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Godzilla vs. Red Ronin vs. Dum Dum Dugan’s Hat, Monster vs. Mecha vs. Chapeau – Godzilla #5

October 7, 2013

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As many of you by now have heard and/or read, the proof of concept teaser for the new Godzilla movie “leaked” a few days ago. The quotes are because all leaks like these are the best publicity studios can have, giving even the lamest of future releases the aura of scarcity, of desirability — even of quality. But this one was spectacular, maybe the best film teaser seen since the Terminator 2 assembly line short ignited Pavlovian drooling in the early 1990s.  Though Warner Bros. has pulled it from a number of sites where it was posted, you can still see it *coughcough* here and there. Odd lesson: J. Robert Oppenheimer’s haunted voice (an aural window to a haunted soul) and Ligetti’s Requem from 2001: A Space Odyssey have a spectacular synergy. When the big guy’s hulking arm swings into frame as the sopranos’ shrieking reaches its apogee, well, if you don’t get chills, your love of genre filmmaking might be nonexistent. Rubber suits and Matthew Broderick are forgotten. Yes, Lucy has snatched this football away from us time and time again, but you have to have hope.

In honor of this spectacular Godzilla teaser, today we’re going to have a gander at a spectacular Godzilla comic. In which he fights Red Ronin. And in which Dum Dum Dugan’s hat appears. As stated: spectacular.  

Coming after this summer’s Pacific Rim (a film I found so abominably stupid, it completely undermined whatever joy there was in watching the dimly lit battles), it’s hard not to think of Jaegers and Kaiju when you see the Ernie Chan cover above. Indeed, in a corporate twist, Guillermo Del Toro has floated the possibility of the Rim franchise crossing over with the Godzilla universe — which sounds more like a pipe dream than anything. Though it seems that we as a species can live without that, any conflation in our minds is okay: Jaegers and Kaiju are just Red Ronins and Godzillas by other names, and vice versa. And Red Ronin’s creative origins are muddled up in all this, as he was inspired by the giant robot craze that worked its way over the U.S. from its original Japanese stomping grounds (hence the samurai look). Shogun Warriors, anyone?

And speaking of crossovers, back in the glorious 1970s Godzilla was in one of his most fruitful sustained meldings, spending time as a full-fledged denizen of the Marvel Universe. He’d cross paths with everyone from Devil Dinosaur to the Avengers, while in his own title his main nemesis was none other than Dum Dum Dugan, now heading SHIELD’s anti-Godzilla task force. We’ve looked at an issue of this run before, in which Godzilla slumbers like an adorable puppy, only lacking a pillow to curl up on. It was a good two year run.

This issue, like its predecessor scripted by Doug Moench with pencils by Herb Trimpe (and inks by Fred Kida), is wall-to-wall action. Rob Takiguchi, the grandson of Red Ronin’s designer, hijacks said giant robot and stomps around for a little while, before confronting Godzilla — and S.H.I.E.L.D. — at a nuclear missile base. (Long-time readers having deja vu should recall that Konga, the King Kong ripoff drawn by Steve Ditko, once romped about at a nuclear missile installation and hurled them like darts.) Much of the story centers on young Rob trying to master Red Ronin’s partially telepathic controls. He does, especially the laser sword that juts out of its arm:

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You might be wondering what Dum Dum is up to in this. He and the new hulking Helicarrier are watching the battle, dreading the moment when one of the giants stomps on a nuke and vaporizes them and nearby San Diego. But Rob, having the childlike affection for monsters so often glimpsed in comics and movies, sees them as a threat to the cuddly but clumsy and stupid Godzilla. So:

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Dum Dum and Co. are hence reduced to a Greek chorus, commenting on the events as they transpire.

What are some of Red Ronin’s other tricks, you ask? He has some cables that shoot out of his feet, so that he can perform a variant of the Speeders/AT-AT Hoth maneuver from The Empire Strikes Back. He latches onto Godzilla and tows him away from the nukes — which is admittedly a good thing. And if Godzilla could talk instead of just bellowing out his trademark roar, I’m pretty sure that he’d say “WHEEEEEEEE!”:

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They crash-land at the San Diego Naval Yards. Pacific Rim also had robots and monsters stomping around a shipyard. I like this 100x more than I liked that:

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How does it all end? With Godzilla stalking off into the sunset like the true anti-hero he is, all at Red Ronin’s urging. This makes Dum Dum so PO’d, he does the classic “exclaim while the cigar hovers in mid-air near your mouth” routine — if only the bowler had launched off his head simultaneously, we could give him a full 10.0 score:

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I wish the new Godzilla filmmakers the best. While Moench and Trimpe crafted a undeniably enjoyable book (Trimpe’s Godzilla was simultaneously terrifying and likable, as he should be), it’s no template to be used. The comic might be goofy fun, but the movie is going to be taking an understandably serious, metaphorical tack with their effort. I’ve always thought that a truly great monster movie would be largely “silent” much like 2001 or the films of Terrence Malick, letting an audience focus on the awe and scope instead of middling actors spouting dialogue that sounds as if it comes from a random word generator. It looks like they might have the same spirit in mind. We can hope. And we can remember the moment when Red Ronin towed Godzilla like a snowmobile dragging a kid’s sled.

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