Review: God Country tpb
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colours: Jason Wordie
Letters: John J. Hill
Publisher: Image Comics
Calling God Country a fantasy adventure would be doing it a major disservice, for within lies something much more essential than a yarn told by a master storyteller involving other-realm beings yielding other-worldly powers. This is an allegorical tale where the central themes stretch out their hands to guide the readers through some uncomfortable truths that some may even relate to in all too real ways. The form taken by Cates (Buzzkill, Star Trek) reflects this; the story is imparted by a future relation of the central characters, a technique that immediately creates an almost biblical aura. Additionally, the opening’s conversational tone makes us feel like we’re invited into something that otherwise we wouldn’t be privy to, like an invite to fight club. This could very well be a personal story unravelling on a raw, public stage. So, what has Cates revealed?
The book’s opening sequences set the scene with an elderly widower, Emmett Quinlan, being returned home after being picked up confused and acting dangerously. His descent into Alzheimer’s is portrayed as deeply upsetting to his son, and his family, but also as a potential risk for all those involved. The symbolism of an unpredictable and relentless force is carried throughout the book and I’m sure won’t be lost on the reader. His return also harks the arrival of a storm that threatens to wreck everything the family hold dear, yet as well as surviving, the family witness Emmett emerging from it bearing an enormous sword. The sword not only reverses the onset of Alzheimer’s but allows the bearer to wield unimaginable power. And it’s this plot device that brings about visitations from gods and demons alike, in numerous fruitless attempts to seize the weapon.
The writing throughout is measured and centers on the human story within the story. This is invocative and moving, for the most part, and insightful within the complex relationships this family hold. The fantastical element to this, though clearly central, is presented soberly and the dialogue between human and demon, or god, is usually unlittered with cliches or bombastic statements that we might expect from an omniscient being. This approach, if anything, forces us to approach the book with a certain degree of caution; we’re looking for the meaning within the meaning but without being asked to work too hard to do so. The tale is also eye-catching, providing a visual feast too. Shaw’s (The Paybacks, Buzzkill) distinguishable art marries beautifully with the serious nature of the plot. Dulled hues and an almost apocalyptic feel feed into the ‘end-of-the-world’ themes and reflect the creeping discord that emanates from the blowback from dementia. Saying that, this isn’t a chore to read. The action sequences leap convincingly from the pages and the violence is captured from both near and afar giving great perspectives on what could have ended up as standard fare. Imagine the difference between seeing an atomic explosion from close up compared to the view from a satellite, to give to an idea of how playing with perspectives can play with impact. Measure and thoughtfulness are key here, and it works oh so well.
On my first reading, I couldn’t help but be lead inadvertently by the colour coding within the pages. The sequences in other realms are washed in darker and bluish hues and even the lettering is included with demonic or godly dialogue gives a bolder text and coloured dialogue bubbles. Onomatopoeic words emblazon frames, where needed, to hold true with comic standards and traditions. So overall, this may be a clever, clever book but it’s not over-reaching. The creators haven’t left the readership disillusioned but, as mentioned before, have lead us by the hand every step. The ending is testament to this, where we end with further dialogue from the teller of the tale but are very much left to draw our own conclusions about the nature of the events. I’d just witnessed one hell of a family party and now I was left to wonder whether I could handle another. To be honest, I wish I could.
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Review written by Arun S.
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