Oh goody and gumdrops and shit.

*I for one am delighted that Old Man Outside World decided to drop a pair of 120 page documents on my head today, with a nonspecific deadline attached for reading/summary purposes (translation: tomorrow). It’s very interesting stuff, I assure you. Oh well, that’s life, and life will continue to delight me all day long tomorrow. Accordingly, today’s and tomorrow’s updates won’t be quite as voluminous as usual.

Gødland #4

Really, this book isn’t The Future or super-amazing or anything, though I’ve been pushing it pretty consistently on this site. It’s just that I can already sense it’s going to be yet another Joe Casey-scripted book that struggles along for a while, captures my attention, then dematerializes as soon as I get attached to it (see also: Automatic Kafka, The Intimates). Certainly the sales figures aren’t singing a happy song, though at least one local retailer noted to me that it’s selling well for him. And really, Gødland isn’t even quite as good as either of the aforementioned Wildstorm titles, though we’re talking some rather fine gradations of ‘good’ here. It has been a lot easier to get into; I didn’t care much for The Intimates at all when it started, and Automatic Kafka proved to be distinctly uneven right up to the end (although I still probably liked it most of all), this book pretty much grabbed me right from the start, as much as one can be ‘grabbed’ by perfectly decent superhero entertainment.

Every issue of this book leads into the next, every ending a cliffhanger, yet it still feels strangely compartmentalized, as if writer Casey feels the need to explore a new facet of this world with every issue, while allowing characters to recur and never quite pulling the plug on any major plotlines. It’s only four issues in, so the plan hasn’t run low on steam yet, as we now turn our focus toward Discordia, the self-styled Queen of Pain, a die-hard sadist who loves torture, but never as applied toward any specific goal, and wholly bereft of the detachment necessary to extract pertinent information or half-voluntary confession. No, as divorced from intent, she’s become free to wallow in the thousand variations of pain, the means its own end. In this way, she’s the same as basically every incidental character in this book, merrily tromping through the overarching plot in pursuit of their own highly specific goals.

Naturally, cosmic-powered hero Adam Archer needs to stop her, but only because his slightly envious non-cosmic sister has gone and gotten herself captured in a futile attempt to free Discordia’s prime prisoner, Crashman (America’s Most Cherished Hero!). Archer, in prime Lee/Kirby fashion, frankly can’t stand Crashman and his perceived popularity pursuing posture, but a hero’s work is what it is, you know? And just as Discordia and Crashman made brief appearances back in issue #1, we also receive an introduction to a Dr. Doom type named Freidrich Nickelhead (decked out in a spiffy open-necked suit/medallion combo over his metal hide) who’ll doubtless provide next issue’s focus. Things keep moving ahead.

And they move by way of lots of fights and smashing and superpowers, since this is a largely unrepentant, irony-light pastiche of Mighty Marvel Motifs and the classic Kirby cosmos. I’m not detecting any sort of deeper commentary on the Kirby oeuvre or the social stance of classic superheroes, nothing beyond “Boy, selected elements of those comics can be pretty fun.” And they can be - it’s not a filling meal of sequential art, but an excellent snack, Tom Scioli’s energetic Kirby-fueled art neatly avoiding the stiffness oft endemic to ‘close homage’ and becoming its own sort of hyper-Kirby beastie of the page, aided considerably by Bill Crabtree’s appropriately loud colors. Naturally, an allergy to robot-smashing and cosmic blasts and entirely straightforward characterizations will block one’s enjoyment of this material completely, but those willing to sit back and take it in will enjoy an unfailingly pleasant, modestly witty, and determinedly self-contained superhero romp, with characters that won’t annoy you, and a disarmingly bright tone underneath the obligatory outer-space angst. After all, it’s tough to feel to down in such a candied world of flying things and impressive rays.

As with some other recent Image titles, the first issue of this book has been released free online; it’s a good indicator of what to expect from the subsequent trio of chapters. Don’t expect this to blast open your skull and pour in new ideas about the capabilities of visual language, but there’s something to be said for enhancing the entertainment appeal of the wide center of the artform, and in our superhero-soaked industry this is a better, smoother, considerably more pleasant sample of the type than is usually presented.