On the back cover of WildStorm's A God Somewhere, artist Jock calls the book "surprsing". I've never really considered any comic that I've reviewed to be surprising, nor do I believe I've ever cited one as such. That's why I was shocked to discover that Jock was dead on when A God Somewhere surprised me in more ways than one.
First, as a person deeply ingrained in the happenings of comic bookdom, I was surprised at how this book simply crept up on me with no warning. It literally arrived at my door, we had a brief introduction, and I began reading. The next surprise came on the very first page, when writer John Arcudi trapped me in the story immediately. Seriously, the opening page to A God Somewhere will keep you planted wherever you are until you finish the book. Without spoiling the moment, the message of this opening page is beautifully - and subtly - reiterated further in the book on a page that made me do something I don't often do: stop reading and collect my thoughts about how ridiculously excited I was to be reading this book.
The next surprise that came to me was courtesy of the plot, which you'll notice I haven't even touched on yet. A God Somewhere is essentially the story of a very normal man that is endowed with powers beyond anyone's understanding. Be it science of an act of God, Arcudi aims to tell a story about personal demons, human beliefs, and most importantly, human nature. In summation, it actually sounds pretty familiar, right?
While we've gotten the superhero archetype story time and time again in comics, Arcudi finds a way to strip all the excess commentary away and focus solely on the people involved, rather than what those people can do. In fact, it could be argued that the entire "superhero" angle is completely irrelevant; it simply acts as a catalyst in which to open up discussion about much more important, real-life topics.
Wisely, we observe Eric, the man that receives these godly powers, from the perspective of his best friend Sam. As Eric goes through his changes, we see Sam and Eric's family going through media blitzes, alienation, and fear as the man they knew becomes something else entirely. Arcudi succeeds in creating a near-Shakespearean superhero tragedy, but without ever coming off heavy handed or melodramatic.
The last truly surprising thing of A God Somewhere was how remarkably brutal it is; borderline grotesque, even. The pairing of Arcudi's non-existent reluctance to show anything and everything along with the brutal depths that artist Peter Snejbjerg can reach makes for one of the most unsettling books I've read in some time. The words and art come together in a gorgeous syncopation that takes the reader from the absolute bowels of human existence to heart warming brotherly love.
Snejbjerg is truly astonishing in the way he can shift from the minute details of a facial expression exchanged between lovers to the smallest bones protruding from a massacred body or eye balls and skull matter scattered about a headless corpse. A God Somewhere, both with writing and art, encompasses the full spectrum of life on Earth, from loving marriage, to cruel irony, to concerned mothers, to horrific, bloody war zones and back again. It's rare to find a comic artist that is able to do so many different things as well as Snejbjerg does here, but A God Somewhere is hard evidence that it can be done.
Arcudi and Snejbjerg throw so many different thoughts and ideas into this book that it can be a little overwhelming at times, and worse for some, many never have any solid closure. But as we reach the end of the book, we realize that perhaps that's the point entirely. Much like the characters in the book never get full closure on their situations, neither do we most of the time in real life. And maybe that's the perfect example of where A God Somewhere goes completely in the right direction. Instead of appealing to the comic book superhero nerd in all of us, they go for our cores as regular, every day people, and ultimately show the monsters that inherently dwell within all of us, despite how well we think of ourselves.