch Godzilla begin his journey. So Acheron, the demon, although he may be a symbol of gluttony or greed, still serves the purpose of his namesake and gives Godzilla his first major crossing of the journey, and with this first issue he has finally "crossed" Acheron. It's only going to get worse from here.

Final Thoughts
James Stokoe
James Stokoe is fucking amazing. I could go on and on about Half-Century War, and that's not an idle threat, just look up and see how long I've gone on about one of his issues. An incredible artist and writer with a strange fondness for orange, and someone who really puts everything they've got into Godzilla, and does it perfectly. Stokoe's issue is a perfect start (see, I told you?) to the series and it's hard to say if there's a better choice for the job. Yeah, me, but I can't draw for crap, and I wouldn't have made Acheron an Orga-esque Cacodemon-Thing. I talk a lot about "Zilla apologists" and "Zilla deniers," but Stokoe is the real deal, and he was more or less working on Half-Century War under a different name years before IDW even had the license. The text books are being written right now and I couldn't be happier that a talent like Stokoe's is fighting on Godzilla's side. I don't really intend this section to just be me gushing about how much I love the writer of the issue but... you know, this is... just... wow. Godzilla in Hell gave me a reason to live and holy shit did this issue deliver. I can't promise I'll be any less subjective for next month's section on Bob Eggleton, but... you know, I'm sure eventually this part at the end will amount to something other than ass-kissing. I will say, though, that this whole thing is so masterfully planned I'm skeptical of just what the ratio of happy accidents is, as I can at this point only vouch for Stokoe knowing his Godzilla, and not him being an eschatology professor. Either way, though, he still deserves praise.

Issue #2 Predictions
The solicit mentions a city that can't be destroyed, which brings to my mind the phantasmal city of the bureaucrats who held up the construction of the WTC memorial in the bottom rim of the 4th circle. However, destruction for Godzilla is a direct consequence of his wrath, so it's just as likely to start us off after greed (Acheron already had that covered) and let the indestructibility be a fitting punishment for anger. Also? It's probably Dis. Dis has traditionally been guarded by Erinyes/Furies and Medusa, but we're told to expect demonic versions of past foes. Oh wait, a flying demon with snake heads in the form of Godzilla's past foe? It writes itself. My prediction is that the indestructible city is Dis and Demon Ghidorah replaces Medusa and the Erinyes.

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