REVIEW: The Earthbound God
Story and Art: Anthea West
Additional Editorial Work: Ruth Redmond
Cost: €10 (buy online here)
The Earthbound God is an original graphic novel from Dublin-based sequential artist Anthea West. Launched in January (making it the first Irish comic of 2013) it was printed with the aid of a Kickstarter-style campaign.
It is the story of two hunters on the trail of the titular Earthbound God. In the tribal world of the book, an Earthbound God is one who has bound themselves to the mortal plane in an animal-like form. They are the most difficult of prey, but their heart is known as a cure for any illness, so are highly prized.
Although it is ostensibly a Western-style comic, a clear Manga influence can be seen throughout, and Anthea does a great job of mixing these forms. While I was raised on Western comics, I do have an appreciation of Manga and its unique style of storytelling. I tend to find, however, that any work that mixes the two never quite feels right, with artists usually taking some tropes or styles from Manga and chucking them into an otherwise entirely American-style work. (Some readers might remember Marvel Manga.) But here it is a more natural mix from an artist who obviously has a good understanding of both forms, and the end result feels right.
It is held together by a solid story, with a good through-line that never wavers or over-complicates things. It is the story of a hunt, and though there is more it than just that, all other elements are folded into this hunt, rather than separating in any way from it. To this end, the reader remains immersed in the snow alongside the protagonist through the whole book; start to finish.
What really impressed me about The Earthbound God is just how well presented it is. The entire story is set in snow, and this is used to great effect in the landscape and on the page, with the greyscale washing it in atmosphere and effect. The typefaces and iconography of the interior set to work building the world before the story even begins, and connected imagery on the inside covers bookend the graphic novel, making it clear that an immense amount of thought and design has gone into how the finished piece looks, and how this represents what it is; the story it tells.
Dialogue is a slight weakness of the graphic novel. Not enough to interrupt the story, but throughout the book it never quite felt natural enough for me. But this aside, I enjoyed the story, and was very impressed with the presentation.
The Earthbound God is 125 pages of story, and a good deal of backmatter as well, featuring concept art, character designs and an interesting amount of background material on the world it is set in. It’s an impressive debut graphic novel.