In some cases, the divide between religion and magic, between the divine and the supernatural, is a narrow one. In BOOM! Studios new series Godshaper, that distinction is blurred further with the addition to commerce.
The comic book by Si Spurrier, Jonas Goonface, and Colin Bell establishes on its first page the central conceit of its storyworld. “In 1958, the laws of physics went screwy. Electricity, ignition — anything that made life easy: Gone. No one knows why. An alternative was provided,” namely worship. Like a living iPhone or a extradimensional toy dog, personal deities are carried on individuals to pay for any manner of service or furnish all kinds of transactions. Nearly everyone has their own god – “part ornament, part assistant…part bodyguard, part bank” – except for the rare Shapers, the persecuted “nogodys” with the ironic ability to repair, reshape, and reconfigure these divine familiars.
Godshaper focuses its first issue on the Shaper named Ennay, who, when not serving as a persecuted god-handyman, engages in genderbending music performances with a supernatural power all their own. And he’s accompanied by an errant, believerless smidge of a god named Bud. Between the two of them and their new ex-military, one-armed acquaintance Sergeant Clara Smith, the characters are designed to test conventional boundaries and stereotypes in a landscape that does the same with industry and trade.
The theme of trespass and defiance of norms permeates nearly all aspects of Godshaper. The art by Goonface (the pen name of Jonas McCluggage) plays with all manner of fluorescent colors and variety of page layouts. And the deft lettering by Bell establishes a wide range of voices that somehow manage not to clash either with Spurrier’s range of characterizations nor with Goonface’s baked-in sound effects. To their credit, one of the only places that transgression motif doesn’t play a role is in the creative team’s seamless engagement in producing this book.
Oddly, though, the first issue of Godshaper overlooks one further aspect of transgression, namely the easy acceptance of these personal gods as gods. Set in 2017, the Godshaper storyworld has had nearly sixty years to adjust not only to the absence of technology but also the concept of worship-as-utility. Obviously, there had to be a tumultuous transition period for such a radical reorientation of society, and that story remains to be told. Given the firm sense of itself, Spurrier’s narrative likely has answers for such matters waiting in its backstory; there’s only so much that can or should be jammed into a premiere issue.
That said, even the most casual reader should be confronted with how he, she, or they feel about all the personal gods – and whether or not to consider them “gods,” proper. Gone is the power of Christ compelling anyone, gone is the pilgrimage to holy sites, and gone is faith working to shape human morality. If gods are a reality, as they are in Godshaper and Spurrier’s previous work on God Is Dead: The Book of Acts, then, ironically, it’s religion that has become phantasmal.
In short, it’s a compelling first issue and tantalizing narrative realm. But how much faith should one invest in it?