Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trade Waiting - Gødland Celestial Edition Two

It takes a while but if you want long enough, and you’re real nice to orphaned cats on the street, then Image will eventually release a Celestial Edition collection of Gødland. I reviewed the first one a while back in preparation for the release of this volume. Now, after much waiting and hand wringing, I have my hands on the second volume and I devoured its contents in the hopes of spreading the high with you. Hit the jump to find out why these hardcover collections are some of the best product in the industry.

Written by Joe Casey
Art by Tom Scioli
Coloured by Nick Filardi
Lettered by Rus Wooten

For those who don’t know, Gødland is an inspired piece of literature about the nature of wondering about the human condition. It’s a rumination on a quandary via the thought balloons of ciphers and proxies. It’s about life, man. Dig.

It’s also a brilliant cosmic comic that uses Kirby as genre and the page as a breeding ground for multicolour ideas and dialogue that will actually make you laugh, in a good way. If you caught the title at any stage then you’ll know it’s about Adam Archer, an astronaut whose failed Mars mission led him to receiving powers from the Cosmic Foetus Collective. He battles against robot butlers and drug-fuelled skulls in jars while also forming a team up with a cosmic dog and trying to keep his three sisters in line.

I won’t review the actual story included within this 12 issue collection. It is good, I will say that much. It includes a jailbreak like you’ve never seen before. There’s a hotel for supervillains. Another Archer gets the power cosmic. And as the Triad abides they also try to destroy Earth while dealing with their new, human, emotions.

The storytelling is great because issues, and storylines, here can be taken pretty much on their own to be enjoyed to some degree but they all also play off many aspects seeded years prior. Here you can also see concepts revealed for later use. You know the entire 36 issue run on Gødland is going to be one big tale but within it, in collections, you still get a great comic.

There’s no point spoiling specifics about this collection within the middle of the series, instead I’d prefer to just talk about the collection and all that is within it. The Celestial Editions are glorious because they are oversized, and incredibly thick. You feel like you are getting exceptional quality for money and that’s because you are. There’s a variety of things packed into this collection and to get through it all is a serious commitment. You have to immerse yourself in all things Gødland when you buy this package.

Apart from the 12 issues included, natch, there is an introduction by Image co-founder Erik Larsen. It’s a one page document of love for the series and it’s a simple way to kick off the celebrations. It’s not the best introduction I’ve ever read but it detracts nothing.

Directly after the main show, we get a collection of covers and the ads used to promote each upcoming issue at the time. These covers and ads are perfect for inclusion because they capture the spirit of the tone and the vibe of the series. The colours and the tone are bombastic, they don’t just jump off the shelves, they load themselves into cannon and wait until your brain is in the firing line. I think covers should always be included in the collected form and having them with the outlandish ads works perfectly.

Next up starts the text pieces with Tim Callahan’sTwelve Digressions on Gødland’. I’ve always loved Tim’s work on CBR as he writes a weekly column, When Words Collide, and I started really taking notice of him with his Why Casanova Matters piece a few years back. His essay here, which you can get a sneak peak on here, looks at a dozen different aspects of the comic worthy of dissection. He looks at topics such as the Kirby influence and what sort of foundation it truly is laying; the pop cultural references that pepper the dialogue and character interactions; and a discussion of the villains of the comic.

Callahan rights casually and yet smartly, which is exactly the sort of comics journalism I love. He understands the comic, very well, but he also understands the world and can place the two in context. It’s also six pages long, which only excites me the more. I love a good, in-depth essay that I can really sink my teeth into and this is certainly that. It’s a five star essay and it helps you think even more about the comic.

A Creator Commentary lets us look at a conversation between the two creators, Casey and Scioli, as they discuss each issue specifically. It’s great to read the insights of these two men years after they actually created the issues. They hold nothing back as they wince at some pages, and marvel at others. It’s a pure creator response and not only lets us behind the curtain, it lets us sit inside the mind of the man behind the curtain.

This section goes for 14 pages. That’s massive and completely enjoyable. These men are interesting and to be given such access is just glorious. It’s the sort of thing I, a process junkie, could read plenty more times before I die. This is just another grand addition to the edition.

There is then an essay by Joe Casey title ‘The Genre’. In it, Casey looks at two titanic examples of comics in the genre of Cosmic Superhero Epic. He offers up Steve Engleheart’s Avengers run, ‘The Celestial Madonna’ specifically, and then casts an eye over Jim Starlin’s Warlock. This essay is the sort of thing you would find in the back of the Brubaker/Phillips Criminal comic. It’s an essay to celebrate the work of others but it’s also a lesson to expand the horizons of the readers at home. You can enjoy Casey’s views and then you can go out and try to enjoy the comics he discusses as well.

There are then two interviews, one with each creator, conducted by Tom Spurgeon who works over at The Comics Reporter. The interviews are great little chats from 2007 and 2008. Spurgeon asks good questions and both creators seem open and comfortable. These interviews, the 3rd and 4th text pieces of the collection, are just more goodness that give you the background to the comic and the creators. By this stage of the collection, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of text to be enjoyed.

The final text piece is ‘The Truth Is Now: How Gødland Presents The Answer’ which is an essay by Alexander Lucius Gamble Ph.D. This erudite fellow is a Lucasian Professor of Ibogology in the Department of Applied Cosmic Surrealism and Imaginational Physics and Institute of Astro-Hallucinogenics, University of Carmengia. If that credit doesn’t tell you what to expect from this one page kiss off then perhaps you need to look a little closer.

We are sent off with 17 pages of sketches, notes, and miscellanea in the Production Gallery. Throughout much of the previous text we have been given sketches and pin ups by Scioli but here we get some of the raw work. This is pure Scioli, the man working out any kinks in the privacy of his own notepads. It’s a great way to wind down to the final endpapers.

When you look at everything that’s included, you can see that a lot of effort went into putting this collection together. Not only is there a lot but it’s all of a very good quality. It’s not just kiss assing testimonies, this is actual smart deconstruction. This is literature about the comic and that’s kind of nice for a change. It feels like you’ve been given a guide as well as the actual product.

The last thing I’ll mention is the cover. It is an extremely bold move to not clutter up the single image with any trade dress at all. There’s no mention of the title, or the creators, these details come on the spine and the back. On the front, we have Lucky, a crazy alien being with an elephant head with multi-tusks that appear to have brains on the end of each of them. It’s a great little image that doesn’t so much set up any story but instead gives you an idea of what type of comic you are picking up. There’s no false sale here, this book is crazy. And crazy good.

Verdict – Must Read. As a comic, Gødland is definitely a must read title. It’s inventive and innovative and while it does a grand job of always subverting your expectations, it also doesn’t mind not taking itself too seriously. It’s a cosmic epic with no possibility impossible. You never know what to expect and once you see something, or hear of it coming, both Casey and Scioli do their best to have their words and images still take the page somewhere you weren’t expecting. Then, as a collection, this second Celestial Edition gives you more than most collections ever do. The sheer amount of text and images make this tome an item that will proudly adorn shelves and coffee tables the world over. I wish more titles were collected together with essays and text pieces like this in the back. It’s a perfect assembly of a comic you love and a bunch of writing explaining how and why you love it.

Like this review? Interested in Gødland Celestial Edition Two? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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