KAIJUBASIS: Godzilla in Hell Canto IV

Last issue being a prequel means that we're still where we left off at the end of issue #2. Godzilla has moved on from the incontinent sins and is now about to face the horrors of Nether Hell, the circles of violence, fraud, and treachery. And don't worry because we totally get to see all of that happening for real in this issue, which was not disappointing in the slightest. Honest.

Fraudulent Sins
So last time we definitely saw Godzilla in the very real 7th circle, wading through the river Phlegethon, which is represented in the series as a dirty ocean full of junk and wreckage, filled with mountains of garbage and the ruins of mankind's great cities and weapons of war, including Moguera and Riseross. This is real and totally what happened. But now that the violence is over, time to start lying. I mean not in this article, which is completely truthful of course, but I mean in the story. In the story Godzilla was already in the 7th circle and so it's totally fine that it doesn't appear in this issue at all.

Is Godzilla a liar? No. And there are no liars at IDW either. All of the artists and editors and PR guys are totally honest and always have been, consistently, from one issue to the next. This issue was jam-packed with a huge amount of story and compelling imagery, all of it very cool and appropriately hellish, and definitely not in any way underwhelming or boring or disappointingly bland and terrible. No, definitely not. Because in this issue we'll watch Godzilla move though not one, but all 11 bolgias of the 8th circle. With only 20 pages to do so it's a wonder how they pulled it off, but I'll be damned if they didn't. And they totally did. Thank goodness for the incredible talent working on this issue, which is composed of three well-known Godzilla artists who you're definitely familiar with and aren't a couple of no-names IDW pulled off of a G.I. Joe/Carebears crossover at the last minute because they realized they already blew their load on the first two issues and have nothing to follow them up with. No, all true hardcore G-Fans are intimately familiar with the work of Ibrahim Moustafa, who is definitely a real person who I've heard of before.

1st Bolgia
In addition to the division of 7 + 2 = 9 + 1 = 10 scheme I talked about last time, each of the three cantiches of the Comedy have a secondary division among the 7, however this division is unequal among the three. Purgatory's 7 cornices are divided into a lower, middle, and upper Purgatory, for roots of sin relating to disordered love (of the wrong things, being pride, envy, and wrath), deficient love (being sloth), and excessive love (being greed, gluttony, and lust) respectively. Hell has a similar set-up only instead of 3-1-3 it's 4-1-2. The first four circles of Hell proper (being 2-5 as Limbo doesn't count) are the incontinent sins, as we've been over at length before. This means, basically, "simple sin" as opposed to "complicated sin" as the guilt of these souls is purely within the roots of sin. So the souls trapped in Lesser Hell are only guilty of having poor portion control or being too horny, etc. Past this are the complicated sins which have multiple roots, requiring souls who would normally go there, if they were repentant, to spend time in multiple sections of Purgatory. See how that works?

The complicated sins are those of violence and fraud. Violence only gets the one circle even though the 3rd round, violent against god and nature, is synonymous with the whole of the 6th circle, heresy. I'm sure it made sense to Dante at the time, but it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Below this are the fraudulent sins which are at the bottom of Hell because it is particular to mankind and therefore is the most offensive to god. It too is subdivided, with the 8th circle being for simple fraud and the 9th being for complicated fraud - lying to those who trust or depend on you, traitors. However this is still a pretty broad category and so the 8th circle, called the Malebolge and is curiously only the fourth area of Hell given a proper name, is further divided into 10 "bolgias" or pockets. In addition, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Escape from Hell added an 11th bolgia on the edge of the well of Giants which was previously unused real estate. This is also, probably coincidentally, the location of the "10th circle of Hell" in the Onion's article which points it out as being the circle of "complete bastards."

Obviously, with next issue being reserved for Godzilla's battle with Lucifer and only 20 pages to get through all the bolgias, it is a testament to the hardworking artists at IDW that they managed to cram all that mess in this issue. Because that's absolutely just what happened. In this first bolgia, reserved for pimps and whores (er, "panderers and seducers"), Godzilla opens the issue by defeating an enormous demon wearing a pimp coat created by sewing together one million dead hoes. Clearly the sins of man are no match for the Leviathan, which is, if you'll recall, part of the subtext of the series which is still going strong in this issue because why the hell wouldn't it?

2nd Bolgia
Turning the page reveals one of the biggest crossover events in comic book history this side of Superman vs. ALIENS. As Godzilla enters the 2nd bolgia, where flatterers are forced to wallow in a lake of shit that constantly pours from their mouths, he is assaulted by none other than the Golgotha shit demon, created when Jesus evacuated his bowels on the cross, from the Kevin Smith film Dogma. A bit of a deep cut, but not an unwelcome one. How they cleared the rights to this or why Toho ever agreed to such a thing is anyone's guess.

