While one of the most quickly paced and breezy issues of “Gødland,” Joe Casey and Tom Scioli pack a lot into these 20 pages, including the stunning origin of Friedrich Nickelhead, the villainous robot/android that recently took over congress and, now, fights alongside the ‘good guys’ to repel an invasion by an alien, the Almighty Decimator. During the course of the fight, the revelations about himself continue to be given to him from the mysterious talking butterfly that showed up a few issues ago to harass Nickelhead somewhat. However, in typical “Gødland” fashion, the origin isn’t presented explicitly, coming out in hints and allusions that can be interpreted in different ways.
Standing out most of all is the way that Scioli approaches the art here, using two-page layouts for most of the issue, when the focus is on Nickelhead. He uses some different approaches from hard-lined traditional layouts with panel borders to more design-oriented layouts with soft or non-existent borders. Especially as the issue progresses, Scioli experiments more and more with layouts, combining what’s happening in the fight between the Almighty Decimator and Nickelhead, and his origin in freeform collage/montage pages with Kirby references and metafictional tones. They’re the sort of pages you could spend hours looking at and picking apart how they’re constructed, and what some of the images mean.
Part of the interesting thing about the way the pages are designed goes back to the process of creating “Gødland” where Casey and Scioli work in the ‘Marvel method’ of production: Casey plots the issue, Scioli draws it, and, then, Casey scripts it. The flow of some pages isn’t exactly clear entirely, leading to various reading orders of word balloons and, as a consequence, differing meanings. Since the story isn’t entirely straight forward as it is, two different readers could walk away with two very different interpretations of what’s happening, in a good way. Nickelhead’s origin is meant to be revelatory for both him and the reader, so allowing for a certain degree of ambiguity works well. Visions of these sort shouldn’t be explicitly cut-and-dry.
In many ways, the plot of the overall series doesn’t advance a lot here. While the fight between the Almighty Decimator, his forces, and the forces of Earth happens in the background, it’s not the focus of the issue. Pushing that explicit plot point to the background or, in some ways, the sideground of Nickelhead’s vision of his beginnings is rather clever since Scioli still draws a lot of action, but it’s presented in a non-traditional manner. Casey and Scioli deliver a strong character-oriented issue while advancing the nuts and bolts plot before shifting to the Archers in space for the end of the issue.
“Gødland” has always had its ‘trippy’ or ambiguous moments, but none more so than this issue where both Casey and Scioli experiment with their craft to present both a battle and a revelation. What exactly it means isn’t 100% clear, but it shouldn’t be and it makes for one of the best issues of this consistently fantastic series.