Publisher: DC (Black Label)
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artwork: Riccardo Federici
Colours: Sunny Gho, Dean White
Lettering: Tom Napolitano
Release Date: 30th October 2019
When I first heard about it, The Last God sounded like it was going to be right up my street. A bold fantasy story, epic in both scale and scope, packed with magic and demons and lore and all the things that really get my juices flowing as a reader. So it was with no small level of excitement that I picked up the first issue this past Wednesday.
The story is familiar fare for the most part, with an all-consuming evil having been vanquished thirty years previous by a group of the world’s most powerful individuals, affectionately dubbed “The Godslayers”. In the wake of their victory, some semblance of normality has returned to the realm, even if the scars caused by their actions – both physical and emotional – don’t seem to have fully healed. Unfortunately, things seem destined to be plunged back into the depths of despair rather quickly, particularly as it seems the ancient evil hasn’t been fully vanquished after all.
It’s a surprisingly earnest affair, playing the well-worn swords and sorcery tropes as straight-faced as possible throughout the course of this first issue. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but given the track record of Phillip Kennedy Johnson as a writer (Warlords of Appalachia being a personal favourite of mine), I was expecting something… more. Don’t get me wrong, the execution here is commendable, and there’s more than enough world building in this first issue to give the story a rich backdrop to play out in front of, but aside from the inherent visual appeal of the horrific ‘Plague of Flowers’, there wasn’t much about this first issue that really grabbed me in any significant way.
That said, the artwork of Riccardo Federici does a truly impressive job of keeping the pages turning here, with a rich, painterly style and some wonderful environmental designs. As I mentioned above, the Plague of Flowers is the unquestioned visual highlight, with bodies being rent asunder by razor-sharp thorns, and expressions of fear and agony being brilliantly realised on the victims’ faces. The world itself feels fully developed, even if most of the characters look a little familiar, and the whole thing flows smoothly across the page courtesy of some impressive layouts.
As I said, the artwork does a lot of the heavy lifting here, but while I absolutely love the feel of digging into a new fantasy world with its heroes, legends and dark prophecies, I also need some sort of investment in the characters themselves. And that, for me, is where this issue falls down a little. As far as I can see, none of the characters introduced here have anything remotely unique to make them stand out from the pack. Everyone is someone we’ve seen dozens of times before, from plucky gladiator slaves to gruff, belligerent Kings to outwardly regal Queens hiding their own secret machinations. This is fantasy-by-numbers, and while it’s an enjoyable enough read, I was really expecting a lot more from the creative team assembled here.
However, with all that said, I’m still going to be sticking with this series as it unfolds. Partly because good fantasy comics are hard to find these days, and partly because of the unquestioned talent of the creators involved. Plus, with this issue being merely the set-up for the story to come, I’m happy to give these characters a chance to evolve from the one-dimensional versions of themselves presented here. And if nothing else, Federici is going to ensure that whatever happens next is going to look utterly fantastic. Well worth a look, but it’s probably worth tempering your expectations somewhat – for the time being, at least.