Written by Simon “Si” Spurrier
Art by Jonas Goonface
Lettering by Colin Bell
Published by Boom! Studios
“In 1958 the laws of Physics went screwy. Electricity, ignition–anything that made life easy: GONE. No one knows why. An alternative was provided. It’s 2017. Life moves on. Part ornament, part assistant, part bodyguard, part bank. A god for every person. And a person for every god. Yeah, a god for every person… though some exceptions apply.”
This is the entire backstory that you will get on this world, spread out over 5 pages accompanied by some simple, gritty, yet wholly BEAUTIFUL and fitting artwork.
It’s Simon Spurrier: The guy who gave us X-Men Legacy! And new talent Jonas Goonface, whose web comics are awesome! (See for yourself at jonasgoonface.tumblr.com)
We are quickly introduced to a world where, for 59yrs, nothing has seemingly changed. The clothing, buildings- literally everything seems displaced in time. Without properly working physics, combustion and electrical mechanics, the world is a strange place. There are no engines, from the “necessary” to the mundane. Cars, planes, pacemakers- human contrivances of convenience- have been replaced by gods. There is one for every person, as varied in appearance and ability as any sampling of humanity.
In this world, there are a few exceptions to the rule. These people were never given a god of their own. Generally exiled to live as outcasts, these “nogodies” all seem to possess the ability to “shape” the gods of the world. By laying hands on a god, they are able to manipulate the physical appearance and abilities of the god, like a sculptor molding clay. In this first issue alone, we are introduced to gods who send mail, make “melkshaks”, take and develop photographs among a myriad of other skills and talents. The physical appearance of the gods seem very random, as they are glowing amalgamations of reptiles, animals, and even people. They also act as banks and currency generators. As far as i can glean, money has been replaced by “beads”, a type of spiritual currency provided by the gods in return for their humans faith and collected as if in a bank account for their respective humans.
Ennay, a homeless drifter, a traveling musician, a godless “nogody”, a Godshaper. Getting around on a bicycle, Ennay travels the countryside shaping gods for the ungrateful, untrusting, disrespectful population of his world in return for food and clothing. The Godshapers are treated with a grudging sense of necessity. They are considered the lowest sort of human scum; hobos with leprosy would fare better in this world. And then there’s Bud- a human-less god, an anomaly, a curiosity, a pest and annoyance. Normally a god cannot exist without its believer, yet inexplicably Bud is still here. The people of the world seem to disregard Bud as the gods tend to disappear or die without a believers faith to keep them alive. Ennay and Bud have a relationship built on mutual necessity. They are friends, yes, but Ennay is not Bud’s believer. They keep each other company and help provide for each other as they can- stealing, scrounging, shaping and playing punk rock music for a living. The gods don’t seem to speak, but rather communicate with looks and gestures (Imagine playing a never-ending game of Pictionary with a mute 4 year old.)
Ennay rolls into a small nondescript midwestern town, sets up shop and is quickly offered a job. A traveling salesman named Benny Bogg hires our man En to Shape his glowing green, anthropomorphic, textile-manufacturing, Chippendale-Chameleon god. While Ennay is busy inside the caravan physically sculpting Bogg’s god into a much larger, glowing red, anthropomorphic Chippendale-Rhinoceros, Bud is pilfering military-grade food rations from the merchant’s storage room. After a job well done, En is paid and sent on his way. Next, we get to see Ennay in all of his glory. The scene shifts to a barn on the outskirts of town, where an underground punk rock concert is being held, and Ennay is the main attraction! Turns out our man Ennay is a magnanimous performer along the lines of GG Allin crossed with David Bowie.
During the afterparty, we get En schmoozing with fans, talking woes of the road, music, making out with men and women, drinking…your basic “no rules” rock and roll party. Then he is accosted by Clara, or Smudge- an ex-military sergeant who lost her arm in the war and was bussed down to quartermaster, then courtmartialed when some supplies went missing. She has been on the trail of the thief, searching for some kind of justice and/or redemption. The rations Bud stole from Bogg are just the evidence she needs to call a “Vespers”, which is Mob Justice in the form of a group of gods exacting punishment on the offenders god. Bud wants to help, but Ennay refuses to get involved. The story follows Smudge as she confronts Bogg and his giant Chippendale-Rhinoceros god. She calls a Vespers with her small, near-insignificant Dinosaur-Deer god. Because of her god’s weakness, only 4 other random weak, tiny gods respond. Meanwhile, Bud is busy guilt-tripping Ennay into turning around and helping Smudge defeat Bogg’s god. Luckily, Ennay and Bud arrive just in time to save the small gods from Bogg’s much larger one. Ennay quickly reshapes Bud into a massive glove. The final page ends with Ennay/Bud grabbing the Rhino-god by the throat and lifting him into the air.
There is a lot going on here. I LOVE how Spurrier just throws you in the deep end right from the jump. If you are new to comic book story telling, this may not be the book for you. A majority of the story is expected to be absorbed visually and through context clues alone. If you study every page and panel, read and reread every line like I do, you’ll be able to paint a good understanding of the characters. The world itself had a living, breathing organic quality to it that is masterfully brought to life through Jonas Goonface’s art. It is simple, colorful, and almost whimsical while maintaining an ominous, gritty darkness.
There are overtones of racism, homophobia and classism that permeate the narrative of Godshaper. I find it welcoming when a writer can offer a fresh perspective on current social tropes through an original and fantastical setting. For example, when Ennay reshapes Bogg’s god, he is paid in a pile of out of style clothes and a curt, “Best you go out the back way, huh? You know how people talk.” And there are other instances where you get to see just how badly some marginalized groups of people are treated, and it is perceived as normal.
Overall, I LOVE this book! The story and art are fused and would only be diminished if one of those elements were removed. It has been a very long time since I have felt that a story and art were inseparable or dependent on the other.
The Rating: 9.5/10