A God Somewhere by John Arcudi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
John Arcudi wrote one of my favorite “forgotten” comics of the 1990s. Major Bummer, his series with Dough Mahnke, was a humorous take on the “average joe gets superpowers” concept; it was funny, action-packed, and at its core, like John’s best work, human. A God Somewhere, his creator-owned graphic novel with Peter Snejbjerg, takes that same basic concept and flips it around. This is the serious sibling to Bummer, a harsh examination of absolute power being visited on the common man and corrupting absolutely.
Smartly jettisoning any convoluted origin or explanation, A God Somewhere drops special abilities on Eric Forster by way of an explosion. Whether caused by an outside force or emanating straight from Eric, it’s a shared disaster that takes many lives while also changing his. A religious man, Eric thinks that he is somehow blessed and starts doing good with his new abilities. At first, everyone loves him, but soon he starts to sense the fear that some harbor. He begins to resent that fear, and so he starts to purposely live up to those dark expectations.
There have been plenty of other comics about superheroes turned bad, but Arcudi’s is unique for its subtle use of religion to question the vagaries of human nature. Eric is ultimately mercurial, selfish, and cruel--traits we all too often share with the supreme beings we invent to govern our moral lives. This is the central conundrum of A God Somewhere: is Eric the way he is because that’s the way he is, or is it the way other people view him that warps his mind? Arcudi uses flashbacks to give us insight into his character, and he also explores the core relationships in Eric’s life. It’s not so much a book about one man as it is about four friends: Eric’s smarter and more responsible younger brother Hugh; Hugh’s wife Alma; and their best friend Sam. Much of the narrative is through Sam’s eyes. He is the human assistant who at first takes advantage of his closeness to the muscle-bound cause célèbre, only to become the victim of his own hubris. He’s also the only compassionate pair of eyes left to forgive Eric’s decline.
The art for A God Somewhere is by the Danish team of Peter Snejbjerg and colorist Bjarne Hansen. Snejbjerg’s draftsmanship is impeccable. His grasp of anatomy and expressions gives true life to the characters, and his intuition about page layout and his impressionistic approach to violence and gore lend a flare to the narrative. Hansen uses color to effect mood, embracing monotone and shadow to amp up the more dangerous scenes in the book. The killing goes way over the top, but that’s as it should be if this concept is to be examined with true seriousness. It’s never sensationalistic, however; the carnage is meant to make the reader queasy, and it works.
This done-in-one comic has a strong story arc, finishing in a sweet spot that sews up both the plot and thematic structure of the book in a way that doesn’t leave the reader wanting. It’s a book that tackles some tough subjects by a couple of guys tough enough to do so. Surprisingly, A God Somewhere was published under DC’s recently shuttered Wildstorm imprint. It’s often forgotten that Wildstorm was a place where creators were occasionally afforded the chance to go out on a limb of their own making. A God Somewhere got little fanfare on its release last summer, despite Arcudi’s popular ongoing work on Mike Mignola’s B.P.R.D. series. It’s too bad, this is one that deserves to be unearthed and reappraised.
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