Greetings Skawwliens, and welcome to another Comic Talk. This month, I had the pleasure of reading several great comics, but one that really stood out was God Country by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw. Heads up, there are spoilers in this article so look out for the ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** sign.
Here’s the basic premise of the story: Roy moves his wife and young daughter to a rural town in West Texas to be closer to his father, Emmett Quinlan, whose health is deteriorating. Emmett is losing his memory because he has Alzheimer’s disease and has become angry and violent. His anger stems from not being able to remember things like his recently deceased wife.
When matters come to a head and Roy has to choose between losing his wife and daughter or caring for his out-of-control father, the supernatural intervenes. A storm comes, bringing a demon and a talking sword named Valofax. This sword, for some unknown reason, chooses Emmett to be its wielder, and as long as Emmett holds the sword, his memory is restored. Unfortunately, the sword belongs to Gods from another universe and they will stop at nothing to get it back.
What ensues is a mix of Emmett trying to make up for lost time with his family and an epic battle to keep his memory alive.
Holy hell was this comic memorable! Something that immediately sets this comic apart from the typical hero tale is that our main character is older and suffering from a degenerative mental disease. He is not necessarily a good man or even a really great father, but he is a fighter, and it seems that he did the best he could for his family.
One important voice in the story that is not mentioned in the synopsis is an omniscient narrator who tells the story as though it is one that has been handed down for generations, commenting on the fact that parts of it might be exaggerated. The narrator does this with a southern accent that to my untrained California ears felt real and enhanced my immersion in the story.
For me, this whole adventure is truly about memory, story, and letting go. Roy is having trouble letting go of his father even though his father was never particularly loving towards him growing up. There are some hard moments when Emmett criticizes Roy for being weak. Emmet also has trouble letting go of the memory of his wife who has passed away and his ability to take care of his family. He refuses to relinquish the sword even after he is almost killed several times.
Furthermore, the king of gods, Attum, has trouble letting go of Valofax, the sword that he forged and once brought a golden age to his empire. As his empire is crumbling, Attum has a choice between keeping his empire and his sons alive or using his power to go after the sword. He chooses to go after the sword. And, as you can imagine, things don’t turn out that great for Attum.
At one point, one of Attum’s sons, the god Aristus, is reassuring Roy’s wife, Janey, that everything will be okay. He says that their family will be okay because they have an heir, their daughter Deena. This is in stark contrast to Attum’s family because he is willing to let his sons and his entire kingdom die because of his pride.
After some glorious fight scenes, we are left with a moment between father and son. Although Emmett is not strong enough to speak to his son, he finds a way to pass him something more important than a sword. This becomes the story that is handed down to through generations to our narrator. The narrator reminds us that our ancestors and the people we love can live on in the stories we tell about them.
I also really enjoyed the colors done by Jason Wordie. Great vibrant pastels for the Texas landscapes and bright neons for the otherworldly entities like the sword and the gods. I was impressed with the different styles that Geoff Shaw was able to pull off with western landscapes, brutal fight scenes, Asgard-like characters, and science fiction scenes. One thing that I wasn’t as into was the use of many tiny black dots in places to show age and wear and tear. I think the cross hatching and line work would have been enough. I prefer characters faces to be slightly more “clean,” but this is truly a personal preference. I think that this technique does fit with the gritty feel of the comic. The emotional weight, colors, and blurred background make the page below one of the most beautiful in this series.
God Country is unique in that it mixes classic comic book tropes and characters with regular humans to deal with struggles that we mortals must face, struggles like Alzheimer’s, growing old, letting go, and our own mortality. The great part is that God Country isn’t coy with how it uses comic book tropes, it acknowledges that even though the sword was really freakin’ cool, it was really just a means to tell this story. And the story, our story, is what endures.