Skeletons From My Stack: Goddess Mode
Welcome to another edition of Skeletons from my Stack. A review series wherein I finally get around to reading graphic novels that have been sitting on the “to-be-read” stack on my nightstand for far too long. Thanks to a three day holiday weekend, I finally had a chance to read Goddess Mode. This limited series, written by Zoë Quinn and drawn by Robbi Rodriguez, was on my radar well before the first issue hit stands. Unfortunately, with all the other comics I was reading, I couldn’t afford to buy it in single issues. At the time, and outside of my review projects, I read titles by DC Comics exclusively, and as excited as I was for this unique series, I had no choice but to wait for the trade paperback. Meanwhile, the pandemic occurred and shutdown comic book production and shipments. Once things started to open back up, there was still a lull between my comic book store reopening and Diamond resuming shipments. Making the most out of a bad situation, I was finally able to purchase a copy of the Goddess Mode trade paperback from my local comic book shop.
Goddess Mode takes place half in the real world and half in the completely digital world of Azoth. In the technological realm of Azoth, science meets magic as Oracles battle against Daemons. Oracles, people whose minds have been dragged into Azoth, possess abilities unique to themselves. In order to escape from Azoth, an Oracle must defeat a Daemon, the dark pieces of corrupt code that feed on human suffering. The trade paperback starts with two pages that present the background details I just described in a clever play on a FAQ web page. Unfortunately, this section may have been misplaced. The beginning of this comic not only has really slow pacing but has little to do with the info provided on the first two pages. Further, many of the pieces of information that are mentioned in the opening FAQ are then restated in the first dozen dialogue-heavy pages.
“IF THEY WANT TO BE RELENTLESS, WE CAN BE DAUNTLESS”
The pace picks up soon after, though the book continues to be dialogue heavy. Quinn uses her wordy script to explore her characters. The amount of character development she manages, while still moving the plot forward and sprinkling in elements of mystery, is quite impressive. The Oracles were my favorite part of this mini-series. Unfortunately, by the end of the book, the Oracles don’t get the treatment they deserved. I found the climax to be very confusing. I re-read the last two issues twice, and I still can’t adequately explain the story’s true central conflict, the answer to the overarching mystery, or the Oracles’ true role in Azoth.
I love the contrast of colors between digital Azoth and the analog real world. The neon bright colors Rico Renzi uses for Azoth pop off the page. I also loved Robbi Rodriguez’s character designs. Every Oracle is unique and has their own distinct attitude that’s obvious just from the way they’re drawn. I got the best kind of cyberpunk Sailor Moon vibe (minus the matching school girl outfits) from the Oracles as I read through the book. Simon Bowland is due commemoration for his lettering skills. He not only has to fit a lot of dialogue into most panels, but has to do it across multiple fonts and formats. I do wish the action scenes were drawn a little clearer, specifically the Oracles using their special powers. Most of the fights wind up being talking heads and blurred bodies. When the Oracles use their powers, it’s not always obvious which one’s abilities are manifesting. Other times they use their powers in the background of a panel and the details become so small that it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
“WHEN LIFE IS DOING ITS DAMNDEST TO KILL YOU, EVERY DAY YOU SURVIVE IS A VICTORY.”
Goddess Mode’s story is entertaining but it struggles tonally. Quinn never really finds a balance between elements of mystery and action/adventure. The character development is great but the story itself winds up being confusing. The characters look great when they’re standing still but the visual quality and clarity declines when they’re drawn in motion. Luckily, the colors and lettering keep panels looking interesting even when it becomes hard to tell what’s going on. All in all, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this Skeleton from my Stack, but I don’t think I’d ever choose to read Goddess Mode a second time.
Story: Zoë Quinn Art: Robbi Rodriguez
Colors: Rico Renzi Letterer: Simon Bowland
Story: 3.5 Art: 5.0 Overall: 4.3