God of Bad Men (#1 – 2) – Colleen Douglas

1 out of 5

Colleen Douglas has, in their Amigo Comics output, proven to have some compelling – and conceptually complex – ideas, but they are atrociously represented for their chosen comic format, cut-and-pasting talking points with “conversational” dialogue that’s all rendered into non sequiturs to the detriment of a book’s readability.  I dislike having such direct criticism that isn’t balanced by some type of qualifying statement – e.g “…but maybe it’s just not for me,” – but ‘God of Bad Men’ had me actively disliking the act of reading the comic due to its frustratingly obtuse style, not solely because it’s obtuse, but because I don’t think it’s supposed to be.  I think this is intended to be clever, and intriguing, and funny, and it just barely starts off that way – an alcoholic screenwriter seems to be grappling with turning metaphysical concepts into a winning script, and is then caught off guard by a jailed serial killer phoning him from prison to quote lines directly from his script-in-progress – but jumps off into the deep end of this seemingly randomized style soon after, butchering some valid sci-fi concepts that are presented into a series of sentences that drop lore without any precedent.  Here – remember the name of this important character?  No, because it’s never been mentioned before, but I’ll be talking about it like you already have the full context.  Oh, and remember this made up term for which its definition is entirely unclear from the sentence in which it’s used?  No, not sure how I could, but let’s barrel forward with several more terms like that, which undoubtedly tie to some world I’ve built inbetween the panels but won’t be talking about.

And whether or not it’s due to Douglas’ scripting style or just artist Chris Zero’s abilities, this “syncs” with the art in the sense that actions hardly carry over from moment to moment – it is baffling trying to understand character cues or reactions – and because of the way dialogue cuts into and out of a topic (which, again, I believe is an attempt to mimic a semi-realistic conversational patter, but it’s more akin to listening to two or three conversations at once, none of which you have any real grounding in), the words are not tied to the pictures in any distinctive way for most of the pages.  A character would mime something, or respond in some way, and I’d scramble over the panels for an explanation or just wait to see if some reference would be made at a later point, and there’d be nothing.  Zero’s style has an early Chris Bachalo blocky looseness to it, which isn’t necessarily my thing but is a thing, and makes for pages that look grabbing at a glance – especially when the subject matter moves to out-of-this-world stuff – but actually reading through it for a sequential experience is a chore, and Douglas’ script aside, Zero’s acting makes it hard to figure space or the exact emotion for any given scene.

I don’t seek to bash a comic.  And though I admittedly have been down on Douglas’ writing leading up to this, God of Bad Men is a cool title, and the comparative linearity of the first few pages had me thinking this might follow in the confuzzled-but-fascinating footsteps of Colleen’s Titan, which suffered from many similar problems, but at least suffered them while all relatively focused on the story, making the writer’s ideas the focus, instead of the lack of readability in their presentation.