Review: GOD COUNTRY #1

Written by Donny Cates
Art by Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, and John J. Hill
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: January 11, 2017

Some of us like to think of our fathers, our grandfathers, as honorable men, men who have fought hard in some mystical past that they remember fondly. We think of them as potentially valiant heroes, strapped with charm and the ability to protect the family, and maybe even on occasion, the world from the doom that plagues us all.

Some of us like to think this, yes, but few get to actually live this in the scale presented in God Country #1, a brand new series from Image Comics by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, with colors by Jason Wordie and letters/design by John J. Hill.

God Country #1 opens with a tale of mythic proportions. I’m talking gargantuan. The simple narration warns us of the story to come, a tale passed down through generations, a tale perhaps unbelievable.

We are then presented with a dusty town in West Texas, where Roy, a middle-aged family man is taking care of his ailing father, Emmett. His father, afflicted with dementia, is becoming more and more difficult to care for. (SPOILERS AHEAD) But, when a massively terrifying tornado roars into town, followed quickly by a hellish monster that could rip apart a man, Emmett rushes forward with a weapon straight out of Dungeons and Dragons and slices him to shreds.

Besides turning Emmett into a god-like entity, the giant sword also brings him out of his dementia. This tale it seems, is about these abilities and the story behind him, as well as the terrifying prospects they hold for the menacing god who wants his massive sword back.

Donny Cates. Familiarize yourself with that name. I’ve been reading a lot of Cates’ work these past few years, most recently his work on Interceptor which provided some awesome vampire sci-fi with brutal action. I’ve come to know Cates as a guy who can write violence and action really well, especially as he is often paired with artists who can draw some truly glorious fights.

I came into God Country expecting that. I expected action. What I didn’t wholly expect, however, was the gut-punch emotional impact this issue had on me.

Cates has certainly proved his capabilities in the past for a knack towards fast dialogue and quick-paced story with a strong emotional implications (see: Buzzkill), but this was on a whole other level.

The family dynamic is beautiful here; the complexities of aging parents and a blossoming family-life with your own child are spelled out in a sad, but all-too-often true fashion. This book is hard to read because of that. It’s difficult to watch someone have to deal with compromising old family with new.

Luckily for us, though, we don’t go too far down the rabbit hole just yet, as the story intensifies with a truly incredible premise: the introduction of a massive sword wielded by the very person who has been made to seem vulnerable.

The ending pages of the book deliver a fast-paced, action-packed, no-holds-barred terrifying storm that brings with it a demon creature of epic proportions. I love this. I was absolutely thrilled by the mixture of strong emotional pacing and abruptly terrifying action.

The transition helped along by the gentle narrative voice Cates writes with propelled this story into one of the most interesting reads I’ve come across in awhile. Cates has knocked the voice of this book out of the park. The dialogue and narration was solid through and through. A truly perfect blend of action and emotion.

Remember what I told you what to do with the name “Donny Cates”? Well, you better be remembering the name “Geoff Shaw”, as well. This book is an absolute treat in terms of art. Every page is alluring, begging you to look into every corner for the rippling emotion that exudes off each panel. The characters are intimately human; they could be you, me, that guy on the street.

The natural tone of the first two-thirds of this book help set the stage for extraordinary events that follow. Shaw is just as great at drawing a laid back, very human scenes as he is with drawing viciously brutal action (again, see: Buzzkill). On those pages where Roy is dealing with his father and trying to justify his compulsion to help him, I was moved to tears. Looking at the deeply raw images Shaw produced here, I couldn’t help but hurt with the Roy.

Now, we move to the massive tornado and the chaos that follows. Shaw was absolutely amazing at illustrating the insanely terrifying tornado that brought the monster to West Texas. This thing chilled me to the bone, because, frankly, Shaw captured the monstrosity of nature in a way that made me want to stay indoors for awhile.

This just goes to show that Shaw is able to match Cates pacing, coupling deeply emotional moments with fast-paced action in ways that kept me fully engaged. Jason Wordie’s colors are complimentary to Shaw’s line-filled art, providing a gently colored composition that feels natural when necessary, and otherwordly when the threats are introduced. The colors always additive, never muddied, a task not always easy when working with linework as detailed and dynamic as Shaw’s. John J. HIll also brings to the table an expert sense of design, helping to lay out the tone of the book with borderless balloons and charismatic graphics.

God Country #1 is one of the finest books I’ve read. Everything about this book is captivating. It’s human and tender, but pulls in elements of the fantastic in a tight and compelling story. I cannot say enough good things about this book. This is a story that demands your attention.

Go forth. Conquer it.

The Verdict: 10/10


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