Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Gødland #23, which was published by Image and is cover dated May 2008. Enjoy!
It’s not too hard to describe the skeleton of Gødland – it’s about an astronaut who gains cosmic powers and has adventures – but Joe Casey and Tom Scioli’s crazed comic has so much more going on that it becomes almost impossible to describe. It’s certainly a good thing we only have to deal with a first page and what we can glean from it, isn’t it?
Casey gives us an enigmatic three panels, with the face in the first one telling “Adam” – the hero – that she’ll “fix everything” and then “reality blinks.” A tried-and-true comic book reader can guess that something strange is happening and that perhaps this face actually has the power to fix everything, because characters in comic books often have that kind of power. So the first two panels intrigue us by offering a tantalizing opportunity. Then, Casey slides into a more colloquial narration, as he often does. The narration sounds casual and even aloof, with the turn of phrase “true disbeliever” – not only a riff on a religious phrase but a Might Marvel one – setting up an ironic twist later in the book, while the prosaic absurdity of the philosophical contemplation of the “bigness” of “reality” grounding the reader after the oddness of the first two panels. Casey sets up both a narrative and a tone on this page, a tone he often employs in this comic (and others, but especially in this one).
Scioli, Casey’s partner in crime, does some interesting things on this page. The feminine features with nothing else in Panel 1 is a nice image, because it immediately suggests a religious/spiritual/maternal vibe, with the female promising “Adam” (nothing Judeo-Christian about that name, right?) that she’ll “fix” everything. Obviously, the features are feminine because the character speaking the lines has already been created as female long before this issue, but because Neela (her name’s Neela) has no face or head to distract us, we notice the thick eyebrows and flared eyes, making her look Egyptian, linking us once again to a spiritual antecedent (that’s not to say that the ancient Egyptians were any more or less spiritual than any other group, but the stereotypical image of ancient Egypt is one of rigid religious ritual). Scioli taps into an ancient feminine goddess principle, which also includes a maternal aspect, and Neela, in promising to “fix” everything, takes on a motherly role – moms fix everything, don’t they?
In Panel 3, Scioli gives us an Earth revolving in the void. Moving toward the sunset is a line of red sentinels along the “equator” (we’re told on Page 2 that they’re on the equator, but Scioli screws up and puts them too far north), which is certainly unusual. In between this panel and then first one we get the one with only “reality blinks” written in it, and so we can infer that perhaps this world is not quite ours (perhaps that’s why the equator is too far north?). It’s a somewhat chilling image, because it’s slightly askew, and the slightly askew is much more disturbing than the totally askew. Scioli and colorist Nick Filardi do a nice job illuminating the sentinels as they cross the crest of the planet, leading our eye from the light into the darkness, where we remain because we have no idea what’s going on. The curve of the earth and the curve of the sentinels lead us gently to the right, where we can turn the page and learn more. I’m not sure why the page is slightly off-center, but I’m sure there’s no real reason. I do wish it weren’t, though, because it would be neat if it were aligned perfectly.
Anyway, Gødland has some wacky pages, and while this isn’t one of them, it does give you a good idea of what kind of things you can expect from the comic. It’s two guys working at the top of their game, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Next: One of DC’s longest-running series! Yes, it’s shocking, but reboots are reboots, so other things just keep on going! Find more long-running series in the archives!
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