G.O.D.S. #1 Review: Jonathan Hickman Invents a New Corner of the Marvel Universe In a Confident Debut

Valerio Schiti and Marte Gracia deliver strong art in this new Marvel project.

Jonathan Hickman begins his next Marvel Comics saga in G.O.D.S. #1, a title with a controversial lead-up due to its high price point and opaque prelude vignettes. Despite all of that, it's hard not to anticipate the next project from the writer behind the House of X/Powers of X reboot of the X-Men and the recent reinvention of the Ultimate Marvel universe, especially when he's teaming with a powerhouse art team like the one on G.O.D.S., that being artist Valerio SchIti and colorist Marte Gracia, who previously teamed on A.X.E.: Judgment Day. G.O.D.S. #1 meets and subverts expectations, leaning into some familiar Hickman tropes while shining the narrative spotlight in unexpected places.

G.O.D.S. #1 continues Hickman's fascination with the making and unmaking of universes that has colored much of his Marvel work from his Avengers run through Secret Wars and, most recently, Ultimate Invasion. The plot involves an upstart mage named Cubisk Core attempting to summon elder gods with the power of a dying universe while ranting about how the creator of this universe put them all into boxes that he's going to free everyone from. A wide array of Marvel Comics characters assemble to stop the rogue magician, with Doctor Strange taking a prominent role among them. However, it's G.O.D.S.'s new additions to the Marvel tapestry, the agents of The-Powers-That-Be and The-Natural-Order-Of-Things, who run the show. Wyn, Avatar of The-Powers-That-Be, is the main protagonist. While the Marvel heroes and the Centivars (servants of The-Natural-Order-Things) go for a direct approach to solving the problem, Wyn uses lateral thinking to trick Cubisk into defeating himself.

(Photo: Marvel Comics)

That approach is emblematic of Wyn's personality. He's immortal and has lived in his role of Avatar for a long time. He's gotten very good at it, even if he has come to hate it and grown jaded, especially after his wife, Aiko, divorced him a decade ago to take a promotion with the Centivars, who happen to serve his master's hated rivals. This has all given Wyn a too-cool-for-superheroes demeanor that masks a romantic heart. Especially when factoring in the long coat, he feels like an antihero shaped from the same mold as John Constantine, though acting from opposite origins: Wyn being an avatar of the powerful while John is a working-class hero.

G.O.D.S. #1 features familiar swings from Hickman as he drops phrases like "Babylon Event" into the mix without explanation and expects readers to roll with it. It's an effective worldbuilding tool for a preexisting shared universe since it gives the impression that these Centivars, Avatars, and their masters always existed, even if no one has mentioned them until now. Out of all Hickman's Marvel work, it is most reminiscent of SHIELD in that it creates a hidden history as told through the rivalry of two warring factions.

But for all of that, the boldest thing G.O.D.S. does is spend eight pages on a conversation. It's the talk between Wyn and Aiko that leads to their divorce. Through dialogue, it becomes clear that they love each other. Yet, neither is willing to lessen themself to be with the other, and their respective patrons are unlikely to let them get away with remaining together in their current functions. The conversational sequence relies heavily on the nine-panel grid to convey the regular cadence of the discussion but also applies a polyptych technique that both allows for a slow, lingering sense of time's passage and creates the impression that SchIti is panning his shot, dragging the reader's eye across the pages horizontally, and inviting readers to take in the moment fully. With Gracia's colors turning the lighting up to dramatic levels, it creates the atmosphere of a conversational drama. You have to respect the confidence it takes to put that brand of character-focused storytelling, especially involving two entirely new characters, into a $9.99 superhero comic, and the strong execution keeps it from feeling too indulgent.

Schiti and Gracia apply attention to immersive detail throughout the issue. As Wyn travels from one corner of the universe to another on his quest, the artists vary the qualities of each page's gutters, going from the slick yellow of the Collector's showroom to gnarled roots more appropriate to the Contemplator's Garden, taking a holistic approach that ensures the comic itself feels like a part of the story instead of a window to observe it through.

G.O.D.S. #1 ends where it begins. The issue starts with a conversation between Doctor Strange and Wyn about the tiresome war between good and evil and how Wyn is too old and weary to tell the difference between the two sides anymore. The issue's conclusion replays that scene and extends it to include a kiss that seemingly reminds Wyn of everything he'd forgotten, instantly lifting the weight from his appearance and bringing a rogueish smile to his face. That kiss and Wyn's reaction, as realized by SchIti and Gracia, undercuts the hyperbolically high stakes presented throughout the rest of the issue and feels like Hickman playfully winking at the reader, as if to peer through all the familiar trappings and stakes of the war between good and evil to smile and say, "Cheer up, we're having fun." If that's the energy readers can expect going forward, G.O.D.S. should remain a fascinating and unpredictable experience.

Published by Marvel Comics

On October 4, 2023

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Valerio SchIti

Colors by Marte Gracia

Letters by Travis Lanham

Cover by Mateus Manhanini