God Country – Graphic Novel Review

Earlier this year comic book reviews everywhere sang the praises of newcomer Donny Cates and the debut issue of his creator-owned God Country. The first issue was hailed by many as arguably the best issue #1 in quite a while (and those who keep up with comics know we have had a deluge of #1 books lately).  When I read God Country #1 I was drawn into the drama of this family in rural Texas, but it was the ending that absolutely blew me away. Apparently I was not the only person the first issue left an impression on because it seemed all the shops in my area could not keep the following issues from flying off the shelves. Fortunately Image has collected God Country by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw into the Trade Paperback format and I finally got to see if the rest of series follows the quality set by the initial issue. Needless to say the rest of the series goes into country2crazy brilliant territory which will keep any reader enthralled.

In a rural town in Texas, Emmett Quinlan’s mind has been ravaged by Alzheimer’s as he is watched over by his long-suffering son Roy and family. This leads to a living situation rife with tension, which is only added to when Emmett wields a 12 foot sentient sword to slay a demon who attacks his family. The sword, Valofax restores Emmett’s mind and body and gets the attention of the deities who want their weapon back. This kicks off a war between Emmett and a family of gods trying to get to him through his family in order to regain possession of the sword.

Writer Donny Cates has crafted one of the best fantasy comics in recent years. Utilizing high fantasy concepts to tell a heartbreaking story about family cannot be an easy task but that is what he does in God Country. Each character he writes is a fully realized person or god with their own flaws and strengths. Sure the story he tells contains; giant swords, the land of the dead, and powerful gods; but he never loses focus on the fact the book is about a family dealing with a member who has been stricken with a horrible medical condition. In fact family is the engine which pushes this book forward, as Emmett does not keep the sword to hold power or fame, but rather because the weapon has healed his mind and for the first time in years he recognizes his loved ones. Because of this we care about this elderly Texan as he has to stand his ground against beings more powerful than he could imagine.

Artist Geoff Shaw has to walk a fine line throughout this series, not only must he illustrate a family caught in turmoil but also epic fantasy scenes as well. He walks this tightrope beautifully throughout God Country. He does not shy away from the Jack Kirby influences, which should only come natural when illustrating a pantheon and the science country1fiction/fantasy infused world they live in. From massive complex pieces of machinery to the Kirby Krackle which pervades the book, Shaw recognizes the King and pays him the proper respect. At the same time he keeps the focus on the fact this is a family drama set in the West and his style also has a grit and realism which keeps everything grounded no matter how crazy things get. His art is taken to another level by Jason Wordie’s colors, which maintain the mood of the book through the changes in scenery. From the warm earthy tones of Texas to the cold purples and grays in the realm ruled by the god Attum his coloring truly adds to the story.

God Country is one of the best books Image has published this year, and considering the output the publisher has had over the past few years that is saying a lot. It is a family drama with a sense of grandeur and epic like no other rendered with unique artwork. If like me, you missed the original run of this series, be sure to pick it up in trade.