Godzilla engages the demon only to discover that, to his horror, his radioactive beams only make the literal mountain of shit smellier. Golgotha proceeds to start farting over and over again uncontrollably while complaining about video games it doesn't like. "This game is like a big smelly poop coming out of a gross butt" the demon bellows as it plays Karate Kid for the NES intentionally poorly. Godzilla's only recourse at this point is to stomp the monster to death in order to put the gross, smelly, poop fart fires out, which leads to a hilarious panel where Godzilla wipes the shit off of him and onto some simoniacs. Oh yeah, about them:

3rd Bolgia
Simony is, to modern audiences, a confusing sin almost impossible to wrap your head around. While many of Dante's "for the time" aspects in the Comedy require readers to put themselves in his place to get a better understanding of his intentions, the sin of simony is remarkably easy to understand. This is a special sub-circle of Hell reserved solely for people who are named Simon, which in god's eyes is just the worst name. All of history's Simons are here, from Paul Simon to Simon of Simon & Schuster fame. Because in life they were named Simon, their contrapasso in Hell is to be "reverse baptized," that is held upside down in a well of fire. This all makes perfect sense, and it's all covered in the issue.

4th Bolgia
The trial faced by Godzilla in the 4th bolgia doesn't make a lot of sense in regards to its original purpose, but it's certainly welcome. The souls here are those of "sorcerers," those who used magic or consulted magicians for their own ends. At face value this sounds completely ridiculous, but keep in mind we are in Hell, and accepting that magic is real is hardly the most outlandish thing going on. As punishment for trying to see the future, the souls here have their heads rotated around 180 degrees. Notable inmates of this level include Carl Sagan and Adolf Hitler.

But Godzilla doesn't find them here, instead he finds something that should have been in issue #2. That's right, all of those wonderful things promised to us in past issues were really way down here in the circle of liars. I am talking about, of course, the indestructible city. Godzilla has so far made steady progress advancing through the bolgias by simply tearing down the walls between them, but from here on out it becomes more complicated. The first problem is that the city is far to dense, unlike in a monster movie where the streets are always miraculously big enough for giant monsters to wade through, here Godzilla can't make forward progress without destroying the towering, black, jagged skyscrapers in the way.

At first this is easy enough, a simple blast takes out the skyline, but almost immediately the ruins begin to reform, pulling together into taller, spikier spires. As Godzilla resorts to manual violence, venting his frustration over time causes his assaults to do less and less damage, until eventually he can't seem to make a dent in the buildings at all. Now, since I'm assuming everyone reading this has their own copy of the issue, there's no need for me to spoil how Godzilla manages to pass this trial, because you already know. And it's awesome and ingenious, of course, and we, the audience, never saw it coming. Truly this vignette is just another fine example of the incredible creativity on display in this amazing issue which is really good and not at all boring and awful.

5th Bolgia
The 5th bolgia, the realm of the lobbyists, traditionally receives an enormous amount of attention. In Dante, this is the only example of a scene where the poet is ever in any real, immediate danger. Although demons like to snarl and bark, they're always either powerless or there's an angel just around the corner. Not so in the bolgia of boiling pitch, instead we are treated to a brief chase sequence where a flock of malebranches chase after Dante and Virgil as they flee into the 6th bolgia. This follows after a squabble amongst the demons themselves, resulting in an illustration by Dore which has become one of, if not the most enduring image of the entire Comedy, the mass of warring malebranches.

Because of this later works often ape this and decide their journey through the 5th bolgia should likewise be wrought with danger. Godzilla in Hell, however, decides to go a different route by only featuring the bolgia in a single panel. All we see is Godzilla protecting an innocent soul from a horde of Anger Minions. This is a clear allusion to the video game Dante's Inferno from 2007. In the game the 8th circle is handled by giving the player a series of tests with varying win conditions. "Kill this many enemies" or "win without using magic" and the like. Doing this ten times in a row has been noted by critics to really flesh out everything that the 8th circle has to offer, and isn't annoying, cumbersome, or transparently lazy at all. Since this issue similarly treats the 8th circle with all due respect and gravity and isn't in the slightest lazy, boring, or unimaginative, it's a nice little shout-out to a video game that did very well and went on to have many successful sequels.

