SUNDAY CLASSICS: Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter (Marvel, 2009)

What happens when an alien cyborg with a weapon as mighty as Thor’s hammer is bent on destroying Galactus? Many heroes have tried, and none have succeeded. But Beta Ray Bill has a plan, and even the mighty Devourer of Worlds will tremble!

Writer:  Kieron Gillen
Pencils:  Kano
Inker:  Alvaro Lopez & Kano
Colorist:  Javier Rodriguez
Lettering:  Nate Piekos
Publisher:  Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know: 
Galactus has destroyed the homeworld of the Korbonites, a race that Beta Ray Bill was created to protect. Left without purpose, Bill seeks vengeance and the destruction of the mighty Galactus. With only his sentient ship Skuttlebutt to help, Bill will stop at nothing to ensure that Galactus and his hunger will destroy no one else.

What You’ll Find Out (Warning – Spoilers!) :
Thor and Beta Ray Bill perform a heroic deed, saving a ship and Yokohama, Japan from sure destruction by a Tsunami. Once the city and vessel are saved, they reflect on the recent destruction of the Korbonite homeworld. This is when Bill announces his plan to finish Galactus’ and his planet-eating days for good.

Even his oath-brother Thor refuses to help Bill with his ludicrous plan to defeat the World Eater, so the cyborg heads off alone. On his way from Earth, Bill stops at the space-station The Peak, to see S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department) director Abigail Brand. Galactus, despite his size, isn’t easy to find unless you know what planet he’s getting ready to munch on next.

Brand has the latest whereabouts of Galactus well-documented. But since she doesn’t want the giant purple planet eater to find out who gave up his hiding space, she swears Beta Ray to secrecy. She also asks for a favor in return – seek out and bring back Voidian, an arms dealer who seemingly loves genocide and weapons of mass destruction.

Voidian’s stronghold and factory is a steampunk cathedral – and the Harbinger of Annihilation himself, dressed as a monk, announces penance to those who fail him (annihilation) and seals their fate with a single key of his pipe organ. After a few pages of combat, Beta Ray Bill puts an end to Voidian’s operations and takes him into custody, seizing much of the maniac’s arsenal in the process. 


With his new weapons and Brand’s bounty in tow, Bill returns to his mission to seek out Galactus. He arrives at I’than IX, just in time to see the planet being evacuated. The I’thians, a pacifist race of what appear to be space gerbils (I’m not kidding), are fleeing back to their main homeworld. Bill gets into a heated battle with Galactus’ herald, Stardust, while the I’thians continue their evacuation.

As Bill and Stardust fight, Galactus arrives. Knowing that he can’t defeat the Devourer of Worlds in combat, Beta Ray Bill calls on Skuttlebutt. Using weapons of mass destruction obtained in the strike against Voidian, Bill has his ship destroy the planet that’s just been evacuated. If he can’t beat Galactus in combat, he can starve him to death.


Norrin Radd, aka The Silver Surfer, decides to step in. After a confrontation (and more pages of combat) the space gerbils return. Now, they’re fully armed and ready for a fight. While Beta Ray Bill and Silver Surfer were having their Battle Royale, the I’Thians who had just made it safely back to their main planet were visited by Stardust – again.

Galactus would now feed on their homeworld. But instead of remaining peace-loving space gerbils, the I’thians have unlocked the weapons of their technological past and are ready for a standoff. They won’t leave their planet – they’ll fight Galactus to the death.

Now Beta Ray Bill has a problem.

What should he do? He doesn’t want to watch the poor rodent people decimated. Voidian, imprisoned in Bill’s sentient ship, has a plan. He suggests that Bill use a nano-plague from the looted Voidian arsenal and hold the antidote hostage until the I’thians flee. The end justifies the means, he whispers to Bill, and Galactus will continue to starve. In a totally immoral and perhaps rage-induced dilemma, Bill proceeds with the plan.


The I’Thians, cursing Bill for what he’s done, evacuate. All is well and the cyborg’s plan is coming to fruition – until he realizes that he can no longer lift his mighty hammer, Oathbreaker. Like Thor’s Mjolnir, only those pure of heart and of highest character can wield the twin hammers.

Now it’s up to Beta Ray Bill to confront his demons, and the remainder of the series finds him learning more about himself and trying to find peace. It’s a rather predictable end, which I won’t spoil here. But suffice to say that you’ve probably figured it out yourself, and you are probably right.

Rating:  5.5/10

Final Thoughts: 

If a comic book has relatively decent art, it gets at least a 5 in my ratings world – and the pencils here by Kano are solid. The inks by Alvaro Lopez and colors by Javier Rodriguez really bring out the effort put into penciling the splash panel pages and spacescapes found throughout the book. Kano’s artwork in the fight scenes is commendable, but the fights are overdone and take up far more space in the comics than necessary.

The writing here is where I have a problem. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but comic book dialogue, plot, and art all go hand in hand. What’s missing here is a good, solid tale.

What’s here is 1) Beta Ray Bill sets out to kill Galactus, 2) Bill figures out how to defeat him, and chooses the end over the means, 3) OOPS! Bill is in an ethical pickle and he’s not honorable anymore, and 4) All is well with the world, nothing really happened and Bill becomes honorable again because he’s examined the conscience which he really did have after all.

I’m not trying to pick on Kieron Gillen here, either. Much of the dialogue was clever and in many places it made me laugh out loud. Beta Ray Bill’s dialogue with Brand was memorable and all of the characters were portrayed as you’d expect. But predictability is a killer in comic books, and Godhunter is full of cliches and themes which have been used many times before. Let’s be honest – did you know before you picked up the comic that Beta Ray Bill wasn’t going to kill Galactus? Of course, you did.

This was easily a story that would have been better told in a 64-page one-shot comic. Instead, Marvel figured out how to get people to buy 3 issues at $3.99 a pop. Ouch! 

If you want to see Beta Ray Bill duke it out with the Silver Surfer or enjoy nicely drawn images of outer space and planets, pick up this series. It’s a quick and entertaining read, but certainly nothing worth remembering.

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