Comic Book Review: God Country #1

As we all know, swords and devastating, life-changing storms aren’t exactly anomalies in the world of comics. But what happens when, by way of said storm, the sword falls into the hands of a dementia-stricken elderly man who fully regains his mental and physical faculties any time he wields it? Normally fantasy/superhero stories tend to approach themes of mental and overall human frailty in a more metaphorical than literal sense, but God Country, the new series from co-creators Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw (Buzzkill), is not your average tale of swashbuckling hijinks. Not by any stretch.

Life is a little rough for Roy Quinlan; he is entrusted with the care of his father, Emmett, who no longer recognizes his own son and is prone to violent outbursts and run-ins with the law. As his wife Jane’s resentment grows more palpable, Roy’s marriage begins to buckle under the weight of his responsibilities to his father. As Jane storms off with their young daughter after one of Emmett’s episodes, a storm of a different sort hits their rural Texas town, one that carries the power–and the sword, Valofax–to elevate Emmett Quinlan to god status. Unfortunately Emmett can only sustain these powers with the sword in his possession. And unbeknownst to our unlikely new hero, a couple of uninvited guests have followed Valofax on its journey, including its original owner, who aims to reclaim his lost blade.

Cates’ story is certainly off to an intriguing start. Even though much of the focus in this premiere issue at face value seems to be on Roy and his family, his role is more that of a conduit of Emmett’s side of the story, and enough shines through to both inform the reader and pique its curiosity. An unseen, briefly introduced narrator provides the framework for Emmett’s story as local campfire legend in his West Texas hometown. All of the setup elements are in place for what promises to be a no-holds-barred fantasy story replete with everything Donny Cates loves about comics: “…heart, action, giant swords, Kirby Gods, Texans, magic tornados, and family drama,” to be specific in the words of Cates himself.

Geoff Shaw’s art never disappoints (see The Paybacks if you really need confirmation on this), and God Country is certainly no exception. The physical and emotional turmoil of its events leaps off the page, immediately accessible, conveyed with the same urgency, care and deliberation as Shaw’s more superhero-oriented work. The frenetic tornado sequences especially draws the reader in, their kinetic, old-movie-ish aesthetic sweeping the audience away into the eye of the storm right alongside Emmett Quinlan. Jason Wordie’s gorgeous colors top things off, adding layers of texture and tone to further catapult each panel to epic greatness.

Like all of Cates and Shaw’s collaborative efforts, this series is worth keeping on your radar, and shows tremendous promise of what is to come. Even though we’ve just met, I can tell already that the comics world has never seen a god quite like Emmett Quinlan. So buckle up, folks; sounds like we’re in for a helluva ride…a ride…into GOD COUNTRY.

(Aaaand scene!)

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