6th Bolgia
Finally, the moment we've all been waiting for: the Wall of Living Flesh. Since this got leaked the hype was palpable, and for sure there was no way IDW would yank us around with this and give us everything else in the solicit except the one thing that was actually interesting or even remotely hellish. And lo and behold did they ever deliver: upon emerging from the pitch, Godzilla faces the wall surrounding the 6th bolgia which, to his surprise, stares him down and proceeds to scream at him all about how there's no hope. The imagery is breathtaking and one page in particular makes it abundantly clear why IDW chose to go with three people no one's ever heard of before rather than, say, Jeff Zornow or something. It all makes perfect sense.

Whether or not Godzilla understands the wall's wailing is unknown, but either way he's not all that happy about the noise. Blasting the thing, however, only splatters him with boiling blood, and the wall retaliates by boxing Godzilla in. Soon enough Godzilla discovers that if he can take out the eyes embedded in the wall, he removes its ability to track him. In this way, he uses his atomic ray to trick the wall into focusing its girth elsewhere, allowing him to easily crash though the rock wall it was protecting. This is another clever solution to a seemingly unwinnable battle and it's not something I just came up with right now either, it came from the book. So once again the comic delivers on its promises and everything's great and no one feels ripped off at all.

7th Bolgia
When issue #2 didn't have the indestructible city, I was disappointed. Still, we ended up getting a fully painted book by Bob Eggleton of Godzilla in Hell complete with a deluge and a frozen ship graveyard. It fell short of expectations by a large margin, but at least it was still something great for what it was. When issue #3 created a plot hole by refusing to do the minimum amount of work required in a round robin story despite having two fucking writers, you better believe I was pissed. But when you disconnect it from continuity and you judge it on its own merits, again we have an incredible issue, with its centerpiece being the fantastic Godzilla vs. Mt. Purgatory, and taking it as its own entity it is for sure the best issue so far. Stokoe' issue may have been the only one that was perfect, but that doesn't at all mean that what followed is sub-par. I have criticisms of issues 2 & 3, but at least those were still... you know, worth my time.

But I'm going to call this my limit. The solicit to #3 was accurate. The cover by Zornow was accurate to the solicit for #4. And even if something were to change between then and when I get it into my grubby little paws, at the very least I shouldn't have anything to worry about. Wall of living flesh or not, I knew at the very least I would get a.) Godzilla and b.) something hellish and insane. That King Ghidorah was once again in the roster made me raise an eyebrow, but since he clearly has a backstory that was unfinished in #2, I had just assumed there was more to say about what his soul was doing in Hell.

There wasn't. Instead of a fun surprise in place of the hellish imagery I was promised, I got exactly the issue #4 solicit... minus the part that was actually interesting. Rather than boxing Godzilla into a bolgia with a wall of flesh he's trying to tear down while battling two of his greatest foes, we have... Godzilla battling two of his greatest foes, follow-up there's a wall made of bricks that he takes down without much effort. Imagine, if you will, X-Treme Sports that aren't X-Treme. That would be just normal sports. When you give me a comic called Godzilla in Hell, then take away the part where he's in Hell, then all I'm left with is a 20 page comic where Godzilla fights two other monsters. You know, because that's something I haven't seen in recent years.

Now this isn't to say the issue is completely dismal, there are a couple of things about it that I actually do enjoy. First and foremost this is the first time since being in Hell Godzilla has actually experienced serious bodily harm, particularly of the fatal variety, and it happens twice. Being impaled on Tokyo Tower is a great image, but Godzilla contemplating with understandable shock his own severed head is really fucking chilling. Honestly the first time I flipped through I had to do a double take because at first I didn't actually realize what I had just seen. When you take an issue that's this boring for 19 pages, and then throw that at me, well... I mean, wow. Color me impressed. That said, this is the only sign that Godzilla is actually in Hell, as everything else is utterly indistinguishable from a battle with KG and Destroyah when both were alive.

I mean, it's a great single page and all, but when it's literally the only indication that an issue of Godzilla in Hell is taking place in Hell... we have a very serious problem. Additionally, it's unbelievably frustrating because the possibility of making this issue deliver is RIGHT THERE! Godzilla gets out by blasting a wall... made of bricks? All they had to do was draw some fucking eyeballs on the damned thing. That's all they had to do. Why was everyone involved on this issue so fucking lazy? Why didn't they put in the bare minimum effort? The wall to the bolgia is RIGHT FUCKING THERE, draw eyeballs on it you fucking cunts!

