GOD COMPLEX #5 by Paul Jenkins, Hendry Prasetya, and Sunny Gho
While some of its more obscure science fiction concepts don't quite feel grounded enough, GOD COMPLEX #5 delivers on nearly every other level. Seneca's new found aggression shows the development of his interesting character arc, and the art by Hendry Prasetya and Sunny Gho is some of the absolute best in comics.
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Our world grows more digital by the day. With VR becoming more advanced and AR slowly evolving, full immersion into a virtual world no longer seems like science fiction. In the GOD COMPLEX series from Bryan Lie and Paul Jenkins, the most powerful members of the society have full access to a thriving virtual world. These Rulers also have some of the most advanced technology available. However, for the first time, they have brought someone new into their fold. Former detective Seneca nearly died in a terrorist attack by the Church of the Trinity, a group seeking to end the Rulers. In GOD COMPLEX #5, Seneca leaves the hospital with new cybernetic enhancements. He now looks to take the fight directly to the Trinity and all of its followers. However, can he stop them before they kill again?

Seneca’s Sacrifice

GOD COMPLEX #5, Page 1. Courtesy of Image Comics

GOD COMPLEX #5 succeeds on so many fronts, but none greater than the characterization of its lead. Seneca has always stood out to me for the ways writer Paul Jenkins’ portrays him. From the start, he had this hugely skeptical mindset. He doubted the Rulers, despite the fact that they put so much trust in him. Now that cynicism has turned into deep seated aggression. After the Church of Trinity’s attack, Seneca’s mind shatters. He realizes that he is nothing more than a gun for the Rulers to point and aim. What makes this interesting is that, for the first time in the series, Seneca has to work with them. Their motivations actually match up. There almost seems to be this reverse character arc in play, where Seneca falls into a worse state of being than he was before. This works really well to subvert reader expectations.

Meanwhile, I appreciate the amount of time we get to spend with the “gods” this issue. While Hephaestus mostly leans on what we saw in previous issues, Apollo and Hermes manage to differentiate themselves from the others. Apollo has this cold disdain for his servants. They only live to make his life easier. This characterization runs so deeply that when Seneca snaps at Apollo in this issue, we applaud. Meanwhile, Hermes manages to set himself higher. He still relies on his Ruler status and the servant-master relationship. However, Hermes stands up for Seneca on a number of occasions. This isn’t explored in any great depth, but it is interesting to see Hermes being the good god here. Maybe he simply wants to extend the life of their tool, but he still manages to paint himself in a good light.

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Take Him to Church

GOD COMPLEX #5, Page 2. Courtesy of Image Comics

I feel that the plot of GOD COMPLEX #5 has very strong pacing. This is a very dialogue heavy story. Even though that dialogue is well written, it could lead to a slow, slog of a journey. However, I never felt bogged down. In fact, I zipped right through this issue. Jenkins manages to slip in several high intensity scenes to break up the flow of the slower sections. He still manages to give himself time to slow down and dig into some of the grander mysteries of this story. This issue, after all, is the second to last in GOD COMPLEX’s first arc. There is a lot of pay out here for long time readers, and it really is a pleasure to see this world expand even further.

With that said, though, I feel like GOD COMPLEX #5 suffers from some minor leaps in logic. The world-building hits a few snags from the very beginning, leading to some confused moments. Jenkins relies a lot on heavy science-fiction dialogue cues for discussing the Stream. We still don’t know the true nature of this virtual network and why access to it places the Rulers above all others. Meanwhile, the reason Seneca’s cybernetics constantly cause him pain isn’t fully discussed.

Mostly, these world-building issues are minor, but they still compound to a noticeable level. Jenkins knows exactly where this story is going, and I appreciate that. However, I feel like he yanks us along for the ride. I still want some more information about the Church of the Trinity and the voices in Seneca’s head, but we don’t get answers here. I hope that, by the end of next issue, Jenkins shines some light on these important and interesting details.

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Into the Network

GOD COMPLEX #5, Page 3. Courtesy of Image Comics

I’m just going to say it bluntly. Hendry Prasetya is my favorite artist in modern comics. The level of energy he brings to every page makes GOD COMPLEX #5 a total pleasure to read. The detailed work, even in the background settings, heightens every moment. However, it is his inking that really interests me. He uses a lot of heavy black shading in his style. This gives every page an almost noir feel. Set alongside the neon lights of the science-fiction landscape, this detail really sets this story apart. It pays attention to the fact that this is, at its heart, a cop drama. There is some high-tech weirdness going on, but Seneca is a detective with a major problem. Prasetya’s work does so much to set up the setting and tone of this issue, and I can’t wait to see where else he goes in the industry.

Sunny Gho’s color work in GOD COMPLEX #5 ranks pretty high on my list as well. So much of this setting relies solely on color work. The dives into the Stream especially require a color artist who is completely comfortable with his tools. After all, that entire world stands apart as a total neon wonderland. Gho makes this setting stunning and totally divided from the rest of Delphi’s landscapes. Delphi is painted in a lot of dark, desaturated colors. This gives the world a very dark, unhappy atmosphere, much like DC Comics’ Gotham City. The Stream should look like an oasis for these hagard travelers, but it belongs solely to the Rulers. Seneca is simply one of the lucky few who got to rise up. Gho makes these Stream sequences work, and it is a beauty to watch.

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Final Thoughts: GOD COMPLEX #5

GOD COMPLEX #5 suffers a bit from its world-building, but from very little else. This series has quickly become one of my all-time favorites for its mix of old mythology with new technology. GOD COMPLEX #5 manages to expand the lore by digging into Seneca’s journey as the first cybernetically enhanced demi-god. By digging into his growing aggression and his forced relationship with the Rulers, Jenkins manages to give Seneca a whole new level of interest. If that doesn’t draw you into this series, then Hendry Prasetya and Sunny Gho should. Their work stands far apart from several of their fellow artists in the medium, and it is a pleasure to see their work each month. GOD COMPLEX #5 isn’t a perfect comic book, but it does a fantastic job of entertaining its readers.

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