When COVID-19 brought the comics industry to a screeching halt, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature called New To You Comics.
Comics are on their way back, but we had so much fun with this thing, we decided to keep going.
Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. I tend to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
The idea here is to break up that pattern a little. Tony’s throwing some of his favorites my way, and I’m sending him some of the books that I really love. Every title we cover is brand new to one of us, and every stinking one of them is available on digital and mail order platforms, in case your local shop is still closed.
This time around, I’m throwing this thing back to one of Donny Cates’ early collaborations with Geoff Shaw, Image Comics’ God Country. Also, one of Comicon’s Senior Editors, James Ferguson will be joining us this week.
Here’s what Image tells us about the book:
Southern Bastards meets American Gods in a high-stakes fantasy series that masterfully blends high-octane action and jaw-dropping worldbuilding. In God Country, readers meet Emmett Quinlan, an old widower rattled by dementia. Emmett isn’t just a problem for his children—his violent outbursts are more than the local cops can handle.
When a tornado levels his home—as well as the surrounding West Texas town—a restored Quinlan rises from the wreckage. An enchanted sword at the eye of the storm gives him more than a sound mind and body, however. He’s now the only man who can face these otherworldly creatures the sword has drawn down to the Lone Star State…
In God Country, salvation is a double-edged sword.
Brendan Allen: All right. Here we go. God Country. We’ve got Emmett Quinlan, a Texas widower suffering from Alzheimer’s and Emmett’s kid Roy, who’s doing his level best to take care of the old man. Trying, and failing, I should say. Emmett’s outbursts become violent, and local law enforcement tries to convince Roy to put Emmett in a home. Roy has to choose between his loyalty to his father and the wellbeing of his young family.
And then it hits the fan. Tornadoes, demons from another dimension, Kirby Gods, a giant magical talking sword…
Initial thoughts, fellas?
James Ferguson: You can definitely see the seeds of Cates’ Thor run in these pages. More importantly, this book manages to be equal parts huge epic sci-fi and close personal moments. It’s pretty amazing.
Tony Thornley: I’m a huge Thor fan, and I was raised on westerns. This is like the two of those things thrown into a blender. This was a lot of fun to read. And you see a lot of what made Donny Cates in these pages. It’s clearly a very personal story for him, on multiple levels.
Brendan: It really is. Donny Cates is from Texas, and loves the place. It really comes through. A bunch of his stories are set in and around Texas. Ghost Fleet, Buzzkill, Redneck…
Brendan: One of the things that gets me here is how well Donny Cates hits the family dynamic. You expect the action. The magic. Those epic fights. What Cates nails to the freaking wall is the complexity of the Quinlan relationships. Emmett wasn’t necessarily a great father, but Roy is bound by honor to stay and care for him.
But then, he loves his wife and daughter, and the decision to stay and do the right thing by Emmett may cost him everything he’s built around his own table.
Tony: It’s an extremely poignant character drama. There’s really no one main character in this story, because Cates wants to explore the entire family both on the mundane and the fantastic level. It’s as much about Roy, Janey and Dee as it is about Emmett.
A thought crossed my mind that I kind of wish that it had been at least a 12 issue series, because we would have gotten more about the sword, Emmett exploring his new powers, the town. As cool as that would have been, I think it would have taken away from this intimate story about the Quinlan family becoming a family again.
James: The family element hits really hard here, from the first page, where the dedication reads “For Dad” to every touching moment throughout. This is a comic that should be given to every new parent as it shows the full scale of what it means to have a kid and see that process through to the end. I cannot tell you how many times I teared up while reading this.
Tony: Geoff Shaw’s art has an expressive quality that works extremely well. I really dig it. He also has some really grand, majestic designs. It has this massive Walt Simonson-esque quality to it.
James: There’s a grit to the artwork that fits really well here. Emmett is not this perfect shining hero. He’s incredibly flawed and that shows in the line work. This contrasts well with this massive gleaming sword that seems to represent everything he’s not, but everything he could be.
Jason Wordie’s colors help this out a lot too. Valofax is bright and shining, like this beacon of hope in an otherwise dreary existence.
Brendan: Oh, yeah. Wordie’s palette plays a huge role in this one. Starts off all bleak and dry, when the family is being torn apart and Emmett is losing his battle with organic brain disease. Then, the tornado hits, Valofax shows up, and there’s hope. The colors intensify and the spectrum broadens. It’s a great little device that provides an emotional barometer for the reader.
Tony: I really would love to see Cates and Shaw play more with creating their own mythologies. Between Buzzkill and this series, we’ve now talked about two different entire universes that this duo has created together. Their worldbuilding is so very detailed and thoughtful. I’d love for them to take one of these concepts (not specifically God Country or Buzzkill though) and spend two or three years, rather than six issues, developing it into something as large and expansive as they’ve hinted at here.
James: I hear you on that, but I think this is the perfect length. There’s quite a lot implied with quick shots or subtle glances. Look at the first few pages. You get an immediate sense of the entire lives of this family over three generations from that first scene. It still manages to be a huge sweeping epic without feeling rushed.
Brendan: I agree with James here, and this actually comes up a lot in our discussions. I absolutely love it when you get to the end of a book wanting a bit more, but I’d really hate to see this amazing story get ruined by tipping the hand too much. Feels like with even double the chapters, at twelve, we’d start going down a lot of unnecessary paths with God Country.
Brendan: I think I know where this is headed, but I have to ask anyway. Final verdicts. Yea or nay?
Tony: I liked it. Pitch perfect family drama with a wonderful message. A fantastic world. Great action… I would revisit this in a heartbeat.
James: I love this book. Regardless of your relationship with your father, you will take something away from it. It’s impressive on that front as it hits on all these different aspects. Come for the giant sword, stay for the family drama. Thanks for having me!
Brendan: Any time. Thanks for hanging out with us. What’s up next, Tony?
Tony: We are going to follow up this story with its direct follow-up. We’ll be looking at Marvel’s Thanos Wins, the story that Cates and Shaw collaborated on immediately after this one.
God Country TP, Image Comics, 02 August 2017. Words by Donny Cates, art by Geoff Shaw, color by Jason Wordie, letters/design by John J. Hill.
Some of your local shops have re-opened. As always, we’d like to ask that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is still closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy of God Country for $12 at Comixology right here.