And this is the biggest problem with these unknowns, they clearly don't give a shit about what they're doing. I didn't know Buster Moody before issue #3, but I know for a fact that if he drew this issue, the bolgia would be surrounded by a wall of living flesh. I know for sure that if James Stokoe drew this issue, if there wasn't a wall of flesh, we would at least get some other fucked up hellish imagery to drive the point home. I also know that had Eggleton painted the issue, he would have gone out of his way to pay homage to the illustrations of Dore. Zornow? Pretty sure he would have killed it. Frank? Probably would have knocked it out of the park. There are so many excellent artists out there who have been working with Godzilla and Hell long before this series came about, but rather than reliable artists with a stake in it, all we got was more unknowns phoning it in. It is infuriating to me realizing just how close this issue came to being better, and all that stopped it was a lack of effort on the part of the three artists who were responsible for it.

Like I said, issues 2 & 3 may have their faults, but at least those are solid pieces of work. THIS is unforgivable. These people had no fucking business making an issue of Godzilla in Hell. None. Well, I might as well try to make some sense of what we did get, at least.

King Ghidorah (Again)
I made the assumption that the comic takes place inside the 7th bolgia for an incredibly superficial reason: because KG is here. For those not in the know, this area is reserved for thieves, and their punishment is to fester in a pit of serpents. Not just any serpents, though, for these have the power to, with their bite, steal your shape, walking around in your skin while you slither around like a snake in the grass. There are all kinds of "serpents" in there, including basilisks and just straight up dragons, so of course I figured if there was anywhere to find King Ghidorah in the 8th circle, it would probably be here.

Last time we saw him KG was being blamed for Godzilla's entire predicament, but issue #3 didn't mention him at all. We might actually be able to salvage this if we instead blame KG for something else, in fact we may be able to use him to fix the plot hole left by issue #3. Lets say King Ghidorah was already in the 8th circle by the time Godzilla arrived. If Godzilla attempts to climb up Hell and out the other end, he'll end up in the 8th circle first, and if KG's in the 7th bolgia he won't get very far before bumping heads. In this scenario, we can imagine KG as kind of a "reverse Geryon," who instead of bringing pilgrims from the 7th circle down to the 8th, brings Godzilla up from the 8th and drops him from the mouth of Hell, leading to his awakening in issue #1. Seems cool, right?  So what is he doing in the deluge, then?

Well, I suppose it's reasonable to assume he made his way back down just like Godzilla did. Furthermore if we're looking at Ghidorah as a means to push Godzilla forward through the Inferno in the right direction, it makes plenty of sense that he shows back up when Godzilla plummets so far into Hell he actually goes below it to the Abyss and travels through the circles in the wrong order. Where the other possessed kaiju souls couldn't stop him, the combination of King Ghidorah and Charybdis managed to shove him back in the right direction, putting him in the 8th circle by the time KG has returned. Operating in this fashion, it would seem that KG is being possessed by some other entity interested in maintaining order, but by the time we meet back up with him in the Malebolge that's clearly not the case.

The 8th circle is too good for Destroyah, who if you'll remember died trying to bring death to a planet that was already half-dead. She's still here, though, for some reason (maybe because putting her in the 8th bolgia would put out all the fires), and her appearance and attitude isn't any different. When I first read the phrase "demonic versions of..." in the issue previews, I was fully expecting facsimiles of monsters, but instead we got the real monster's soul only possessed by another demon, which altered them only in making their eyes glow. Space Godzilla got a more dramatic power upgrade, but that's to be expected as his possession was carried out by Lucifer himself. King Ghidorah and Destroyah here are... the same as they ever were. They don't need to be possessed to want to fight Godzilla, they do nothing but antagonize him anwyas, so instead we have the frustrated, angry, and unkillable souls of three immensely powerful monsters beating the shit out of each other in a tiny bolgia. On paper, this issue should have been great.

Now we can tell these two aren't working for a higher power because they're only focused on Godzilla as much as they can be. They aren't working on the same team, necessarily, and just like the malebranche from the 5th bolgia Godzilla's escape comes when KG and Destroyah tussle with each other. I know it isn't intentional since it would mean that the writers actually knew what they were doing and put some thought and effort into the issue, but both of Godzilla's antagonists in this bolgia have the same sort of demon-esque wings, making another visual callback to the famous tussle of the malebranche.

