Royal Nonesuch reviews A GOD SOMEWHERE, the new OGN from Wildstorm Comics!
Credits & Solicit Info:
A GOD SOMEWHERE TP
On sale JUNE 2 • 200 pg, FC, $24.99 US • MATURE READERS
Written by JOHN ARCUDI
Art and cover by PETER SNEJBJERG & BJARNE HANSEN
“The most human take on the ‘Super Hero’ story I have ever seen. This is the book that shows just how good a writer John Arcudi is.” — Mike Mignola
“It is our first real Super Hero tragedy in the classic sense of the term, and although we may flinch, writer John Arcudi does not.” — Dennis O’Neil
After a mysterious disaster, a young man named Eric finds that he has just as mysteriously developed extraordinary abilities. He starts out trying to help people, but his solitary position in the world isolates him in ways no ordinary human could understand. This original graphic novel written by John Arcudi (B.P.R.D., WEDNESDAY COMICS) charts the arc of Eric’s evolution from man to...something else, as seen through the eyes of his family and his best friend, Sam.
The role of the superbeing in a real world context is an idea that comics can't seem to get enough of. Between WATCHMEN, THE ULTIMATES, and even Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's SPIDER-MAN, a grounded, more human approach to superpowers has made for some great reading, and have served to reflect humanity's collective excitement and unease with the subject of power. On the one hand, it would be truly awe-inspiring to see someone who can use his relatively God-like abilities to aid those who can't help themselves. Such a prospect thrills us, and stirs up some wish fulfillment in us. On the other hand, what if that person turns on us, using their advantages and physical superiority to victimize us and prey on our weaknesses? Would we even be able to stop that if it happens?
This is the conceit that informs John Arcudi and Peter Snejbjerg's provocative new original graphic novel A GOD SOMEWHERE. Here, a young man named Eric Forster is suddenly imbued with superpowers that enable him to save people's lives and aid the police. The first major departure A GOD SOMEWHERE takes from other stories that have tread this ground is that there is nary a cape, mask, or pair of tights to appear anywhere in the book. Eric doesn't become a superhero, he's just a guy who sometimes leaves his apartment to quell a tough situation. Arcudi and Snejbjerg push the (lack of) iconography as far as they can, since not only does Eric not fight crime in a costume, he's barely wearing anything at all. This is a choice that provides some immediacy for the reader. There are no primary colors or garish designs to stand in the way of complete relatability. Eric's body is our body. He is us.
Or is he? When things go wrong, it's implied that it's because he is losing touch with his humanity. He no longer relates to people, since he feels like he is so far above and beyond us. Upon meeting the President of the United States, Eric realizes that one human being is no different from another. The President is just another man, with nothing to distinguish himself from the common criminal or everyday citizen other than the institutional framework established by other humans. After this, Eric turns to the dark side, where he spends years slaughtering people all over the country.
A GOD SOMEWHERE is an insightful read that offers no easy answers or pat solutions. There are a lot of questions that necessarily go unanswered simply because Sam, the point of view character, never learns the "why" of so much of what happens here. The reader sees what Sam sees. It's a bold way to tell the story, but it doesn't work consistently. How does Sam know the exact details of what happens in Eric's meeting with the President, for example, since he wasn't actually there? There are some other spots with some minor editing flaws (Eric's mother's name somehow changes from Barbara to Ellie). But to get back to the Sam character, not only is he the point of view character, but he also represents a peculiar racial component in the book. Sam is black, and his two best friends Eric and Eric's brother Hugh, are white. Every time Sam is around other black people, they immediately take him to task for his friendship with Eric and Hugh. Sam just lets the criticisms roll of his back, but it is an odd way to add another layer of tension to the story.
The structure of the story is interesting. Broken up into four chapters of forty-eight pages each, it's easy to wonder if A GOD SOMEWHERE was originally intended to be a limited series before becoming an OGN. Also, Arcudi intercuts the "present" of the story with flashbacks that range from the members of the group first met to the night when Sam gets a job as an embedded reporter with the Army unit tasked with bringing Eric down. It's a bit jarring at first, since there is no indication that the story is even flashing back at all. It works better once the reader is accustomed to the structure, but it's a little tough early on to figure out exactly what's happening. It does succeed in illustrating the back story of these characters and their relationships with each other.
There have been a lot of stories that are billed as a realistic take on superheroes, but A GOD SOMEWHERE is the rare type of story that really delivers on its promises. This is the dark shades that lies underneath most superhero stories. For every heroic act a character like Superman performs, there's the knowledge that it could have all gone very differently. But this goes beyond the superhero themes of the mainline Marvel and DC Universes. Eric's story is one of power run amok; it's a superhuman story, but not a superhero one. It's a startling and unflinching tragedy with great, sensitive artwork and crushing emotion.