By Levi Remington
The Quinlan family has been coming to terms with Grandpa's new sword. You see, Emmett Quinlan has Alzheimer's, or at least he had Alzheimer's, but ever since a space demon rode into West Texas on a magical tornado, Emmett has received something else: Valofax, the multi-talented sword analog to Thor's Mjölnir. This God of Blades can slay demons, rebuild houses, and temporarily cure Alzheimer's with a flick of the wrist, but there's one small caveat: The God of War wants it back.
God Country is a special series. We're only a few issues in and it's operating with a confidence that takes other comics years to develop, if they ever do. Donny Cates has merged Mythic Gods with the Southern Gothic in a subversive way, completely avoiding the laughable self-seriousness that plagues other titles fiddling with broad fantasy concepts. Instead, God Country will make you laugh because it's funny. By no means is this a comedy, but it's highly aware of how ridiculous the situation is, and it uses that to pull some surprising humor out of its well-established characters.
Though the fantasy is extraordinary, the story is personal at heart. Cates grew up in Texas, and his love for the land and the people shines through in his writing. Geoff Shaw's art portrays the endless plains and country as a heavenly place, and this family symbolizes the impossible challenges that all country folk face in their efforts to live in the untamed wild. Cates' wonderful storybook-like narration lends to a more personal tone as well. At the beginning of each issue, the narrator brings you back up to speed, and the language is reminiscent of an old, established sage who's just sat you on his lap to bear witness to an oft-told legend.
While the first two issues were dedicated to set-up, this is the issue where characters are put into action. There are several great moments here, none of which I'll spoil, as they are best experienced for yourself. Cates deeply understands these characters, and it gives their interactions meaning. The issue concludes with a thrilling sequence where Valofax proves both a blessing and a curse to this family. I'll say no more.
Geoff Shaw's gritty line-art is excellent, and the wide panels have illustrated this setting with a scale appropriate for Gods. The inky blacks in this issue are reminiscent of Sean Phillips (Criminal, Kill or Be Killed) and Michael Lark (Lazarus), giving the story a dark, grimy feel. There's a beautiful opening page depicting the countryside at sunset, but that's the extent of landscapes for this issue, which predominantly takes place at night or in doors. The art becomes more impressive and more cinematic later, when the action kicks up. Though, I must admit I found a section involving the movement of many small blades to be difficult to follow.
God Country is more impressive every month it's released, and issue #3 may be the best yet. Donny Cates’ writing is top notch, and even in a bleaker, less visually-engaging setting, Geoff Shaw's art is expressive, moody, and satisfying. If the team can keep this up, we're in for one hell of a ride.
God Country #3
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Geoff Shaw
Colors by Jason Wordie
Letters & Design by John J. Hill
Published by Image Comics