Texas, USA is a lot of things to a lot of people. To vacationers, it’s a land of pastures and steaks, to foreigners, it’s the crown of American civilization, and to writers, artists, and dreamers, it’s the last thundering vestige of the American southwest. But to locals, it’s simply God’s Country. A large and fantastical expanse of the spirit of the pioneers with dreams of a simple life wrought from the fruit of the land. Image Comics take that idea one step further and creates a literal representation of the states nickname. Focusing on a man who had been reborn as a god, the work goes beyond the fantasy angle and explores family, dedication, and the wretch of mental illness. Part Cormac McCarthy, part Roman mythology, God Country takes the strange and violent world of the border state and brings it to life with magic and mayhem.
The comic revolves around a family burdened with taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient. Grandfather Emmet, usually a kind and gentle man, has slowly become more and more crazed as his mental facilities fade which, as expected, forces undo pressure on his son’s life. With the threat of losing his wife and daughter to the stress, son Roy is forced to choose between his family’s happiness or his father’s sanity. Luckily for him, he never has to make the decision. A freak storm blazes through their small Texan town, awakening something, or someone, deep within Emmet’s body. A god or perhaps a monster, Emmet is not only back to his old self, but he is now in possession of a sword that attracts others to his small part of the world, those much more powerful than he ever was.
God Country is definitely a slow burner kind of read. The description that I gave of the comic is literally the entire first issue (and I’m not even giving away spoilers, the official synopsis has all those details). It’s an okay read so far as originality is concerned. The American fantasy angle isn’t done too often; usually when swords and demons are concerned, it’s more of a European or Hyperborean type of deal, so that was pretty cool. The Texas setting is good for the isolation vibe the creators were going for, but it’s strange that the creatures that they put into it aren’t actually part of American culture. It’s both intriguing and confusing. So far, the most interesting part is the dementia part, watching Emmet fall apart and his family deal with it. There’s a very palpable, real stress that these people are feeling and you really feel for them, including the sense of relief that they get when he shakes off the bonds of earthly illness.
The author Donny Cates really tries to make something new in the work and while he has a great idea and execution, the characters themselves are super boring. It’s less that that there are unique characters that are responding to a situation and more of characters created specifically to react to a situation. Emmet is really the only one that has some kind of life in him, everyone else is very one dimensional and only exists to further Emmet. Roy is burdened with a heavy, worried brow, his wife does nothing but yell and be angry and his daughter is smeared in candy. Husband, wife, child. You feel for their problems, you really do, but it’s only because of Emmet’s mental situation, not because you care about them.
Geoff Shaw’s art is much like the writing, great execution but kind of boring. This is definitely professional level work, but the characters are stiff and lack real life to them. That being said, he’s got a great eye for cinematic angles and shadows and he knows exactly when to drop the crazy bomb. There’s a great shot of the little girl’s frightened eyes when her grandfather threatens to kill her that really sums up the anxiety of the comic. Also Jason Wordie’s colors really help push the comic forward with soft and flowing hues that contrast beautifully with Shaw’s splatter ink technique. It really puts you into the created space as you move from panel to panel.
God’s Country isn’t afraid to explore the unknown both inside the human mind and out in the endless spread of life and despite a few hiccups, has the potential to be very interesting. First issue out now!