Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: Godzilla # 1 (2012)

The King of Monsters is back yet again to smack down theaters and comic shops.  While the reviewers appear divided about the new Godzilla flick, indie comics publisher IDW rolls out a new miniseries, Godzilla:  Cataclysm this week.  Thus, all systems go at IDW.  Like Marvel and Dark Horse before them, IDW has shoved a lot the 'zilla down our throats in recent years.  IDW's Godzilla books have proven far better than the nineties Godzilla animated series on Fox Kids that was barely superior to its disastrous American feature film counterpart.  We need not go there any further.

IDW's runs include numerous other miniseries such as Godzilla:  Gangsters and Goliaths, The Half Century War and Kingdom of Monsters.  Then you have IDW's proposed full runs that reached their ends in a hurry, such as the simply-titled Godzilla prior to the more recent Godzilla:  Rulers of Earth recurring series.  You should be able to track down the former, wholly collected in the deluxe trade paperback Godzilla:  History's Greatest Monster just released last month.

IDW's Godzilla started in May, 2012 and ran only 13 issues, but it certainly left an impact out the gate with the debut issue.  An expositional scene featuring a gay wedding intercut by a giant tarantula (assumingly Kumonga) attack turns the simplistic Godzilla ethos on its ear with a sympathetic countercultural nod.  Zipping into an immediate fight for survival in "Forty Stories of Sheer Terror," Godzilla has resurfaced for the kabillionth time, only he's got his talons and fire breath turned upon Washington, DC. 

The White House obliteration in Independence Day hit a nervous mark that was chilling for its time, but in the more mindless world of Godzilla, the destruction of the Capitol building is just part and parcel.  At least it's not Tokyo, Nagasaki or New York.  The story hustles along through the point-of-view of a quasi-retired British special ops solider named "Boxer" in care of a young girl, Murakami, who has already been traumatized in the past by the tower-tall lizard menace.

Godzilla # 1 moves along briskly through the pen of Duane Swierczynski as Boxer does his damnedest to save Murakami from the crumbling high riser they live in, one that was purported to be impervious to monster rampages.  Chuckle, chuckle.  Looking a bit like a sequence out of Die Hard for a bit, Boxer and Murakami manage to pull off a frankly astonishing escape.  However, a brutal twist at the end of the first issue sets the somewhat apathetic Boxer into action.  The final frame has him calling in a favor from a mysterious friend named "Urv" to wage full-scale war against Godzilla and the other mega-monsters that have been storming Mother Earth.

There's a lot of suspension of disbelief required to hang with this story, in particular Boxer's survival after having the razed Capitol building dropped upon him.  Hey, suspension of disbelief is prerequisite whenever you sit in the presence of Godzilla, for crying out loud.  You don't come to this stuff for Othello.  If you somehow stomach your way through King Kong vs. Godzilla, nothing seems improbable afterwards.

Simon Gane's artwork on this series strikes of a collision between nineties Marvel art and Japanese manga, mainly with the human characters.  Appropriate enough as an homage to Toho Studios, but Gane saves his best touches for where they count.  Godzilla looks badass in this series (my son calls Gane's rendition "creepy") and while Rodan's a bit abstract in the one frame he's featured in the first issue, Battra's swarm over Seoul bears a classic comics look.  All setting up a killer two-page spread featuring "the most fearsome of them all."


                        Listenin' to:  Elvis Presley - Loving You

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