Tuesday, June 10, 2014

God is Dead: Volume One (2014)

God is not dead. It's actually a second coming, not of Jesus, but of oodles of ancient deities of world myth clashing like Mortal Kombat with global consequences.

I read God is Dead yesterday, and had planned on mounting a lengthy takedown of the book based on Jonathan Hickman's elevated reputation and the high profile of the book by Avatar standards. I was going to compare conflicting views of last Sunday's "The Watchers on the Wall" episode of Game of Thrones and use them to consider objective versus subjective critical evaluation. It was going to be involved. Then I read some reviews online, spanning from tepid to condemnatory, and figured there's no sense in killing myself trying to shine amidst a choir.

God is Dead is a poor piece of craft. Hickman is given a full credit for the writing of the six issues collected in this arc, and even though I haven't liked much of his work that I've tried, he's previously been competent. Mike Costa shares writing credit, and assumes it solely from the seventh issue forward. Given that his primary writing experience has been on adaptations of Hasbro toy licenses, I'm inclined to think Hickman gave Costa a basic outline with the expectation that it would be fleshed out, and Costa did no such thing. Where the premise brings to mind Gaiman's "Season of Mists," the execution is less nuanced than the remake of a Devlin/Emmerich film directed by Uwe Boll. It reads like a maladjusted teenager smashing a younger sibling's action figures together while cursing.

The title reeks of cultural imperialism. The most powerful god is a very Caucasian Zeus. The only non-white characters are the gods of the Hindus (gray/blue-skinned,) Ancient Egypt and Latin America (anthropomorphic.) The primary aggressors are Nordic, most recently acknowledged in real life by Nazis and White Supremacists. There could have been subtext drawn there, but rest assured, the material is too shallow for anything but a surface reading. The collective of super-scientists trying to figure out how to stop the gods are uniformly honky, including an extremely distracting Albert Einstein and a merely distasteful Stephen Hawking analog. The only prominent female is a gun-toting new wave/goth sex kitten perhaps modeled after early '80s Jamie Lee Curtis who never changes out of her impractical bosomy costume and exists based on how she relates to the male characters. Almost impossibly, those characters are even more threadbare and disposable, giving ammunition to Men's Rights Advocates looking for offense. Everybody who reads this suffers.

The art by Di Amorim reinforces the feeling that this was an ultraviolent mid-90s Thor annual that fell out of a parallel universe. It functionally represents the plot with a smidge of faux-Image flash while being stiff, flat, and altogether failing to convey any legitimate trace of humanity. There are no actual characters in the book, merely dramatic events and gory fatalities divorced from emotional context. It's a Chromium Age crossover from a small publisher you're unfamiliar with whose characters are all washed out recreations of better known properties, full of blood and thunder divorced of relevance to the reader.

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