A God Somewhere
Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Peter Snejbjerg
Colorist: Bjarne Hansen
Published by: DC/Wildstorm
Hey Jimmy Olsen, I got a scoop. Yeah. This has just come out and you get a glimpse of what might be one of those books that bridges the literary territory from the “genre” swamp that people with English Lit under their belt sniff in disdain at. Philip K. Dick does it for science fiction and this creative team may well have done it for comic books. For people who love this form it will be a reverential kick in the heart for some time to come. Wear protective gear because this one is a gusher.
A God Somewhere hammers you from page one. The art and colorization come together to make a stark and muted effect. A disaster has just taken place. There are scenes of flames and chaos and rubble in narrow horizontal panels. It’s all in browns and oranges mostly like day for night being filmed through a gore-covered camera lens. I want to read it first but the eyes are drawn to that scene. A crying girl child is holding on to the tattered bloody remains of her mother’s dress and “Mommy” is sprawled out onto the ground with half a head pointed toward you. Feverish, back to the words. “No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter what happens to you-you’re just a character in somebody elses’s story.” Yes. Even the dead Mommy. Even you. Even me.
I paused. Do I turn the page? Where can they take me to justify what I’ve just seen? Cut to the next scene in a nice California suburban neighborhood. Four friends are considering buying a boat. Two brothers, Eric and Hugh, blonde surfer-perfect young men and their black friend Sam. Then there’s Alma, Hugh’s gorgeous Hispanic wife with a body that will make a priest kick out a stained-glass window. The brothers want a boat to get back some of their golden childhood with their Dad. They’re hoping it will cure this widening rift between them. Hugh, the younger is getting his life together and has a beautiful, fun and intelligent wife. Eric and Sam feel like they’re on life’s loser skids and have that as a commonality. They drink too much and party too late but they will go “to the mattresses” for one another because they started that way by fighting some high school racists back in the day. Still, these are hardly sinister scenes. The story follows Sam last with him drinking alone in his car at some point overlooking the city. These are just good, kind and decent folks. I like them. Uh-oh.
Some…thing falls out of the sky and plummets into the area where Eric lives. We go back to the cataclysm of the first page. This is it. There’s half-a-head Mom in the background, just a part of the horrific scene. Eric is brought into a hospital with no visible wounds and white cell counts off the charts. He gets better. He flies to the scene to help the buried victims trapped beneath the rubble. As he pulls debris off people his junk dangles in silhouette. Now there’s something you don’t see everyday. Instant media darling. The public clamors. The 24/7 news monster demands a feeding and a genuine super hero is perfect fodder. Eric applies some much needed Christian altruism. He gives God his due. The press of fame sweeps away his family and friend and leave him no touchstones to his humanity. The power is growing. Corrupting? Absolutely.
This is far from a capes and tights story. It is so familiar with the beautiful rendition of the characters in both story and art and all the more alien for it. John Arcudi has already made a name for himself with the Superman story he did for U.S.A. Today’s Wednesday Comics. Peter Snejbjerg illustrated the World War II Holy Grail quest The Light Brigade a few years ago. He can go from intimate scenes of human drama to all out war with a practiced ease. This is a tale of normal people ground up in events that are not even given the common decency of explanation. Events of Biblical proportion happen to the nicest people. Ask Job or Abraham.
I wanted to love Eric like a new Superman. Why? Because it’s in our hearts to seek for and revere Superman. This book turned out more like Rob Zombie directing a Hulk movie. Really? Throwing live soldiers at Apache gunships? You’ll believe an M-1 Abrams tank can fly. All the while, Sam tells his story and during the crush we forget he’s the narrator. Eric absorbs everything including perception and loses all that matters while doing so.
Peter Sjenbjern’s art is smooth and murky. It never becomes a colorful tale of action and adventure but one of dark tragedy. This story sticks to you after you’ve turned the last page. You grieve for everybody. That’s what it takes when dealing with humans. Even if we all are just characters in somebody else’s story, we are all valued. This tale makes sure that every loss is felt from a newly orphaned child to a super man. And if “collateral damage” is an acceptable term to you then pray you never get your, “If I had God-like powers” wish. It’s gonna suck in whole new worlds of pain when your blessing comes.
by Bill Hilburn