That’s not the first thing that will come to mind when readers pick up the first issue of God Country by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, but mystery is the unseen hand guiding the proceedings in this engrossing debut issue. Possibly the first and only Texas Mythological Fantasy Epic, God Country explores the mysteries of sanity, fantasy, and family.
Family and Texas are in the foreground as we are introduced to Roy Quinlan along with his wife and daughter as they attend to Roy’s ailing, mentally unstable father, Emmet. In the background a storm rumbles through the Texas landscape, disrupting its peace and beauty with an eruption that foreshadows the chaos to come. Cates wisely establishes the family dynamic making the strain between Roy and his wife, who is none too pleased to have to deal with problems stemming from the madness of his father, and the dysfunction of the limited relationship that Roy has with his father the focus for the majority of the issue.
The emotions run deep. Whipping up the dust and dirt of the Quinlan family past, the actions of Roy’s father threaten to tear Roy’s family apart as much as the storm ripping through Texas does. The fascinating thing about storms is what is left revealed in their wake. What this storm reveals creates a new mystery as the issue takes a swift left turn that raises the proceedings up to eleven! There is a mythology being established that is propelled by the family and the mystery of whether or not a god walks the Texas prairie.
God Country is different than Cates prior comic book offerings. Here instead of laying out the insane high concept at the onset (Buzzkill, Interceptor) or feeding readers a heaping helping of all out action (Ghost Fleet, The Paybacks) or even laying out large doses of the humor that often permeates throughout his work, with God Country there is a slow burn approach that leads to a climactic reveal. The closing pages of the book expand the scope of what on the surface is a grounded story about family, the relationship between father and son and the struggle to maintain a sense of identity when you begin losing your mind to madness.
Geoff Shaw, Cates partner on the book, does more than his fair share of heavy lifting, ingraining every page with a grittiness that will have you wanting to spit out sand. Shaw excels at the big moments. The double page spread or single page final reveal are visual highpoints, however, it is his ability to create an atmosphere that properly sets the tone of the book that will make the greatest impression. Shaw’s Texas scenery is beautifully rendered, a lived-in desolation that seems to swallow hopes and dreams. It is no wonder we find Emmet Quinlan in such dire straits. The use of spattered ink and what could only be described as a “clean scratchiness” that line the features of every character adds the final ingredient to the hearty stew being methodically cooked in this issue.
It will be interesting to read on as the mystery of the Quinlan family is explored in future issues, and perhaps we will learn where that humongous sword came from. Make no mistake, God Country is going to tear through the next year like a Texas Twister, be sure to get on board when it hits your local comic shop this January.