In the end I can't really tell what's going on. Godzilla attempts to blast down the wall himself but it doesn't seem to be terribly effective, but it does leave a make. He basically tricks KG and Destroyah into helping him, but I don't know if their added power made the job go quicker or he actually needed their beams to crack it. The later doesn't seem likely since, again, neither are being controlled or used to enforce the rules of Hell, so giving them that kind of power wouldn't make sense. Then at the very end of the comic, as the wall comes down, the scenery is either enveloped in or dissolves into a white mist until Godzilla is totally alone. It may be that Godzilla slips through the crack to the other side before the other monster's souls have a chance to follow, or maybe some other power took the reigns and forcefully dissolved the other two souls and put them elsewhere before they could escape. Actually, maybe that's what happened to Godzilla too, and from the perspective of KG/Destroyah he's the one that seemed to either be enveloped or dissolved. This explanation actually makes the most amount of sense to me because I can't imagine that KG and Destroyah's personal journeys through Hell are similar in any way to Godzilla's. Certainly they'll intersect... but I have a feeling both need to spend way more time getting familiar with the 7th circle.

Final Thoughts
Outside of this bolgia we don't really get to see anything, which I suppose is better than trying to shove in 10 really boring and terrible sections into one level *ahem*. There is one really interesting blink-and-you-miss-it detail that caught my eye, though: on the other side of the wall, you can actually see mushroom clouds going off in the distance. No doubt this is an attempt by the writers of the issue to be clever, "see cuz there's nuclear explosions in Godzilla's Hell!" It betrays a staggering ignorance of the source material, however, being that this is the circle of fraud. Visually it looks nice, but it's ultimately pointless. When Godzilla steps outside the wall, as I just covered, everything goes white. This is a different transition from what we've seen, with the first two showing Godzilla being pushed down and the third him, presumably, climbing up. Of course we have nothing else to assume other than its time for him to battle Lucifer, but no well of giants? No fall? No nothing? Perhaps they were going for ominous but it feels more, well, disappointing. If that wasn't the 10th bolgia then Godzilla just skipped a bunch of them, which seems... unfair.

Also something I haven't even brought up yet, what the hell happened to the 7th circle? Did we just skip it entirely? Last time I originally had the first section labeled as "Revelations" to reflect the opening battle leading up to the end of the world, but I changed it to be my "7th circle" section based on the misdirect and, after this issue came out, I realized we'd never be covering the circle otherwise. The circle of violence is easily the most visually interesting in all of the Inferno, so this is not a small oversight, skipping out on the river of blood and the wood of suicides is tantamout to just not bothering to make a comic about Hell in the first place. Really, what's the point? I know, next time we'll get to see Godzilla X Lucifer, but...

Have you considered the possibility that we don't? Have you thought about how much we've been lied to and how much disappointment has been heaped up on this series in each issue? It really is quite staggering. I don't think I'm speaking out of turn when I say that, for general audiences, Godzilla X Lucifer is the only reason to pick up a book titled Godzilla in Hell, and if they haven't given up on the series already, chances are if it isn't apparent from the preview that this is what they're getting, then IDW has failed on its own premise. This is not something out of left field, this is exactly what the expectations are, and at this point I've seen no evidence that IDW has any sort of understanding or respect for the expectations of its customers.

Consider this: Kingdom of Monsters starts out strong, but by the time the far superior Gangsters & Goliaths mini-series rolls out, the original series takes a huge nose-dive in quality and opinions are more or less unanimous that Kingdom of Monsters is a huge failure and their mini-series has far more potential. Again, while KoM drags on (and on and on and on...) another mini-series called Legends appears which basically flips everyone's shit. No one thought G&G could be topped, but they found a way to do it.

Fast forward and a new maxi-series comes out which is... a sequel to KoM. Also? It doesn't have a name. Boo. While the first few issues seem promising people are clearly fed up with it and it faces all of the same problems KoM had, namely that it has no clear direction and all the issues just drag on forever and become tiring to pay attention to. Meanwhile, just when you thought Legends couldn't be topped, another mini-series debuts called the Half-Century War, and of course the rest is history. Cue Rulers of Earth and Cataclysm. Are you noticing a pattern here?

IDW clearly doesn't understand what "good" is. They waste their talent on pointless, annoying crap while their best stuff gets corralled and killed off prematurely instead of giving it the room it needs to grow. Every single issue of Legends needs to be its own series. But no. You get nothing. Nothing except more Steven Woods and pointless, boring, confusing plot threads that go nowhere.

When I asked myself "how the hell could they possibly top Cataclysm?" I was answered with Godzilla in Hell. Now, with the whole premise of the series being undermined so that lazy unknowns can churn out sub-par work and ride on the coattails of Stokoe and Eggleton, I don't know what to think, but I'll tell you this much: I'm not optimistic.

Issue #5 Predictions
I suspect that, even though the entire world is absolutely positive that this will be the issue where Godzilla finally faces Lucifer, it won't happen. IDW will disappoint the world. This is my prediction. Because when has anything I've ever cared about not ended horribly?

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