Simon Spurrier, Jonas Goonface,
Here’s an intriguing and unusual wee story just starting this week from Spurrier and Goonface with the first issue of Godshaper. In this world, for some as yet unexplained reason, the laws of physics went bananas in 1958, the upshot of this being that all of our fancy technology basically stopped working. Phones, cars, television, radio, freezers, X-Ray machines, planes, all now suddenly useless.
Humans being both inventive and also fond of the much more convenient lifestyle they can enjoy with their handy gadgets, find another way, and as the story opens in 2017, things have settled back down into a new way of life. Using gods. “A god for every person. And a person for every god.” These little gods have been designed to replace the functions of the now useless machines, from sending messages and taking photos to chilling your milkshake, while also often having other functions – companion, ornament, assistant, bodyguard – and people swaps beads for the more specialised services.
Actually, not everyone has a god… Enter our “two-bit nogody” Ennay. Ennay is a shaper – he doesn’t have a god of his own (well, he has a sort of companion god we find later on, but not in the way of most folks in this world). But as he walks from town to town in his ill-fitting and threadbare clothes he can performed a much-needed service, he can shape gods, adjusting people’s personal gods as required for different situations, or to spruce them up or even reconfigure their powers for different uses. In a world where such small gods are required to replace the now defunct machines society depended on this is clearly a much-needed skill. But because shapers don’t usually have a god of their own to believe in, they are despised as much as they are required for the functioning of society, not unlike money-lenders in the middle ages, for instance.
Ennay offers his abilites for payment in services or goods, but he’s not above working a wee scam too, his little god companion Bud sneaking into client’s premises to see what he can purloin while Ennay is distracting the client with his shaping work on their god. And this catches up to him later when an injured woman, a veteran soldier, spots this chicanery and realises Bud stole something that could help her expose a conspiracy that cost her dear. Needless to say the despised shaper is not exactly interested in helping others who rarely show any niceties towards him or his kind, but he’s going to get dragged in anyway.
Also in this fist glimpse of this strange society we see Ennay away from his shaper role, as a musician in a barn, and get a taste of a sector of society who don’t want to rely on gods for everything, especially creative arts. There’s a lovely mixing of eras and artistic movements that all started out low-key, underground, before becoming wider and more influential, the Blues being a strong influence (just look at Ennay’s clothes, the colour of his skin and the battered guitar case, like a shabbier-dressed Bluesman wandering from town to town for a gig in the 20s or 30s), and the Beats.
It’s an intriguing and different set up for an alternative society – complete with its own dissident movement of people who don’t like the way that society runs, which every society will always have. Goonface’s art is a delight, colourful, and evoking different eras to throw into the mix (30s Blues fashions with 1950s fins on a large road vehicle, for example), and his glowing, translucent gods of all shapes and sizes are wonderful, his characters just begging to be looked at, some cartoony, others verging almost on the grotesque (a market vendor’s leer as he tempts a kid to buy a picture he really shouldn’t be looking at is just priceless, or a double page splash of Ennay, post music gig, fluttering around the crowded room like a social butterfly, arguing with some, snogging others, drinking, shouting as we follow him across the pages and back and forth.
Unusual and with a great hook, I’ll be picking up the rest of this series.