Let's talk about 6 issue Image Comics epic God Country, from the spectacular team of Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie and John J. Hill.
Before I establish some context of my relationship with Cates' writing, I want to state something as somewhat of a thesis statement of this review:
God Country is the magic of what Cates can achieve with some awesome collaborators in its purest, rawest form.
If I had to review and describe the book in one sentence, that's how I would do it. God Country is grand, it's powerful both in terms of the literal action sequences and the sheer amount of emotion seeped and soaked into every panel and every page.
Now before I get back to this book specifically, I feel like I need to set the scene a bit. Like many people, from what I've heard over time, I'm very hot and cold on Cates' writing. I absolutely adore his Venom mostly with Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer and Frank Martin, that's one of my favourite comics ever. Then while I loved the first arc of his Thor with Nic Klein and Matt Wilson, I dropped off that book after the second arc. Even within the series themselves I can have conflicting feelings about them, I found the first arc of Crossover irritating and lacking substance and then enjoyed the second arc much more.
All of that to say that nobody's perfect. Nobody hits it out the park every time, you just can't. It's impossible. All we can do is try our best, and be ourselves. It sounds so, so cliche and more fitting for anything else other than a comic review, but again I just keep coming back to the word "raw" when thinking of this book. I read this book the first time in December 2021, and I couldn't write a review for it straight away. I re-read it back in August 2022, and as you can see I'm only just writing the review for it.
God Country is such a unique experience that tears directly through anything else right to my heart and soul, reminding me what kind of stories I love and adore, and just why I love comics in general. The phrase "simple but so effective" also comes to mind. If you know Cates' work you'll know how wild and crazy he often likes to get. His best writing, for me, is when he's able to incredibly delicately balance those off the wall ideas with the deeply intense emotions and personal character dynamics and journeys at the centre of it all. Those are not only my favourite comics from Cates and the other creators he works with, but my favourite comics in general. Epic and action packed yet so quiet and so emotional, equally focused on dramatic action scenes and dramatic character moments.
God Country is... about a sword. It's about some gods, some cool action, but it's also about a father struggling with dementia. It's about a husband and wife and their daughter, and how they deal with that father. It's about how that sword and the gods come into play, how everything intertwines and tangles together in such a compelling and deeply emotional way.
To talk more specifically about the artwork, it's just as raw as the writing feels to me. It's so atmospheric which I absolutely adore. The coloring mixed with the style itself gives it such a retro, scratchy aesthetic which feels absolutely perfect. The quieter character moments feel grounded and real, and the grander, more epic moments remind me of what I've seen of classic comic books and art styles so that's really fun. The lettering and the fonts used as well mesh together with everything else outstandingly well.
To conclude, I adore so many comics. I have so many favourites. But there's a very special place in my heart for comics that have made me cry, and God Country is one of those comics.
It's just such a well put together comic book reading experience to me, and one I highly recommend you give a try if you haven't already.
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