Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trade Waiting - Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter

Beta Ray Bill Vs. Galactus. If you need more of a sell than that then you’re in the wrong area. And you’re no fun. In this trade Kieron Gillen takes Beta Ray Bill back into outer space where he came from and he sets out to exact the vengeance that his people have long demanded, Galactus must die. Hit the jump to see what I thought of this trade.

Beta Ray Bill was created by Walt Simonson back in his glorious Thor run of days gone by. He was a Korbonite who was one of very few who were worthy enough to wield Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. He’s a weird looking alien, basically a horse skull on a buff body, and he’s completely awesome. With that prelude out of the way let’s look at the trade.

Written by Kieron Gillen
Pencils by Kano and Dan Brereton
Inks by Kano & Alvaro Lopez, and Stephano Gaudiano, Mark Pennington & Scott Hanna
Colours by Javier Rodriguez and Jose Villarrubia
Collects Secret Invasion: The Green of Eden #1 and Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #1-3

This trade collects the Secret Invasion one-shot, The Green of Eden, by Kieron Gillen and Dan Brereton which looks at Beta Ray Bill being asked to aid a group of peace seeking monks to find a safe place out in the cosmos. They have a floating asteroid that they plan to turn into a temple, a safe house, a home. Beta Ray Bill feels he might be able to help him. We know that Bill usually chooses the noble choice so this makes sense. He couldn’t turn his back on anyone requesting succour.

While on the rock, Bill defends himself from an attack by one of the people who would try to harm this peaceful group. The assassin is a Skrull and Bill cannot believe that the killer would choose to keep coming even though he was drastically outmanned. Death is the only solution and though it pains Bill to deliver killing blow he can see the insidious enemy that these people face. If this is the fervour with which they are hunted then they truly will need his aid. This is a great sequence that shows Bill struggling to deal with the fanatic viewpoint of the attacker.

Bill returns to the group and tells them to be careful, if the Skrulls are attacking then they could be anyone. Of course, this is the moment he finds out the group are Skrulls themselves, though peace seeking ones. They quickly define that they are not war mongers and that their cause is true. They only seek aid in finding peace. They want Beta Ray Bill to be their new deity, which makes sense as the power of Asgard flows within him. He doesn’t feel that is right, he doesn’t feel he is worthy of such worship. He thinks people should only do right and good in this world and in their lives.

The love-in is interrupted by the introduction of an Asgardian Super Skrull (which will always be a nifty idea in my mind) and the final throwdown begins. Bill loathes the fact that he is caught in the middle of one race fighting amongst themselves and so he decides to not deliver ultimate victory to any side because that would most likely have to mean ultimate death to the other. He instead spares lives in the hopes that these Skrulls, whose numbers are already slender, might learn compassion and how to live in peace. Bill’s statement finds its mark far truer than any might ever could. He makes a difference and hopefully the universe can become just that little bit of a better place.

It’s a simple one-shot but one handled quite deftly by Gillen’s words and his scenes. He fits quite a bit of concept into one issue and the art by Dan Brereton is splendid to slowly pore over. I think this issue stands up as a very solid read, well worthy of purchase as a one-shot, fantastic when contrasted against most event tie in issues, and definitely a pleasure to have included in this trade as a first card fight.

The big bout, Godhunter, kicks off with Beta Ray Bill fighting alongside his hammer brother, Thor, to save Japan from a massive wave. They chat throughout the simple ordeal and then Bill heads off into space to fulfil the mission that he knows he must attend to. It’s a simple set up but it gets Bill where he needs to be. What could have been a static conversation is instead made more dynamic and given more epic scope as befits two gods with kick ass hammers.

Bill stops through the in-reconstruction Peak to see Agent Brand who he thinks might have some idea of where to find Galactus. Brand does have a bead on the world eater, because as far as intergalactic spies go she’s one of the best, and she gives that news to Bill, in exchange for him doing her a favour. Bill has to take down an intergalactic arms dealer, a creature who peddles in black holes and destructive and strange meteoric organs. Gillen packs this scene with some fantastical ideas and I would have liked to see it play out with more space to really revel in those concepts. This entire sequence goes on to mean much more later in the story so it would have been nice to see Gillen get the opportunity to unleash all he could have here instead of rushing through it as he most likely had to do for pacing reasons.

