Trade Post: Godland Celestial Edition One

Written by Joe Casey, drawn by Tom Scioli
Collects Godland #1-12, The Image Holiday Special
It’s been a week or so since I finished reading the first 12 issues of Godland and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the book. I want to love this book about Adam Archer, an astronaut who was granted powers by some aliens on a planet he was exploring and now, several years later he’s playing superhero. I want to love it because I really dig Joe Casey both as a writer and as a personality in the comics industry, plus, I want to support any non-big two superhero comic because I think they’re generally allowed to be more innovative. But, I was left kind of flat after reading this book.

The concept is great. Not only does Archer have powers, but he’s got three sisters who act as his support system. Well, one of them seems to hate him because she was supposed to be next in line for the space program which got shut down after her bro’s accident. The problem is that, with the exception of that sister, the other two are really one note and boring. You’ve got the brainy one and the one who fancies herself an anarchist. That’s about all they’ve got going for them which is too bad because there’s a lot of potential for interesting dynamics right there which, for all I know, really take center stage in later volumes, I’m not sure. Archer himself doesn’t really do much for me as a character either. He’s a true hero, but he spends a good deal of time bitching about how a fellow hero named Crashman is beloved while he is feared. It’s a realistic complaint to have, but when you’re starting off a brand new series and introducing the reader to new characters they don’t know anything about, it seems like a strange characteristic to focus on.

More than characters, though, I had trouble getting a grasp on the world itself. Is this a world that had superheroes before Archer or not? At first I figured he was the first, but then he’s got a villain named Basil Cronus who has a head floating in a jar which at the very least implies fantasy or sci-fi elements to the story. There’s also Discordia, a supervillain whose father Tormentor went underground several years prior. This is a tough complaint for me because, on one hand, I don’t want to read a textbook explaining the world to me, however, these kinds of questions begin to nag after a while which takes me out of the story. Again, it’s possible these elements get nailed down in a later volume, but it bugs me that after reading a year’s worth of stories, I’m this confused about the book.

My internal confusion spreads to Tom Scioli’s art as well, not that it’s confusing in a stylistic or storytelling regard, but that my personal reaction to it is confusing. As you know if you’ve ever seen an issue of Godland, the visuals are heavily influenced by the great Jack Kirby. I’ve become a really big Kirby fan over the past few years, so on one hand it’s cool to see what his art style might have looked like had he made it to the days of really great digital coloring and other modern artistic methods. On the other hand, I don’t know if I like someone aping another artist’s look to exactly. Some other artists who have been heavily influenced by Kirby like, say, Erik Larsen, at least add their own spin on the King’s style to make it unique to them, but Scioli’s art just looks like Kirby.

Like I said, I’m conflicted about this comic. I like the idea and parts of the execution, but was left flat by some of the characters (a complaint I had in my early readings of Kirby’s solo DC work now that I think about it). Perhaps Casey and Scioli are mirroring Kirby’s style TOO much. Anyway, I liked where Casey seemed to be going with the book enough to try and get my hands on the next Celestial Edition volume (this one is packed with extras, an intro by Grant Morrison and a full cover gallery), but I’m not as excited about the concept of doing so as I hoped I’d be.

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