Greetings, Pilgrims of Power! As promised in a blog a couple days ago, it’s time to review Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s Outlaw Country meets Tales of Asgard mash up called “God Country”. In the previous blog, I mentioned that I was really hoping for the kind of indy book that I could sink my teeth into like I did with such favorites of mine like “Madman” by Mike Allred or “5 Ghosts” by Chris Mooenyham. Did it deliver? Well, let’s get the spoiler free synopsis out of the way first.
This 6 issue series tells the tale of an old Texan named Emmett Quilian who after losing his wife and suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past several years gets a pardon from his horrible memory stealing illness in the form of a magic 12 foot tall sword that falls from the heavens. The only issue is that with that sword comes a whole mess of supernatural threats that want to claim the sword for their own. Add into that Emmett’s son, Roy, and his young family of wife and daughter, who are unfortunately caught up into the seemingly never ending struggle for survival, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good corker of a story.
Now some may scoff at this story as some sort of hillbilly take on the classic Marvel tale of Thor, Odin, and all of those Norse gods, with the mystic hammer being replaced by a Excalibur type blade. But that would be paying short shrift to a heavily nuanced yarn that touches upon a gamut of different themes including family dynamics, survivor guilt, mental illness, elder care, and ultimately the concept of legacy and inheritance with a lot of heart if nothing else. Sure, the book seems a little far fetched at times, a little rushed at others, but at no point do you feel as if author Donny Cates is not investing himself totally in what seems like a very personal story. Sure there’s huge Dragon Ball-Z type throw downs inter-spliced in this touching story of redemption, but for me that was all window dressing to convey the sheer power of the sword and the combatants in this unearthly struggle. Peek behind the window shade though, and you see something much more substantial. The story of fathers and sons, of passing on the good to those that will come next, and the healing power letting go of the past.
This book was in some ways deeply personal for me as well. Last year, I lost my own Dad, God rest his soul. My Dad spent nearly his last 20 years struggling with diabetic nephropathy which got so bad that by the end he could barely walk. Now I’m not here to trade blows on whether that’s worse or better than Alzheimer’s, but I think we can both agree that they both are terrible and not something you would want anyone you love afflicted with. Like Roy in this book, I saw my Dad’s strength and livelihood sapped away slowly but surely until he was a shell of his former self. This mountain of a man who shepherded me through so much in my life, and now he’s almost unrecognizable as that same man.
Of course, the biggest difference in the book and my real life is that the Alzheimer’s left Emmitt a violent stranger to everyone, including his own son, so Roy’s wife had major difficulties connecting with Emmitt on any sort of personal level causing Roy to have to choose between his family of orientation vs. family of procreation, which is by far one of the worst choices anyone could face. Luckily, I was spared such difficulties, but for Roy and this story overall, it’s one of the central themes of the narrative.
And that central theme doesn’t actually even change after Emmitt is blessed or cursed or whatever you want to call it in becoming the wielder of Valofax, a completely sentient weapon of mass destruction forged from the blood of billion souls by a crazed demi god who was so obsessed with his own immortality and hubris that he would send a thousand of his own sons into the gates of death to retrieve it from Emmitt. Yes, the sword restores Emmitt’s memories, cures him of his Alzheimer’s, gives him god like strength, but it also curses him with the burden of defending the sword from those who wish to reclaim it. Whether it’s Loki type god of the undead, who steals Emmitt’s granddaughter and forces him into hell to reclaim her or the Thor type god who in his blind loyalty to the father who created the sword, does battle with Emmitt, in a war that rips up half of the west Texas prairie. Emmitt has just traded one set of hardships to beset his family for another. But unlike the Alzheimer’s, this is one that is completely within his control.
Sure, none of would wish a kind and decent man like Emmitt to put down the sword and go back to being a wraith of his former self devoid of everything that defined him as the person he was. But over the course of the issues, we see that this life is no better especially as it takes it’s toll on those he loves the most, Roy and his family. In taking steps to seemingly defend them from these cosmic enemies thrust into their lives by being the sword bearer, Emmitt loses more and more of himself to the power of the blade, defeating the benefit of actually having it. Who cares if you have cured yourself of Alzheimer’s if it means becoming someone different than who you are? Wasn’t that the point of the cure? To regain what defined you as that person through your memories and not become someone even your own son can’t recognize?
And so in the end, Emmitt realizes this and decides that there’s only one way out. To confront the Demi God, Attum, that created the sword in the first place and protect his legacy and family once and for all. And for Attum, who calls himself the God of Kings, the confrontation is also the only logical outcome, for if he wants to reclaim the sword and his legacy, he must do it by his own hands.
So what happens next? Well, I’m not going to tell. God Country is too good of a story for me to ruin the ending with spoilers. You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out. But if you’re like me, you’ll be glad you did as there’s some really raw emotion under all those epic battle scenes. And at only 6 issues, you will definitely get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of investment of time and money in a particular run.
Andy’s Read Pile Rating: B+