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​​​​​​​God Country (Image Comics, 2017; #1-6)

Never underestimate the curative power of an anime sword.

When a demon rides into town on a tornado and a magical sword shows up, an aging Texan named Emmett with Alzheimer’s picks up the weapon and regains his faculties.  The only problem?   The god who forged the sword wants it back.  And he’s willing to send his sons—the gods of war and death—to get it.  But the sword is a god too, and it’s on Emmett’s side.  So maybe he stands a chance of holding his own, hanging onto his memories, and saving his beleaguered family.

Central to Donny Cates’s story are the ideas of finding validation through remembering one’s history and heritage and of accepting the faults that are a part of living.  Emmett’s battle with Alzheimer’s plays out as his son Roy wrestles with his own memories of and feelings about his father.  That Emmett’s story becomes a family legend, passed down from generation to generation stands in distinction to his inability to remember his own story. Both men struggle to accept Emmett’s prognosis in their own ways; sometimes, that plays out in obvious ways like Emmett’s refusal to let go of his sword or Roy’s difficulty balancing his loyalty to his father and his duty to his family.  Other times, Cates builds in more subtle symbols of their shared struggle, like a beloved family home that is comfortable despite showing signs of three generations of wear.  

All this plays against a pulpy story that reminds me of Birthright or Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye.  Instead of a devil-may-care attitude, these stories’ protagonists find themselves with nothing to lose.  Their children have grown.  Their wives have passed away.  Their health is in decline.  They have little to lose and nothing to hold them back when they fight.  Death, after all, was already on the horizon.  I find something fascinating in these mortality pulp comics.

Geoff Shaw brings a detailed, worn, shadowy style to God Country that would be perfectly at home in a horror title.  More than once while reading it, I wished for a Swamp Thing with his lines.  Jason Wordie’s colors carry a strong sense of light, with deep, contrasting colors standing in contrast to Shaw’s creeping shadows.

God Country is my first time reading Donny Cates’s work, and I dug it.  It’s a focused, six-issue pulp story that moves quickly and spares the reader any fluff.  Its only real shortcoming is that Roy’s wife Jane sees little development and comes across as unsympathetic despite being the book’s voice of reason.  Overall, though, the storytelling excels, and Shaw and Wordie’s pages look fantastic.  If the premise sounds like something you’d be into, then check it out.

Collected in

  • God Country (#1-6)

Writer: Donny Cates | Artist: Geoff Shaw | Colorist: Jason Wordie | Letterer/Designer: John J. Hill

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