Writer/Artist: Ho Che Anderson
Graytone Artist: Victoria Pumphrey
Letterer: Pol Carpenter
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Publication Date: January 2023
Cartoonist Ho Che Anderson has now concluded his magnum opus, Godhead, with Godhead 2. This conclusion is out now, nearly five years after the first half part published. It is perhaps important to note before going further that these are not works that stand alone. No, Godhead and now Godhead 2 are very much one book split in two — neither works without the other, at least not without a heavy degree of confusion. That said, when taken together they are one of the most interesting action/espionage comics in years.
Yes, Godhead 2 marks the completion of an impressive work. It is an espionage story built upon a foundation of tension, tension between some of the guiding elements of civilization — religion, science, and the corporate manipulation of both. As the book’s name implies, religion is at its center. It manifests not only in the title, but as well as in the book’s most striking imagery, the futuristic cityscapes overseen by gigantic and statuesque literal godheads, the vast majority of which appeared in the first volume.
Which makes sense. The first Godhead had quite a bit of setup to do so that Godhead 2 could pay it off now with basically nonstop action. It’s sort of like an inverted Kill Bill in that way, with the exposition coming up front (although the first part had plenty of its own set pieces). The second book, though, delivers a far tenser ride that reads more quickly, putting many characters (and their values) in play and sending them through the ringer to show us what individuals are dealing with in the world Anderson has crafted.
In a way, this second volume feels like an evolution of the type of action comic you often see from the direct market, alternating at times between bursts of machine gun fighting and intensive relationship melodrama. Where it really transcends, though, is with Anderson’ approach to the cartooning, specifically the page layouts. There is one two-page spread in particular in this second book that lands among the most kinetic cartooning I’ve ever seen. It uses a mix of car chases, gunfire, and character reaction, with a sweeping establishing shot of the elevated freeway where it’s all taking place, dotted on the latter half with inset panels.
That’s just one example, but Godhead 2 is dotted with visual storytelling concepts on par with what I’ve described above. The book is an absolute treat from a craft perspective, one that makes this 150-page-plus second volume read a bit like the grand finale at a fireworks show — all killer and no filler. When taken in combination with the heady world-building and philosophical questions raised by the story’s first half (which are addressed again here around the edges of the fighting), it’s a powerful package.
Ultimately, if you read Godhead and thought it felt incomplete…I can’t fault you. But now with Godhead 2, Ho Che Anderson has finished the story, delivering a second half that reveals the full scope of his narrative ambitions. When taken together, these two parts are a complex treatise on creation, on religion and AI, and on how at this point in civilization, both worship and origination have been overtaken in a sense by corporate structures. We as a people are as loyal and indebted to them as we are or have been to any faith. Plus, there are highway machine gun fights.
Godhead 2 is an interesting graphic novel, the sort that uses tense visual storytelling to raise more questions than it does to provide answers.
Godhead 2 is out now.
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