"God Country #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Donny Cates
Illustrated by Geoff Shaw
Colored by Jason Wordie
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on January 11th, 2017
Roy Quinlan is in a bit of a rough patch. He's moved back to West Texas to take care of his ailing father after his mother passed away. This has strained his relationship with his wife, Jane, and daughter, Deena, especially since Roy's father is suffering from Alzheimer's and has become increasing violent. All of this changes when a strange storm hits, tearing apart his father's house and depositing demonic creatures nearby.
What is immediately striking about God Country is how quickly you're pulled into the characters' lives. You feel for Roy in a big way. He's torn between his father and his wife; his past and his future. On the one hand, he feels obligated to take care of his old man, but on the other, can he do that if it means losing the rest of his family?
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There is a heartbreaking scene where Roy's father rampages downstairs, angrily shouting at everyone around him. Deena rushes into the house, excited to see her grandfather. That joy instantly turns to horror as he screams obscenities and threats at the poor girl. Artist Geoff Shaw perfectly captures this emotion in a stunned look on Deena's face, followed by a close up of her eyes, staring out in shock.
As if this wasn't enough, the next couple of pages focus on Roy as he stands in the rain, forced to make a choice between the most important people in his life. The look of sorrow on his face speaks volumes. He's trying so hard to keep everything together, but something has to give. By the end of this sequence, you just want to give the poor guy a hug.
Shaw delivers on those great emotional beats and then follows it up with epic action and terror. There's a scene with a frightening pack of dogs tearing through town, plus the aforementioned demons that are creepy and sinewy. What really stands out is the storm which is massive in scale and capable of destroying everything in its path. It's a whirling mass of death and destruction.
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Jason Wordie's colors give God Country a gritty, real tone to them. I don't mean “gritty” like how Batman is in the Christopher Nolan movies. I mean the kind where there's dirt under your fingernails. For example, the Quinlan home is lived-in and you can feel it. This is a house that's seen generations come through it and it shows. Additionally, it's like the sun doesn't shine bright in this area. It's constantly overcast, almost like Roy's father's mind...that is until the very end of the issue.
Writer Donny Cates frames this issue well with bookend narration that tells the story like a folk tale. You can imagine sitting on a porch somewhere with a glass of lemonade listening to a wise old man spinning this yarn. Cates traditionally infuses his books with a fair amount of humor (see also The Ghost Fleet and Interceptor). That is not the case here, but it's not a detriment at all. This has some amazing character development and a story that hits you right in the heart.
God Country has the makings of an epic story at a deeply personal scale. It teases just enough to hook you, leaving you begging for more. Roy's life is very real and one that you can instantly connect with. This makes the events of the book all the more dramatic and powerful. This is a stunning debut issue.