2006 in Review: G?dland

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2006 has been filled with more than its share of science fiction comic book titles, so what sets Gødland above them all?  Perhaps it is because it meshes satire, loving parody, philosophy, and the future?  Perhaps it is because it best reflects many of the ideas from science fiction’s heyday in the 1950 and 1960’s?  Perhaps it is because it is all of these things and more.

Some of the most creative and influential science fiction stories appeared during the decades of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Movies, books, television, and magazines saw a host of stories by names that are still familiar today – Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry, Rod Serling, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Arthur C. Clarke, and many more.  The stories they created, these tales born of the atomic age, had a feeling that anything could happen, that the future was limitless and yet fragile at the same time.  Mankind could go on to do great things and create a utopia, or we could end up creating terrible despotisms, or destroy ourselves a thousand times over.  The choices were ours and writers such as those named above explored those possible choices and possible consequences.  With Gødland, writer Joe Casey and artist Tom Scioli have returned to that open, free form attitude.  The reader is never certain what may happen next, each page turn is liable to bring unexpected developments or unanticipated curves.  This is what science fiction is at its utter core – taking the readers’ thinking to places it had never gone before.

Some of the places Casey takes our minds are strange, some are filled with high concept philosophy that takes time to ponder, and some are just plain wacky.  Take, for example, the character of Basil Cronus who later becomes Basil Discordia.  The idea of a tripped out villain who could out do the famous Timothy Leary is offbeat in the extreme.  You couple that with sharp, retort-ridden dialogue and yet tastes for exploring the philosophical underpinnings of life and you have a character that cannot be placed in a neatly classified box.  Casey makes a serious application of post-modern ideas off a springboard high dive of Silver Age comic books.

It is very clear that Casey and Scioli are fans of many of those great comics of the Silver Age, particularly those written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.  With Casey’s writing and Scioli’s art Gødland forms a perfect, gentle, loving, parody and yet, at the same time, a tribute to those comics.  Scioli’s art, in particular, embraces the best of Jack Kirby’s extreme science fiction artwork and melds it with trippy visuals and unusual panel layouts and orientations inspired by Jim Steranko.  While Scioli uses Kirby and Steranko for inspiration, he also goes far beyond their work – pushing the art to its ultimate limit.  Under his pencil everything in this title shines and gleams and crackles with energy and the strangest ideas are given form and function.

In addition to poking a little good-natured fun at the Silver Age, the creative team also manages to make pointed satires on modern life, modern pop culture, and current comic books and their heroes.  During the trial of the villainess Discordia in issue #6 the jurors have already made up their minds and, instead of deliberating, spend their time plotting book deals to make themselves rich. In another issue, an insane cultist attempting to blow up New York muses on having real estate dreams while in suspended animation.  Even Adam Archer’s mentor, the alien, dog-like creature Maxim has a name with a triple meaning... something that is a source of obvious amusement to the creator.

Gødland wins the nod for this years’ best science fiction comic because it embodies everything that is right, and good, and well done in the field.  It makes the reader ponder the future, it allows us to laugh about our present and our past and it makes us fall in love all over again with those things.  Sit up straight, focus your eyes forward, and prepare to face a bright future.  Gødland is here. 

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