*This article contains spoilers for God Country*
God Country, written by Donny Cates, with art by Geoff Shaw, colors by Jason Wordie, and letters by John J. Hill, is a high octane fantasy story set in rural West Texas. It is as epic as it is intimate as it masterfully blends grand and mysterious mythology with themes of aging, loss, and letting go. This mini-series takes readers from West Texas to unknown realms and the edge of dying stars while exploring what someone would to do for their family and legacy. It does all of this at a breakneck speed with the perfect amount of cool-down moments between action. God Country asks what we mean to those around us, what those around us mean to us, and what we leave them after we’re gone.
God Country is the story about Emmett Quinlan, an old man dying from Alzheimer’s, and his son Roy. Roy is stuck between being a father for his own daughter Deena, a husband to his wife Janey, and taking care of his father as he becomes a spiteful and violent old man. Emmett’s condition is growing increasingly worse and Janey is rightfully frustrated that their family’s life in Austin was upended and is now suffering for a now hate-filled old man on his death bed. But how can Roy just give up on his father?
One day as Janey is leaving the home with Deena, a tornado the likes of which Texas has never seen comes to rip away everything the Quinlan family has ever known, but it’s not from this world and it isn’t alone. Somehow the Quinlan family survive the twister, and find Emmett standing in the ruins of Roy’s childhood home holding a 12-foot omnipresent talking sword named Valofax. It turns out that so long as Emmett is holding Valofax he is free of Alzheimer’s.
With the memories of a lifetime flooding back to him Emmett embraces his family. Gone is the spiteful old man he had become and returned is the loving father and grandfather Roy had known. This cure does not come without price though, and soon after this happy reunion Aristus, God of War, blood, and honor, lands in the Texas fields to reclaim Valofax. He explains that the blade is the God of Blades, forged in the heart of a dying realm by his father Attum, Lord of the Kingdom of Always and God of Kings. Valofax is every sword that was ever forged—it exists in the edge of all blades, and Attum wants it returned.
Emmett will not give the blade of up though—how could he? Before, he couldn’t even remember his own name, his wife, his family—how could he willingly give his memories away? He would do whatever was necessary to keep Valofax and his recently remembered life. This refusal to let go incites the conflict that proceeds for the rest of the narrative. Emmett is challenged by Gods and monsters from wondrous and terrifying realms in fights for the lives of his family and for his own.
God Country excels at the bombastic spectacle of epic battles with incredible page layouts and details from Geoff Shaw and out of this world colors by Jason Wordie throughout. Things grow increasingly dire as the story progresses, and over and over Roy begs with his father to let it go. Roy knows it will be difficult, but they can get through it, and can the destruction of everything they know really be worth it? Attum will not stop until the blade is returned but Emmett refuses relinquish his memories.
One of the challengers Emmett faces is Balegrim, the God of Death. On his quest Emmett ends up in the realm of hell and there Balegrim explains that Attum is so obsessed with Valofax because it is his legacy, and he’s worried how he will be remembered after death. Then Balegrim utters a line that has since stuck with me, “Everyone leaves…what do you intend to leave them with?” Balegrim inquires as to whether Emmett wants his family’s last thoughts of him to be a desperate old man unwilling to let go. Even still, Emmett is unyielding in his possession of Valofax.
I don’t want to completely spoil the ending because it’s incredibly powerful and brings me to tears every time. It’s a perfect ending for this story that shows just how much Emmett means to Roy and the impact he’s had. God Country is narrated throughout by a descendant of Emmett’s as they recount the epic tale. While it’s not a completely happy ending, they say that’s not the point. Deena told it to her grandchildren, and them to theirs, and so on until they’ve told it to us. In this way Emmett, Roy, and his family are never truly gone—they live on as stories, as all of us can.
God Country balances the line between being an out-of-this-realm epic fantasy about Gods, monsters, and magic swords, while still having an innately emotional core about love for your family. Roy struggles with the impending loss of a father while Emmett does all he can to remember the life he lived with his wife and son. The Quinlan family goes through hell but they have each other to go through it with.
I have to add that this story is especially meaningful and impactful to me because I lost my father to cancer when I was 18. It’s been over 3 years now and I think about him every day, and in a sense he still lives on with me in my memories of him. Everything he taught me, all the time spent together, and the laughter and care he brought to my life and everyone around him is something I’ll always cherish. My father is remembered every day among family and friends as we recount memories that have since turned into stories and in this way, he’ll always be with us. God Country exemplifies what you can become to those around you if you live your life with love.