guttergeek the discontinuous review of graphic narrative

June 2007

Joe Casey and Tom Scioli, GØDLAND (Image, 2006- ). $2.99, monthly.

by Jared Gardner

I usually give a new series twelve issues and I’m out, which is why my shelves are littered with dozen issues stacks of countless comics series that never quite consumed me. As I grow older, the number that make it past that point continues to dwindle (and, yes, I do recognize this as a sign of my geriatric impatience and not a sign of the decline of western civilization). But GØDLAND has been an exception to my rule, and I have had to stick with it through eighteen issues to decide whether it was worth adding to my ongoing obsessions. Its mad and maddening pastiche of influences (including Jack Kirby and, yes, Mad) and impulses (including parody, homage, anarchic comedy and mystical meditation) have all made it a difficult title to get a handle on. But after 18 issues I can say, with perhaps the slightest tinge of regret, that I am in for the long haul.

With the plotting of old Flash Gordon comics, and by combining such pulpy serial pleasures with a Monty Python sensibility, one doesn’t exactly stick with
GØDLAND for the story, which ricochets off of one far-out and flipped-out villain after another. But I do read it for the writing, especially the one-liners delivered by said super-villains (actually, “Fabulous-villains” would a better term given the high camp of the whole affair). The best villain of the piece is Basic Cronus, who carries his severed skull in a liquid bath and seeks out not world domination or even riches, but groovy new highs from the bodily fluids of aliens (which he then injects into the aforementioned liquid bath). “Peace is for hippies!” he declares joyously in #3, “Violence is the New Black!”

And then there is Discordia, who enjoys pain for its own sake (and whose torso will soon form the lower half to Cronus’s cerebrum). Or the martini-sipping former butler, Friedrich Nickelback and his “devoted little freak” Eghad (who has a marvelous penchant for stream of consciousness poetry), who pursue more traditional villainous ends, but who happily mostly enjoy pontificating and camping it up. Or the cult leader, Janus, who arrives at New York with his followers to open up a portal to the infinite through the annihilation of the city, but who, equally happily, mostly likes to hear himself talk his groovy talk. And so on….

Of course, it is not often that a superhero comic begins with a discussion of the villains and fails to mention the hero himself or indeed any of the good guys until the fourth paragraph, but that is what makes
GØDLAND so “special” (and I use the term doubly here, both to describe the uniqueness of the comic and its retardedness). Our hero, Adam Archer, has had a galactic encounter with some infinite space deities on Mars and has been endowed with cosmic energy that…Oy, I’m getting too bored to even finish the sentence. Because it doesn’t matter: the pleasure of Adam Archer’s character lies entirely in his visual energy. At the hands of Scioli’s brilliant Kirby-esque kinetic lines, Archer is as exciting to watch on the move as he is tedious to listen to. But he is frankly deep and complex compared to his team-mates, his sisters whatshername and the other two (rivalrous fellow-astronaut sister #1, eggheaded and loyal sister #2, and rebellious punkrock sister #3). And then there is a giant dog alien who shows up early to serve as Adam’s spiritual guide and occasional backup.

All of which brings us quickly back to the villains. What keeps you reading this series (and what will keep me coming back for more) is not worrying about Archer or how he will escape from his latest intergalactic prison, but curiosity to see what Basic or Nickelback will say next or what whacked-out bad-guy will show up next. All of which serves Casey and Scioli perfectly: battle-banter and bodies careening through cosmic ether dominate these pages. And long may they reign. As an added bonus, the color work is as decadent and luscious as one would hope or want (occasionally even a bit more than one can take), and there are times when I started to feel like I might be sipping off the same straw as Basil after too long staring at these psychokinetic pages.

GØDLAND is at its weakest when it gets too hip, too au curant for its own good (which is pretty much any time punkrock sis #3 opens her mouth). The mystical digressions, however parodic they may be intended, are dull and dreary and ultimately unnecessary. And there is a desperate-to-delight quality to the whole thing that will not be to everyone’s taste (and is not entirely to my own)—a frantic, hand-waving that makes the creators seem a bit more like their campy, attention-starved villains than is entirely comfortable. But despite all of this and more, I just can’t quit you, GØDLAND. I’m jacked in for the ride and hope you don’t let up on the throttle for a second, because like all good rushes, this one will grow cold pretty fast if we are asked to think about it too much.