Review: God Country

Quick Summary

Pros: The message of the story is great and well crafted throughout. The family aspect of the book is wholesome and touching. The art perfectly captures the book’s themes.

Cons: The story relies on plot convenience and unexplained motivation to drive things forward a little too often.

Overall: Set against a backdrop of mystical sci-fi, this book is a touching examination of death, family, and legacy. It delivers this message though a poignant and entertaining allegory. Though the story stumbles in a few places, its positives far outweigh its negatives. Don’t go into this book expecting mindless action, expect to be touched by the story of a man coming to terms with life and death.

Story

God Country, by Donny Cates, is not a story about a magic sword. Instead, it is an allegorical tale about death imbued with themes of family and legacy. It sets these themes against the tale of a man with Alzheimer’s who is cured and is then forced to enter a battle against forces far beyond himself. There are a few moments in the book where things don’t exactly make sense and feel rushed, but these can be overlooked when compared with the gravity of what the book is trying to say. God Country is, above all else, a touching and wholesome message wrapped in an entertaining narrative.

(spoilers start here)

This story sees Emmett, an old man with Alzheimer’s, suffering from the final stages of the disease when a magical sword, Valofax, appears at his house. The sword cures his Alzheimer’s but also makes him a target for intergalactic gods, lead by Attüm, who want the sword as well. He battles them and manages to defeat them all, at the price of his own life.

While this plotline seems pretty straightforward and heroic, it actually forms the backdrop to a well crafted and fitting allegory about death and legacy. Like Attüm, Emmett only cares about avoiding death and, also like Attüm, Emmet sees Valofax as the solution. However, by the end of the book, he realizes that he doesn’t care about the sword anymore, he just wants his family to be safe.

This conclusion is something Emmett is only able to realize near his death. He sees the man his son has become and has seen how wonderful his granddaughter is. This makes him realize that he will never go away completely, because he is a part of them. The moment he realizes all of this is wonderfully heartwarming and does a fantastic job in touching readers emotionally while also working well with the book’s overall message. It takes everything the book has been saying and drives it all home in one page.

The book is great overall in terms of its message. However it makes sacrifices to the story in order to get there. Coincidence and unexplained motivation drive the plot more than many other books. For example, Emmet listens to and ignores Valofax at random, making his character seem calm at some times and erratic at others; no one’s powers or abilities are explained, thus eliminating any interest or stakes from the book’s fight sequences; and Valofax is the ultimate deus ex machina, with the ability to heal Emmet in almost every case except when it is the most dramatic for him to die. All of this adds up in a way that makes it seem like the story has to take shortcuts to get to its point.

All of these discrepancies can be mostly explained away though because, according to the narration, the story doesn’t really matter. The narrator suggests that the story’s message matters far more than getting there. In some ways this is understandable as it fits well within the book’s themes. However I, personally, did not find this explanation to be completely satisfactory and was still bothered by the lackadaisical nature of the storytelling, though it did dull the blow. This might be something that will vary from person to person depending on your personal preferences.

(spoilers end here)

Art

Geoff Shaw’s art and Jason Wordie’s colors come together beautifully throughout this book. Shaw’s art style is impressive from the get go but what really makes the book pop is the way he shifts it to change the mood. He’ll draw a field in the middle of Texas with sharp lines and harsh details, cementing it in reality. Later on though, he’ll depict a chaotic celestial battleground, complete with Kirby Krackle. Wordie’s colors do this as well; the scenes in Texas are muted and realistic while the space scenes are psychedelic and colorful. All this adds up together to be a very pleasing visual experience.

In particular, one of the pages near the very end of the book is paneled and depicted marvelously. Without spoiling anything, it is a crystalizing moment where everything in the book comes to a head and the theme of the work is solidified. It is a well written moment to be sure but the art is what will give you chills when reading.

Continuity

This comic is published by Image Comics, a creator owned publishing company who’s titles do not often crossover with each other. Thus this title, like many other Image Comics, maintains its own continuity. This means you will receive everything you need to understand the story in this book.

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