Thee Comic Column #74 Garth Ennis and Phil Winslade’s Goddess

image courtesy of http://c4comic.it/

With the tsunami of excitement surrounding the announcement a few weeks ago that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been greenlit by AMC to bring Garth Ennis and Steven Dillon’s PREACHER to the small screen I decided the time was almost right for a re-reading. It’s been about five years since the last one so I’m due anyway, excitement surrounding this news or not. However, I say ‘almost’ because there is another book I wanted to re-read first, one that I haven’t revisited since about 2001 and its been on my mind for awhile now. That book is Garth Ennis and Phil Winslade’s 8-issue mini series GODDESS.

Goddess and Preacher are slightly intertwined for me, as they both began monthly publication about the time I was getting out of 90’s X-books and into the better stuff. I’ve said in these pages before how Preacher and Stray Bullets are the books largely responsible for helping me transition, but Goddess definitely contributed to that watershed as well, so it’s definitely about time I gave the book its due.

Published by Vertigo in 1995-1996, Goddess issue #1 hit the stands – I believe – two months into Preacher’s run. I’ve always assumed that Goddess was finished and waiting to find a home when Preacher blew up and DC requisitioned everything they could to capitalize Ennis’ sudden expansion in the hearts and minds of comicdom. Incidentally, this would also explain why Tommy Monaghan – aka Hitman – a character first introduced in 1993 during Ennis’ run on The Demon received a regular DCU title (with John McCrea on art) in 1996 – a little over a year into Preacher’s run. Whatever the case, coming off the convoluted, almost condescendingly bad X-books of the time (this is well into post-Claremont territory) and maybe even *gasp* some of that Heroe’s Reborn stuff, monthly doses of Ennis’ patented brand of violence and insanity really helped shake loose my definition of what comics could be. And while over in the pages of Preacher Ennis and Dillon were building something that probably none of us realized how profound it would be in the end, in Goddess Ennis and artist Phil Winslade were having a bit of fun wreaking havoc across the globe in an ecologically-motivated story of, well, blood, guts, jerk-off CIA agents, total wankers and Mother Earth.

Oh, and guns. Did I mention guns?

Goddess is Rosie’s story, but it is told to us by Jeff,  the aforementioned wanker who simply MUST have been a prototype for KEV, a character Ennis would later immortalize in the pages of The Authority. As we meet Jeff he has just lost his job and his girlfriend quickly followed suit. While contemplating suicide in pure Ennis fashion – sitting in a tree at the zoo trying to work up the nerve to throw himself into the tiger’s pen – Jeff is saved by Rosie, whose uncanny way with animals keeps the tiger from mauling Jeff the way it does a constable trying to talk him down off the, er, branch. In the face of this trauma Jeff pins all his hopes on this beautiful Irish redhead  who has given him his life back, but what he doesn’t know about Rosie is that her special gift with animals has recently developed into something much more severe. Issue one actually opens with Rosie discovering the extent of her new power by accidentally causing an earthquake that cracks Scotland off from Britain.

So yeah, in the words of the narrator in Fight Club, Jeff meets Rosie at a very strange time in her life, a life that  is about to change IMMENSELY.

Things go pear-shaped when Jeff tracks down Rosie’s flat and pops by with some flowers to say thanks. At this point several parties interested in Rosie converge and all bloody hell breaks loose. You see, it seems the nastiest sunovabitch employed by the CIA’s psychic research division has caught wind of Rosie’s abilities and guess what? Of course the post-Cold War US government wants Rosie as a living weapon. Toss in Rosie’s old pal Mudhawk, a truly malevolent example of how far some can take animals’ rights, and his ex-girlfriend Sam and you have most of our long-haul cast. From here it’s a chase, as in almost National Geographic splendor Rosie and her friends span the globe looking for answers to what is happening to her, while of course trying to avoid the military.

Oh, and then there’s Constable Dixon and Moz and Kev – the Butcher Bruvvers. Think of the worst of Ennis’ psychopaths you’ve seen thus far, dumb them down and bulk them up and you’ve got a three-piece of absolute brutality on our gang’s trail – only for completely different reasons altogether.

So this is definitely in Ennis wheelhouse. In fact, this is perhaps part of the genesis of that wheelhouse that carried him through to books like The Boys and The Authority. And Phil Winslade – good lord, why does this man not work more in comics? The art in this book is fantastic – I believe it’s a mixture of pencils and paint that Mr. Winslade employs to bring the story to its gory but truly epic proportions. There’s a real harsh overtone to a lot of what we see – whether its the dreariness of the urban environments of NYC and Britain or the SPLURCH-inducing bodily fluids that tumble across the page at least a couple of times an issue, but this darker edge is also undercut by some truly beautiful, glorious moments that help capture the gray areas that not only hang over the extreme end of the environmental movement, but also over all of life. Especially the hyper-violent life of 1995.

image courtesy of the wonderful dailysplashpage.blogspot.com

If you are not an Ennis fan, well then this book is probably not for you. But if you’re on the fence or if you are an a fan – especially of Preacher and The Boys – and this little gem snuck by you previously, well then you are in luck my friend! Goddess is, of course, collected in trade paperback. And what you’ll get from it is a very interesting dry run at some of the bedlam Ennis gave us in The Boys, but in a shorter, sharper burst that will likely have you saying, “Oh! That cigarette to the face had to hurt Limpdick. I mean, Limpcock!”

……………………..

Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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