Galactus has found a new planet to feed on, via his herald Stardust, and he is ready to feed. The inhabitants of the planet have mostly fled in preparation but the last convoy out gets stuck and prepares to become another entrée in the endless meal that Galactus is forever on, when Beta Ray Bill suddenly shows up to save the day. It’s interesting watching Bill think he can go up against a creature that eats entire planets. What damage could he really do? Bill is easily able to handle Stardust, which shows just what a heavy hitter Bill is. He’s fine on a cosmic scale, he can easily hold his own, but his idea to suffocate Galactus’ food supply by pre-emptively blowing up the planets he plans to feed on is an ingenious one.

Unfortunately, Stardust tracks the I’than people to their new planet in a viciously cruel move and gets Galactus to follow there. Meanwhile, Bill is busily fighting the Silver Surfer who says that this vengeance quest cannot be fulfilled. Bill feels differently and all the while Galactus looms ever closer. We learn the history of the I’than people and Bill goes to his dark prisoner to get some nastier techniques to foil Galactus’ plans.

Bill succeeds in destroying another planet, after having rather sneakily tricked the I’than people into doing his bidding, and Galactus remains hungry. It’s a fantastic ploy that Bill uses, and well thought out by Gillen, but this ignoble act causes Bill to lose the ability to lift his beloved hammer, Stormbreaker. Bill is no longer noble and pure of soul and so no longer has the right to wield his weapon. It’s an intriguing question to ponder. Whether advancing your ultimate goals is worth sacrificing your personal worth?

The plan is working and Galactus grows weaker. It’s almost disturbing seeing the Galactus armour wrapped around such a shrinking and withered old man. Bill’s plan is in its endgame but then the Surfer returns to announce that if Galactus were to perish that he would take a lot more life with him. He’s a force of the universe and to lose him would be cataclysmic. Faced with such a choice it seems almost inevitable what Bill will do. He’s a noble creature, good willed and chaste but his actions leading up to this moment put his final decision in doubt. Will Bill find the fortitude to do what is wholistically right?

The ending is quite powerful and, to me at least, seems like one of the more rounded pieces of characterisation for the guy in the massive purple headdress. In the end, he blesses Bill with another Korbonite, so that the fate of the species will rest on their two heads no longer his own. It’s a shrewd move and one that provides Bill with plenty of other space to have adventures. He returns to Earth with Ti Asha Ra to start a new life and see the Korbonite race into a brand new day.

Verdict – Buy It. This is an epic cosmic story that doesn’t really require you to come in with any previous knowledge. It’s stand alone and it’s exceptionally well done. Kano’s art suits the sweeping space plains and his Bill is fantastically drawn. Gillen makes a story that is ultimately all about the good within Bill and the choices he must make as a creature so strong, so angry, and yet with such responsibility. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and I’d recommend it to a variety of fans. It’s got good scenes, a density to the dialogue so you know you’re getting your moneys worth, a wide cast of interesting characters, and a hammer wielding, horse-skulled god, of sorts, against a world eating dude in purple duds. This is why comics were invented and Stan and Jack would be proud.

Like this review? Interested in Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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Kirk Warren said...

I loved this book from the minute i first saw some scans posted online. They dominated the motw and I had to go back to the shop and pick it up. Didn't even register on my radar as a book to get originally, but turned out to be one of my favourite miniseries. Glad to see you enjoyed it Ryan.

Anonymous said...

Excellent write up! Thanks, I already read in floppies and loved it but can direct friends here to convince them to pick up the trade. In fact I probably get the trade as well. I'm probably read this now and then. Beta Ray is such a cool and unique character in a medium full of unique and cool characters. Plus yeah, the scenes with Galactus were pretty neat too. The story the art, all solid.

Also on a side note, thanks site for bring back Anonymous comments, I know it can be more trouble than its worth, but all that other stuff hurts my head.

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