God Complex #1
GOD COMPLEX #1 by Bryan Lie, Paul Jenkins, and Hendry Prasetya
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
GOD COMPLEX #1's sci-fi adaptation of ancient gods is both fresh and brilliantly executed. While character motivations at one point drag the story down a bit, the overall experience culminates in one of the best new comics of the year.
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Top Cow Productions, one of Image Comics’ early imprints, is one of my favorite comic book publishers. Started in 1992 by Marc Silvestri, the studio produces hit series like WITCHBLADE, THE DARKNESS, and CYBERFORCE. With its realistic take on superpowers (magic or high-tech) in the real-world, Top Cow has long developed gritty and often entertaining series for fans of all types. With their newest release GOD COMPLEX #1, hopes are high that this series will be another hit for the studio.

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Created by GLITCH, a producer of high-end collectibles, GOD COMPLEX began as a reimagining of a collectible figurine line. GLITCH took well-known mythological characters and built a high tech science fiction future around them, creating figurines that matched this virtual, cybernetic future. These characters had rich, detailed backstories, so it only made sense that GLITCH co-founder Bryan Lie and writer Paul Jenkins sought to bring these figures to comics. But can this story of science-fiction deities hold its own with the competition?

Of Gods and Men

God Complex #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

GOD COMPLEX #1 opens in the futuristic city of Delphi. Home to soaring skyscrapers and bright lights, Delphi seems like the perfect home for the common citizen. Lately, however, something has been afoot. The murder of three Trinity Church acolytes has Detective Seneca reeling. He recognizes the ritualistic nature of the scene, with the bodies posed in their church’s triangle symbol. Though his partner Rodgers disagrees, Seneca reports this fact directly to Hermes, the supervisor of the Delphi Security Force. Hermes, like all Elites, wears a large metal helmet that hides his features and high-tech armor on his hands and feet, giving him great power.

Due to his honesty and his own past connections to Trinity Church, Seneca is invited into Hermes’ inner sanctum. Here, Hermes explains that the murders of the Trinity Acolytes were a distraction from Trinity’s real goal. The Church has attempted to break through the security force’s firewalls with no apparent reason. Hermes orders Seneca to investigate the Church’s involvement in this cyber attack, and, despite the voices in his head, Seneca joins the fight.

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The Elites On High

God Complex #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

Let me open by saying that GOD COMPLEX #1 was an entertaining and oddly introspective story. I enjoyed every second. Before I gush on the finer points of the characterization and the art direction, let’s first look into what I would say is GOD COMPLEX #1’s main flaw. Every scene in GOD COMPLEX #1 holds a lot of power and importance, but some of them don’t necessarily feel connected as a whole plot. That said, 99% of creator Bryan Lie and writer Paul Jenkins’ plot is well-paced and vastly interesting. The overall murder mystery angle grounds the plot and helps readers slowly grow accustomed to this world of technological gods. Also, the themes of religion and deities walking among their host are beautifully portrayed throughout, which is a truly outstanding accomplishment with the profusion of stories dealing with that subject matter (American Gods, THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE).

However, one plot detail stood out to me. While Hermes’ interest in Seneca becomes clear near the end of GOD COMPLEX #1, he has no apparent reason to call Seneca to his inner sanctum. More importantly, Seneca is allowed access into this virtual plane (the Stream) that only the Elites are allowed to see. But Seneca doesn’t react. For the most part, Seneca’s character is balanced and interesting, but this seemed like a gap in storytelling. He has this ascendant moment, where essentially he witnesses techno-heaven, and then simply doesn’t mention it again for another ten pages. This seems a recurrent problem in this story.

Into the Stream

God Complex #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

First on the list of gushing is the art direction. The character design in GOD COMPLEX #1 is some of the strongest in comics. While Hermes (and later Apollo) are the only gods that we see in this issue, these mythological techno-remixes stand out as genius. The design elements are sleek and high-tech but perfectly call back to the source material. Hermes’ helmet, for example, has several angular, golden wings to call back to the original mythology. More importantly, though, they feel practical in a way high decorative armor typically isn’t. These gods look as if they could actually hold themselves in a fight with these weapons, which only helps further their design.

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While this particular detail cannot wholly be attributed to artist Hendry Prasetya (being original GLITCH designs), Prasetya’s designs for the human characters are wonderful. Seneca’s design especially intrigues me, filled with several cool colors. Though Seneca and Rodgers rarely dress in more than everyday clothes, they fit the characters well. More importantly, they don’t deviate from the grungy technopunk feel of Delphi.

Prasetya’s pencils are stunning to look at. A highly detailed realism fills his work and makes this strange world feel more grounded and accessible. Considering that Prasetya is responsible for both the pencils and inking, the quality of the art simply astounds. Jessica Kholinne’s colors only add to Prasetya’s work, giving the elements of this science fiction Olympus a nuanced and unusual edge.

Seneca the Younger

God Complex #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

As someone interested in world mythology, GOD COMPLEX #1 never let me go from page one. The brilliant introduction of subtle mythological elements (the security offices named Argus Heights, the city of Delphi) kept constant throughout the issue and only defined the brilliance of world-building. Even Seneca’s character stems from one of two Roman philosophers of the same name.

However, these mythological facets only shine a light on the interesting characterization throughout. From page 1, Jenkins and Lie play with readers’ expectations. Jenkins and Lie open the book on two sets of thought bubbles, one black and one white. As readers of comic books, we come to understand that both stem from Seneca, though the black stays constant throughout. As we experience Seneca’s side of the story, we think we see a character wracked by self doubt and uncertainty. However, near the end of the issue, we learn these black text bubbles are actually a literal voice within Seneca’s head. This revelation forces readers to read back through the issue, seeing how these thoughts don’t dictate Seneca’s actual feelings. They actually control his actions.

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Hermes as well receives a spotlight that most “god” characters lack. There is a potential threat with characters like him to make them feel airy and above it all. Usually this feels unintentional, that they SHOULD feel above their underlings because of their position. However, Hermes’ airy, distracted personality feels entirely intentional. While he is never afraid to shut Seneca up for his own reasons, he still speaks to Seneca and Rodgers like humans. When Rodgers accidentally insults Hermes within the god’s earshot, Hermes actually laughs it off, saying the Elites have thick skins. He feels human enough to be relatable.

Final Thoughts: GOD COMPLEX #1

GOD COMPLEX #1 is a fantastic opening issue. As I said, reinterpretations of mythology have always intrigued me. This science fiction world stands drastically apart from the numerous other entries in this genre, and it feels like a pertinent conversation on religion and the dangers of the modern world. More than that, the visual aesthetic is nearly perfect, with a deep focus on the myths that inspired the characters. While I have no idea where this story will go next, I am willing to jump on for the ride. I cannot wait to see where Seneca, Rodgers, Hermes, and Apollo go next.

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