Page 45 Review by Stephen
One of the things I love most about Simon Spurrier's creator-owned work is that on top of all the lateral thinking that he pours into its premise, he doesn't let it lie there: there's also the language which is far from flippant but instead - like Rob Davis' THE MOTHERLESS OVEN and THE CAN OPENER'S DAUGHTER - comes with carefully thought-out connotations.
Here Jonas Goonface too goes that extra mile with lithe illustrations reflecting physical prowess and creative endeavour, leaving you much to infer from what they silently depict down the bar (none of which is clumsily and unnecessarily sign-posted by Spurrier) while adding, here and there, subtly highlighted details like this visual rebuttal to an idiot all too fond of the sound of his own ignorant voice:
"Man's gotta be a martyr to fashion these days, wants to get anywhere.
"Sometimes I wonder if you poor schmoos got it easier, huh? No god, no money, no style....
"You know the first thing about fashion, Shaper?"
The staid, self-regarding, disregarding, pot-bellied, barrage-balloon of a man has failed to do more than glance at the man - from behind - who is currently restyling his god with some considerable artistic skill and who is the very epitome of understated dapper in gloves, rolled sleeves, braces over a well-starched shirt, a quiff fashioned topiary-like from dense hair above chic, shaved sides and - to the fore so that the reader's eye cannot miss it on the bottom of the left-hand panel - a single and small diamond ear stud.
Now that is attention to detail.
God is in the detail and the detail has most certainly been injected into this title's gods.
This is a world in which everyone has a god of their own, and every god has a person.
It just so happens that they treat their gods like employees or slaves, and their gods are the equivalent of personal bank accounts and/or RPG video-game characters, both of which we long to upgrade as much and as often as we can.
All transactions are conducted via these gods: the series' sole currency lies in these powerful upgrades. What do we worship more than money and power? They're basically the same thing, right?
There are, however, some singular individuals born without gods.
They are regarded as "nogodies".
In this society - as in ours - they are treated as outcasts: the poor. For without a god they can neither acquire nor accrue money. They can never own a home for they have no money (and certainly no access to a mortgage without that bank account), so they are itinerants forever shunned but desperately needed for labour - for their unique ability to refashion everyone else's gods. They are called Shapers.
The first but by no means last Shaper we meet is called Ennay, he of the braces and diamond ear stud, and the way he's treated by our first customer - told to exit via the back door lest he be seen, for example - says it all.
He is, however, a bit of a hit on the cantik scene, which is akin to rockabilly and played unplugged, without a god.
"No holy harmonies here. No superpower pop. No gods as guitars. We don't get aaawwwwf on that godly groove.
"We got a new manifesto. We're here to repair the square.
"What we play, we play with our mouths and our hands and our hearts.
"This is cantik.
"It cannot be stopped."
Ennay throws himself into the music, and the colours and the crowd go wild.
"Underground, unrefined, unlegal.
"A movement, a manner, a counter-culture crime.
"One seriously unholy racket."
After which the spotlights go down, leaving a fluid double-page spread bathed in blue and purple neon as Ennay works the floor between tables, taking his credit and receiving his dues. He's definitely an equal opportunities kind of a guy.
It's a spectacular piece of fluid figure work and colouring, tracing Ennay's movements and his admirers in a serpentine path of purple and pink between the rest of the onlookers in indigo, while their cartoon-animal, ghostly gods are lit in bright blue, their outlines an ethereal white.
Which brings us to Ennay's second secret: he does have a god called Buddy. It's just not his.
"Weird. Can't see its believer."
Gods aren't supposed to exist without believers. Without believers they're supposed to fade away (see SANDMAN / AMERICAN GODS). So what on earth is up with Buddy?
Once the subplot involving war and "riff-raff rations" kicks in, the relationship between gods and their owners is explored a little further and grows far darker than you'll be anticipating.
Let's just say that we all know the pain when our bank account's drained but what if our bank account was a sentient god / ghost / animal?
So what else lies in store? Peggy Slim, queen of Synthpop Soul: her gigs fill stadiums, while her god has grown big enough to act as her entire stage set, such are the rewards she reaps. She's married - very happily married - but this union harbours a secret. And what of good ol' fashioned organised religion in this world of personal deities? Oh, same old, same old, hate-mongering as usual.
"Consider now the true serpents in our midst..."
He means the godless, obviously.