COMIC REVIEW: God Country TP Vol 1

Is it possible to tell an original story featuring Gods and humans and a magical doodad? Donny Cates (Buzzkill, The Ghost Fleet) might have just pulled it off with this collected edition of God Country from Image Comics. Working with artist and regular collaborator Geoff Shaw (Buzzkill) and colourist Jason Wordie (Johnny Red), Cates has a new tale to tell. One of Emmet Quinlan and a huge enchanted sword called Valofax. The dedication at the beginning of the book is for ‘Dad’ which is telling. You see, as this book begins, Emmet is a widower with dementia.

Emmet Quinlan, an old widower rattled by dementia, isn’t just a problem for his children—his violent outbursts are more than the local cops can handle. When a tornado levels his home—as well as the surrounding West Texas town—a restored Quinlan rises from the wreckage. The enchanted sword at the eye of the storm gives him more than a sound mind and body, however. He’s now the only man who can face the otherworldly creatures the sword has drawn down to the Lone Star State…

Family life is tough for the Quinlans. A storm is brewing in the American south. Roy’s devotion to his father, Emmet, is tearing his family apart. Janey, his wife, and daughter Deena are leaving after a scary incident with old Emmet. The tornado at the heart of the storm destroyed Emmet’s house before they got too far. What is left is a demonic shadow, and it’s coming for Deena.  Until Emmet strikes him down with a sword twice his size. While holding onto the sword, his memory is back; the dementia gone. Is Emmet now a god? Well, the real Gods have other ideas and they want their sword back. And so ends chapter 1.

God Country

God Country preview

Cates tells the story with a colloquially styled narration. Someone, and no-one we’ve met yet, is talking directly to us. This is old-fashioned storytelling, in a sense. This is what happened and, at the conclusion of this edition, this is why we’re here now. Emmet has a series of adventures as he learns about the sword and the place where the Gods live – the Kingdom of Always. We learn a little more about family and responsibility. Roy and Janey are shown to be dealing with the reality of mental illness and an absent father. All the while, Emmet faces the grief of losing his wife head on.

Some brave story elements in what is essentially a new mythology that Cates and colleagues are creating in God Country. Shaw’s art is a familiar style if you’ve read a lot of Image comic books. There is a significant amount of detail and an attempt at realism and depth. Shadows play an important part in the design. Emmet has a significant paunch, and the characters’ faces show plenty of emotion. The landscapes of both Texas and the Kingdom of Always are beautifully drawn, and coloured by Wordie. The panelling is fairly traditional, mostly widescreen. There are a few spectacular full-page drawings too, as the creators seem to be attempting to highlight the scale of the story; both in terms of the godlike mythology and the meaning of dementia to the family – the page with Roy and Janey with the toy sword is particularly poignant and striking. The demons and other creatures are fairly grim creations, and fit well within the world-building.

This edition also includes a set of variant covers from artist Gerardo Zaffino (Winterworld), along with some of his original concept art, plus some pin-ups from various artists.

God Country pushes most of my buttons in what I want from a comic book. It has an intelligent and engaging story with some interesting characters. It’s not always as serious as it sounds from the subject matter – there are gloriously exciting and fun elements too. It has lovely artwork and some wonderfully crafted scenes. I’d have liked it to have been a tad more daring in its presentation; with the exception of the full-page panels, I felt it was a bit too traditional in format, especially considering the storylines. A very worthwhile effort, however, and perfect for fans of fantasy comics. And I didn’t mention Neil Gaiman once…do’h!

Title: God Country

Publisher: Image Comics

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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