Si Spurrier is, for my money, the modern master of the comics miniseries. At a time when people complain about not getting enough content in their comics, he’s spent the past few years writing comics which set up a world big enough for an ongoing that could last 60 issues, and then tells a tight compelling story in six, or even fewer. Numbercruncher, Six Gun Gorilla, Marvel Zombies: Battleworld, The Spire -- pick up the collected edition of any of these titles, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a good time. Best of all, they’re all perfectly self-contained, so there’s no further reading required.
Godshaper, wrapping up with this week’s #6, is the latest addition to this list. It’s set in a world which diverged from our own in the 1950s when technology suddenly stopped working, and religion was replaced by the appearance of actual tangible gods. Gods in the form of small glowing creatures with magical powers, somewhere between the dæmons of His Dark Materials and the pocket monsters of Pokémon, with one god assigned to every person.
Well, almost every person. There are also people born without a god, essentially disenfranchised from society and forced to wander from town to town. These are the titular "shapers," and our star -- the rock star known only as Ennay -- is one of them, trying to make his way in a world that has rejected him.
It’s a great premise, something Godshaper has in common with all of those books I mentioned earlier. What makes it different, though, is the other half of the creative team: Jonas Goonface.
Goonface’s art buzzes with energy. His people are perfect caricatures, dynamic and instantly recognizable, but when he turns his pen to the gods, you can practically feel the page vibrating in your hands. There are spreads packed with a veritable Pokédex of brilliant creature designs, all lit from within by Goonface’s neon-bright pastel colors.
And with this world of gorgeous, adorable, grotesque pocket gods, Goonface and Spurrier weave a thematically rich story. Godshaper is a comic about prejudice and discrimination, about greed and selfishness, about love and, I could go on and on.
Like pretty much all the comics I mentioned at the outset, though, Godshaper is also about stories and art. As I mentioned, Ennay is a musician, but as a shaper he’s also able to alter the form, color and powers of other people’s gods. In other words, he’s a storyteller -- one who, in his own way, is just as much of a master as Spurrier or Goonface (or letterer Colin Bell, who does some fantastically fluid work here).
The thing is, though, it’s not a coincidence that I keep mentioning those other comics when talking about Godshaper. Spurrier has the miniseries story shape thing down to an art.
These stories succeed because they follow a common recipe. Cook up a unique setting, one that leaves room for seemingly endless possibilities, and stir in a handful of well-realized characters with enigmatic backstories. Throw in a sprinkling of compelling mysteries to give it all flavor, and you’ve got something warming and delicious.
This recipe is one I’m very fond of, but like any recipe, it is ultimately a formula. Eat the same dish enough times, and you can grow accustomed to it. Maybe you can start to tell when the mysteries are going to reveal themselves, how the characters’ shadowy pasts might play into everything, where the big climax is going to tie it all together.
Godshaper does start out that way, and its issues follow a similar structure to many of Spurrier’s previous miniseries, but this final chapter suggests he’s more suspicious of the formula than anyone. Without spoiling how the story ends -- something you’re definitely going to want to find out for yourself -- Godshaper #6 actually unpicks that structure a little, makes it part of the story, and ultimately rejects a neat ending in favor of something looser.
For some readers, that might prove a little frustrating, but it will almost certainly leave you hungry to see Spurrier, Goonface and Bell reunite in the future. Ideally, on another perfectly formed six-issue miniseries. We can only hope and pray.