By Ben Snyder
In a ruined and impoverished world, most people can’t live like a God necessarily. But they can live through them. That is the premise that Dread Gods #1 establishes and while not entirely novel, I couldn’t put down the first issue. The action is gory and fluid, the writing is hammy but effective, while not a perfect issue Dread Gods #1 leaves me craving more in the best way possible.
Ron Marz pens the story of a derelict human city that has to fight in a public square to jack into a public empathy box/matrix-esque contraption. The original inspiration for this idea immediately made me think of Mercerism in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Phillip k. Dick, and I am interested to see if they go in that route. The main character focus on the human world seems to be handicapped mutant named Carver. In the initial scrap to be connected to the gadget, he is consistently pushed out of the way; Marz does a great job of simply throwing you into this situation, which adds to the hectic chaos of it all.
Once everyone is into the system, they live through the ancient Greek Gods. The character’s seem to compare it to a soap opera; some want romance, some want action. Marz doesn’t really go into the origin of this gadget or if these gods are real or not and it is interesting to wonder if they’ll go that way. Maybe the common people are being controlled by a giant idiot box in the middle of the city forever dooming the town by selecting one person every blue moon to “help” them; which is exactly what happens to Carver.
It’s an interesting premise, but I’m afraid it can very easily disappoint. Ultimately we’ll have to wait for later issues, but with no hints on to which angle the story will take I’m left fearing the story will lose intrigue. Not to say that if they are actual gods that the story will suffer, I do not know I can’t see the future.
Tom Raney handles the art and does so admirably in this issue. The surrounding city looks war-torn and decrepit. Rife with untold stories I hope will be explored or explained. The people look poor and homeless. And in the center of the town stands a beautiful monolith brought to you by Prometheus. While the quieter scenes can be so-so, Raney truly shines in the action scenes. The skirmish in the town center is expertly frantic. You truly get a sense that everyone is out for himself or herself. Everyone wants to live like a God. Watching Carver in a wheelchair beat out a seemingly feral woman for the last jack makes the reader feel icky for rooting for him. Likewise, the battle scene against the hydra is also beautiful and fluid. Unlike the scene in the town square, this fight looks masterful. These gods know what their doing and Raney does an excellent job depicting them.
I love the character models of the gods in particular. It’d be easy and a copout to give Zeus the flowing white beard and matching gown and have the other gods follow suit. These gods look young and like warriors. They are out to fight. The panel of Zeus’s electrocuting the hydra emanates his power on full display.
Dread Gods #1 assures the reader this story is off to a unique and fresh start. While there is room for the story to eventually falter, the pros of the present greatly outweigh the cons of the future. Minor gripes aside, Dread Gods should be on everyone’s radar for future releases.
Dread Gods #1
Ominous Press/IDW Publishing