In mid-2010, Wildstorm released the OGN “A god Somewhere”, a comic that struck a chord with me. I recently re-read it for the first time in nine years to see if it still resonated.
Written by John Arcudi
Penciled by Peter Snejbjerg
After a mysterious disaster, a young man named Eric finds that he has just as mysteriously developed extraordinary abilities. He starts out trying to help people, but his solitary position in the world isolates him in ways no average human could understand. This story charts the arc of the evolution of Eric from man to…well, who knows what, as seen through the eyes of his family and his best friend, Sam.
194 pages / $24.99
I still remember seeing the above solicitation in “Previews” along with a three-page excerpt. I hadn’t heard of the creators before, but the appeal was instantaneous. I wanted to get a copy as soon as possible, never mind that my comic budget was already pushed to the limit thanks to Matt Kindt’s similarly-timed release “Revolver”. I found a way to make it work and had no regrets. I read it several times that month and convinced a friend to buy a copy just so I could discuss it with him.
Eventually it was put on the shelf and my fervor found other targets. I’ve moved a few times since then, and during the packing/unpacking phase I would flip through it, remember how much I liked it, and think “I should read this again.” There just never seemed to be time.
Then I began to get apprehensive about reading it again because mid-2010 was a unique time in my life. I quit a job I’d had for four years. I got married. I moved into my wife’s apartment. The story cycle that had been responsible for me getting back into comics was about to conclude. What if the appeal of “A god Somewhere” had just been serendipitous? What if it wouldn’t speak to me now that I’m a seasoned husband and father of three who’s been working for the same company for 10 years? Worse, what if my matured sensibilities revealed that it sucked, and that my taste had been sucky when I was young? I mean, that’s happened before…
I needn’t have worried. It was actually better this time around.
The premise is well-worn: a man in an otherwise normal world develops superpowers, but THIS time it’s done realistically! The hook is appealing but risky: the story is told from the point of view of the most interesting character’s best friend. The structure was obviously built as an eight issue miniseries and not reworked when the package changed to an original graphic novel. The themes, more specifically their presentation, is where “A god Somewhere” really excels. They’re complex, layered, and dialogic.
The only narration in the book comes from the lead character, Sam, and it’s presented in a post-facto manner – he’s telling the story long after it’s over to readers who are assumed to know how it ends. His peripheral role to the main action is established immediately on the first page, where we see a young girl crying over her dead mother’s body while Sam says that no matter who you are, you’re never more than a supporting character in everyone else’s story. This is reinforced at what would have been the end of issue one, but here is only the middle of part one, when we see the same scene as Sam runs through the aftermath of an explosion. He doesn’t notice the girl, and they’re never brought up again. There’s no narration this time, and it would be easy to overlook if Bjarne Hansen’s color work didn’t help the mother’s nightgown pop.
The super powers developed by Sam’s friend Eric are vaguely defined – he never enumerates them, he just uses them – and seem to be accepted as fact by everyone pretty quickly. Things start go to sour on several fronts and before too long (in page count if not in time) Eric goes from struggling hero to an unstoppable, murderous force. Sam is carried along by proximity and ends up being hired to write articles about his friend for the equivalent of “Time” magazine. The narration throughout the book is from Sam’s last article after… well, after the event is over.Continued below
On a first read, Arcudi seems to waste a significant number of words and panels on things that don’t matter. For example, there are at least five scenes where race is brought up as an issue (Sam is black, Eric is white), but none of them ever escalate to a climax, or even a real conflict. This was noted by more than one reviewer when “A god Somewhere” was released.
In 2011, Arcudi said he included that element partly because he felt it was underrepresented in comics, but he’s also said it was included as subtext so readers could apply it to the story however they saw fit. Personally, I think the way Sam has been repeatedly required to defend his friendship with Eric informs his continued defense of Eric’s extreme behavior later – it’s an automatic response at that point. This internal conflict is something most people have seen before, if they haven’t experienced personally. It reminds me of Norm MacDonald speaking about his friends caught up in the #MeToo movement in 2018.
Snejbjerg and Hansen came on the book as a pair, and they work well together. The most important and most basic requirements for comic art are fulfilled: characters are distinguishable and movement is clear. Snejbjerg’s line work is neither simplified nor overly detailed. Facial expressions are where he really shines, particularly in the eyes. Hansen uses a combination of flat colors and gradients with some shadow accents, which keeps the eye on the important elements without distracting.
The most remarkable aspect of the artwork is how they treat violence. From page one, discretion shots are verboten. One theme in the story is how violence changes people, and that can’t be done fully unless the reader sees the results of violence, both intentional and unintentional. When Eric leaps through a hospital window to rescue survivors of an explosion, the glass wounds several bystanders. Tellingly, no one in the story seems to notice but those who were hit. Later, a tank is thrown into an apartment building. Instead of staying with the main action, the art follows the tank for 1¾ pages to show all the people whose lives are literally impacted by it.
The book isn’t perfect. It makes no effort to show when flashbacks start or stop, which can be confusing. The primary method of showing how much time has elapsed is by the length of Eric’s hair, which is a novel idea that is ineffective in practice – especially when Eric’s not in the scene. The only important female in the story is Eric’s sister-in-law, but her role is limited to adding sexual tension among the male characters. If she had been replaced by a sexy lamp, the story would have worked just as well. The one time she interacts with another woman (Eric’s mom), the conversation is about making babies within one panel.
If you haven’t read “A god Somewhere” before, I highly recommend locating a copy. If you have read it, I recommend digging it out for a fresh look. I know I won’t be waiting another nine years to open mine again.