God Country #6
By Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, Dee Cunniffe, and John J. Hill
At the end of the day, maybe that man was a god and maybe that god was a man. Fighting back against an unyielding, inevitable force, they gave their all. Emmett and Attum both pushed themselves as far as they could go, even though they both rightly knew that there’s no holding back time. Nothing lasts forever. Sometimes it’s what we leave behind that’s most important. God Country was never really about the thrashing of swords and clashing of titans, though it’s hard to argue with how fun those bits really were. No, God Country was about coming to terms. With the things left unsaid, the repercussions of the things that were said, and the ripples of pain that come along with living, loving, and leaving. How do we live on? We remember.
This series has felt deeply personal from the onset. Donny Cates dug in deep with this exploration of grief and family and resisting against the impossible. Here in issue #6, Cates has Attum, the God of Kings, work as a parallel to Emmett; they’re both fighting to hold on to their kingdoms even though there’s no winning that fight. They want to preserve the un-preservable, and Emmett’s not so much clashing with ancient intergalactic evil as he is fighting with himself. Attum is the dark voice inside of his head, telling him he’s no one special and no one will remember him even as Attum himself is struggling to keep his world together. Two sides of the same coin, with a ray of light overcoming the darkness in the form of coming to terms with knowing you tried your best, tried to lead a good life, and knowing what you leave behind is beautiful: family.
Cates makes this issue land hard. Like, that roiling stress in the back of your throat hard. He balances the soft with the cacophonous here like a microcosm for the whole six-issue series itself. His omniscient narrator (someone get Sam Elliot on the phone for the film options, wink wink) tilts between charmingly vague and poetically on the nose without ever veering too far in either directly. The reveal of exactly who that narrator is, to turn a phrase, fucking perfect. Despite the epic metaphorical throwdown occurring on the edges of forever in all its glory, Cates’ delivers perhaps the best moment on the steps of an old home as the peaceful sun sets. Aristus, the God of War, assuages the fears of uncertainty with a reassurance; everything’s gonna be okay. Because when bad things are happening and it feels like your world is getting torn apart with an ill family member or some other ground-shifting change, it’s an important truth to remember. It hurts like hell now, but things really will be alright even if that seems like the biggest lie ever told at the time. When we reach the salvo, it’s clear that Cates has laid it all bare and left it all on the page. The pain feels real, as does the healing.
As real and as raw as all those words are, they’re just words without their real impact if not for the art put forth from Shaw, Wordie, and Cunniffe. Operating like the brass knuckles to Cates’ fist, Shaw revels in roughing you up a bit. Each page is loaded with slashes of scratches and spatters of inks providing his signature grit, but balanced with a tremendous sense of equilibrium. Everything here breathes comfortably, from the stacked horizontal five-panel pages to the elegant splashes. Shaw varies the layouts just enough to make sure they each are in the greater service of the moments, with those stretched horizontal panels often reinforcing a sense of vastness and of serenity. Mix in those larger panels that capture the ferocity and velocity of otherworldly battle, and you got yourself a visual symphony. Pay attention to how rigidly structured and aligned the panels are, and then look at the two instances where Shaw breaks that pattern and has panels overlap. It happens in the key moments of an emotional passing and having the panels reflect that is a great, subtle choice. If nothing else, Shaw knows how to pull on the heartstrings in capturing the emotional resonance found between father and son with wonderfully worn facial expressions and composition that reads like a eulogy.
Wordie, with assists from Cunniffe, ties it all together like The Dude’s rug. The colors bring a depth and tactility to the already rich textural inks. Soothing warms blend ochre and mauves and straw on the homestead in contrast to the chilling cools brought about in an interstellar battle with turquoise and magenta electricity. More than just palette, Wordie’s sponged blends and attention to lighting effects with soft blurs and glimmers deliver the needed dimension to let this eulogy echo.
God Country #6 is a dirge for working through the hardest of times and a requiem for what gets left behind. Loving, fighting, and remembering; that’s the good stuff that hoists up all the fantastical fun this series offered. The vast impossibility of godlike wonder meets the wide-open tranquility of the Texan plains and the words and the images are both raw as hell and reassuring as ever. The creative team nailed the landing with a closing issue that reflects the series as a whole. Balancing grief and determination with acceptance and pain, God Country #6 delivers that ever important message we all need to hear from time to time. All will be well.