God Country by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw

God Country by Donny Cates (author) and Geoff Shaw (artist)

God Country is a graphic novel you have got to check out. It is one of the best works by my favorite new comic book author, Donny Cates, who has written other great comics like Redneck for Image and Thanos Wins for Marvel. In God Country, Cates tells the story of the Quinlan family and the arrival of a powerful sword that enters their lives and changes them radically.

The sword, Valofax, is a giant sentient blade that is the embodiment of all swords and knives throughout the universe. It changes the life of a small family: Grandfather Emmett Quinlan, his son, and his son’s wife and young daughter. The story takes us from Texas to Hell and finally to the far-off home of Valofax, whose creator wants the sword back even as his planet dies all around him.

When the comic opens, we are at a home in Texas, a home far away from any other house or people. The house sits on a giant plot of land, and it is where Emmett Quinlan lives and is becoming more and more violent as his mind is destroyed by Alzheimer’s. At the beginning of the story, Emmett’s son is facing an important decision: Whether to put his father in a care facility, which is what his wife wants him to do.

In the midst of this argument that takes place outside the house—while we get only glimpses of the father who is inside—a storm arrives with a giant tornado. Within the tornado is hiding a dangerous creature, and not far behind the creature is Valofax, the sentient sword, set on destroying this dangerous entity. To do so, Valofax selects the next being to wield him and his great power: He selects Emmett Quinlan, who as soon as the sword arrives, attacks the creature. When the dust clears, we find out that Emmett’s Alzheimer’s is kept at bay as long as he is holding Valofax, and Emmett is able to talk coherently with his family for the first time in years. He is finally able to clear misunderstandings with his son, find forgiveness from his daughter-in-law, and to find a connection with his young granddaughter.

So, that’s how the graphic novel starts: A family in crisis, a sentient sword, and finally a powerful being who wants the sword back. I do not want to spoil the fun, so I will simply say that the battles are larger-than-life and not everything turns out how you would expect. It is not predictable, and it is brilliantly written. The art by Geoff Shaw is also stellar. I really cannot praise this graphic novel enough.

God Country, initially, was comprised of six separate issues, but they have rightly been combined into a graphic novel, a label I use for any comic book with substantial length and with a clear beginning and end (unlike monthly comic books without any definite end, though these are often collected in trade editions as well). In God Country, you have a clear beginning, which I described, and you get a clear and definite ending that wraps up all the questions you may have. I like getting closure in fictional narratives, and that is often lacking in the world of superhero comics that are a never-ending series of story arcs, where the overall arcing plot of the main character must remain open because a character like Superman or Batman will always need to be around to solve future problems in their fictional universe. But in God Country, we find out the full story of Emmett Quinlan. And what a story it is! Do not miss this one.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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