A God Somewhere is a tragedy, in the classic comedy/tragedy sense of the word. Whereas the progression of a comedy goes from bad to good, tragedy begins with its characters in a good place, and over the progression of the story turns to bad.A God Somewhere bestows one man with infinite powers. But rather than tell the traditional superhero tale of a man rising to protect humanity, writer John Arcudi and artist Peter Snejbjerg tell the tale of a man corrupted by ultimate power, essentially becoming the villain. In that, it is already somewhat unique, but the duo takes it one step further and tells the story from the perspective of a group of the character’s friends who are impacted by the change, rather than focusing on the all-powerful man.
Comics have long been based on the premise that power brings with it responsibility. That’s why our comic characters, when bestowed with something special, use that power for the good of humanity. Of course, that’s one side of the story, and the other side is full of villains who have used their respective powers for evil. Arcudi and Snejbjerg, if A God Somewhere is any indication, present, for our consideration, that it is much more in man’s nature to wind up on the dark side of things.
Eric and Sam are best friends. After a mysterious disaster that kills many at his apartment complex, Eric finds himself with Superman-like powers, which he immediately uses to pull the other survivors from the rubble. What causes the disaster or Eric’s powers is never fully explained, and in the scheme of things, the true cause is irrelevant. What’s relevant is how Eric thinks he attained the powers—either God bestowed him with them or he is, in fact, a god himself. And that belief ultimately leads to his feeling of separation from the rest of humanity.
Its human, “What if it happened in the real world?” approach to comics may sound like something out of the old cynical and grim likes of Alan Moore’sWatchmen. And it is hard not to be reminded of the line from that book while reading A God Somewhere, “The Superman exists, and he’s American.” As Arcudi suggests with A God Somewhere, if the Superman really is American, that could be a problem.
Arcudi’s tale is very much about the modern world. And, much like any great superhero tale, has a lot less to do with fantasy heroics as it does with real-world concerns. A God Somewhere is a tale about a man. It’s about humans, nations, attacked by someone (or something) who thinks he is of holier stock than the rest of us. He applies flawed logic to the situation, surmising that if he was the one granted these special powers, and if he indeed has power over the rest of us, it is because he is better than us, and therefore his way must be imposed upon the world by using those powers.
The story is told from the perspective of Sam, who—as Eric increasingly shies away from public attention—makes something out of the situation for himself, and ultimately becomes our window to Eric. Even as Eric commits increasingly unspeakable actions, it takes Sam longer to hate him than anyone else, especially when there is something in all of it for him to benefit from. In many ways, we’re intended to relate most with Sam. There’s a difficulty in recognizing how out of hand a power has become when one is so close to it, and profiting from the mess is all too easy. But Sam isn’t bad in the scheme of things. He tries to talk sense into Eric. Tries to understand him. Even if it’s all to no avail.
It’s an incredibly well told, well-paced story, thanks in large part to the art of Snejbjerg. The opening page of A God Somewhere is one of the most engaging and haunting I’ve seen in a comic. As much as the art, the coloring of Bjarne Hansen contributes to great tones that help depict the tragic downfall of Eric and his friends. When we see the background stories of the four main characters, we’re looking at a very different style than when we’re looking at the aftermath of Eric acquiring his powers.
A God Somewhere uses the comics medium to offer a fresh take on a tale of power corrupting absolutely. It wisely uses its origins to bring race into the conversation. And ultimately, as Mike Mignola suggests on the paperback’s cover, brings readers one of the most “human” superhero stories in the medium. From start to finish, it is gripping, and while it has debuted with less attention than it deserves, will undoubtedly find a spot among some of the great graphic novels of this age.
Reviewed by William Jones on July 2, 2012
A God Somewhere