Written by: Donnie Cates
Art by: Geoff Shaw & Jason Wordie
Published by: Image Comics
God Country is going to be the next great Image book.
Perhaps arriving at that conclusion after a single issue is a bit premature. The debut could be one gigantic red herring. But it is such an incredible first outing that I have a hard time believing that will end up being the case. God Country thrives in the realm of the unexpected, and it’s better for it.
Because I avoid solicitations, I don’t know which plot details were already swirling around. Fortunately, I managed to avoid all of them. When I started reading this issue, I assumed it was telling a story in the vein of Southern Bastards: a character-focused story about the southern United States.
I guess, in some ways, it is. The first half of the issue wears that identity on its sleeve, as far as I can tell. Cates uses most of this page space on character moments, which serve to establish who these people are. More importantly, they establish the conflicts between the characters–conflicts that feel very real. I came out already caring about the character dynamics.
It’s a rare book that is able to deliver emotional pay off in its first issue.
And then the second half of the book goes off the fucking rails.
I guess I should say that, even before the fantastical twist, I was incredibly invested in the story being told. I really hope the family conflicts don’t get lost going forward. In fact, I feel that they need to remain the focus of the book.
But also the grandfather stole a god’s sword and used it against a demon? Like, holy shit. That’s pretty goddamn cool. And it looks the part. Geoff Shaw’s art, with Jason Wordie’s colors, brings the panels to life. They’re gorgeous to look at, capturing the grandiose nature of God Country.
And Donnie Cates? He knows when to get out of the way. There are some pretty wordy pages in this comic, but man, knowing when and where to employ them is what pushes this book over the top. Of course, credit here goes to letterer John J Hill as well, who never once lets the writing cover up important aspects of the art.
Narratively, Cates is doing some interesting things as well. From the get-go, he establishes that we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator. I’m excited to see how Cates takes advantage of that particular aspect of the story going forward.
I cannot recommend God Country #1 enough. I know this review is coming out a bit late, but seriously: go back to your comic book store and get this book. Cates, Shaw, Wordie, and Hill have crafted something special here. It would be a shame for your dollars to be wasted elsewhere.