Welcome back to this week’s installment of The Fun-Size Round Table. I’m your host, Ashley, and today we’ll be diving in to Ordinary Gods #1 from writer Kyle Higgins, artist Felipe Watanabe, colorist Frank William, and letterer Clayton Cowles.
Ordinary Gods starts out with a bang, right in the middle of the action in late 90’s Japan. As a reader, we’re not entirely sure what’s happening, but when things go south, we’re transported off-world and rewarded with some intriguing lore recounting the past of the One King and 13 immortal Gods.
As a lover of well-told stories, Ordinary God’s non-linear story structure shines. Often a fantasy series can be dogged by the “info-dump,” that age-old method of overwhelming readers with world-building and back story right at the onset. But Higgins has woven together the past and the present with finesse, always providing just enough to propel the next few pages forward with meaning and context.
Our present-day hero is Christopher, an ordinary 22-year-old guy unhappy with the mediocrity and direction his life has taken. Christopher wants more. He’s tired of feeling weak. Well, Christopher soon gets what he asked for, but will he finally be happy when destiny meets him right at his kitchen table? Ordinary Gods is a story of reincarnation, otherworldly Gods, and alternate-Earth history. It grips you from the first page, and leaves you craving the next issue.
To weigh in on Christopher’s destiny, we’ve put together an incredible team. So read on and uncover our panel’s thoughts on Ordinary Gods #1, available today!
Rook Geary (@rookgeary)
Well, that blew my expectations out of the water. I had heard good things about some of Higgins’ work, enjoyed the first couple of issues of Radiant Black and some of his Nightwing a few years back, but this hits hard out of the gate with vivid, engaging, bold storytelling choices.
I wasn’t even sure this premise was a great idea going in, but the setup with the gods has a huger-than-huge scope that sweeps you up, and a relationship with our “real world” that’s startlingly relatable. If they can do justice to half of the themes brought up in this comic (particularly the therapy session), this book is going to be really special.
And this is all without mentioning Watanabe’s brilliant direction of action and character, the saturated bursts of violence and clever manipulation of tone from Williams, and the effortlessly classic lettering from Cowles. This book had me from the start and didn’t let go.
Katie Liggera (@kataloupee)
Most likely, I’ll show my age from this comment — but I can’t help drawing parallels between this expansive ‘immortal gods’ narrative and the beloved Percy Jackson book series from my childhood. Therefore, my Rick Riordian indoctrination in middle school makes Ordinary Gods #1 a perfect jump into indulging in a fantasy comic as an adult. Kyle Higgins demonstrates a remarkable propensity for storytelling structure. I wasn’t expecting an alternating narrative that both juxtaposed and echoed one another. However, Higgins engineers the dual storylines with alacrity. I found myself enraptured; astonished at how well the comic shifted between depicting immortal beings’ grandiose battles and relatability of young adult normalcy in the present.
Spectacularly, Felipe Watanabe’s illustrations, colored thoughtfully by Frank Williams, intensify the stakes. Intimate, close-frame panels expose Christopher’s struggles with depression, while sprawling splash pages enforce the ramifications of the gods’ conflicts. Clayton Cowles letters dialogue in the god-inhabited realms to stylistically appear as if we are reading an ancient manuscript. Visuals heighten every moment where I stopped reading often to let the images settle into my head. Ordinary Gods approaches its tale exactly like Percy Jackson. The fantasy concept proves more than palatable in the comic by treating a war of the realms and an everyman’s human experience with equal measure. Ordinary Gods whisks me back in time — in more ways than one! I am definitely adding this comic to my pull list.
Matt Brimfield (@the_brimmy)
Ordinary Gods has a compelling way with its approach to its storytelling. While not being a reader of traditional comics, I found myself intrigued and curious over the lore that was trickling through the panels of this issue. Though “Gods among People” is a common trope used in storytelling, Higgins has found a way to circumvent the cliche with the delivery of the lore given to us. Higgins gives us little breadcrumbs to an overarching plot of a war among gods.
The art between Watanabe and WIlliams is also punchy and vibrant; Giving life to Higgins’s story. You can go from a vivid depiction between the battle between gods to a seemingly average day at the mall with the protagonist, Christopher, and his sister. The over-the-top, gorey violence is icing on the cake.
Between the storytelling and the art, Ordinary Gods will definitely be a series that I will keep an eye on as it has captured my attention and drawn me into its vast world.
Jordan Edwards (@IamJordanZoned)
Higgins does an excellent job kicking off another series at Image. Ordinary Gods has an engaging premise and immediately interesting world. My only gripe was that it wasn’t explored enough. The issue does a great job of getting us a peek of the setting, but pinballs between different times and peoples a bit too quickly, I felt. The story alternates between sections with our young protagonist and expository scenes explaining the nature of the conflict. I felt that these expository bits went by a little fast, especially compared to the appropriately slow mundane scenes. I’m sure this issue will be resolved as the story continues, however.
Watanabe and Williams’s art does a lot of the work to sell this book’s two halves, as a whole. It could be easy for the extreme contrast to be overwhelming, but the art team paints with a careful brush, enticing us into a new and exciting world.
Ordinary Gods is absolutely a book to keep your eye on. It sets up an engaging premise with a relatable and human core. This could be something really special and I’m excited to see it kick off even further.
Jimmy Gaspero (@jimmygaspero)
There’s a lot I enjoyed about Ordinary Gods #1. Felipe Watanabe excels at both chaotic action sequences and intense, close-up character moments, with excellent coloring by Frank William, the comic was visually appealing, further enhanced by Clayton Cowles’s smart lettering choices, from tightly controlling the pace of the dialogue to letting loose with gunshot SFX. The story is also laid out in an interesting fashion. As the focus switches from another world inhabited by immortal gods to our own world and the protagonist Christopher, the panels bridging the gap are often visually connected as well as connected through dialogue or narration. There are clues seeded here early on regarding Christopher’s true identity, which I especially appreciated reading through this issue a second time. Kyle Higgins’ dialogue through the panels of Christopher and his therapist as well as Christopher and his family at the dinner table was straightforward, honest, and believable. It’s one of the reasons the end of the issue feels especially brutal.
I think it’s inevitable now when dealing with stories of gods on Earth to make The Wicked + The Divine comparisons, and I found this first issue more accessible, but that’s not necessarily a positive. I was certainly left with questions regarding Christopher’s sister, what Christopher’s true identity means for him and his future, and if it somehow affects his depression/mental health, but there wasn’t enough here for me to connect with or to differentiate itself from things that have come before it to add this to my pull list.
RJ Durante (@ArghRJ)
From a Yakuza shootout opening to a life-altering closing for our young protagonist Christopher, Ordinary Gods does not fuck around. Heads are blown off, families are torn apart, and uprisings are quelled, and that’s just the first issue. The tight narrative stylings of Kyle Higgins gives readers a release that’s less of an info-dump and more of a hand-holding guide into a world similar to ours. 13 gods lead 13 lands, with one overzealous ruler, appropriately named the One King, to oversee them all. Sauron be damned, there is no ‘one ring’ in this realm, but we can forgive this transgression as these gods bring new life to an old construct. The most relatable experience is to our aimless and depressed leading character Christopher. I’m all for ‘greatness thrust upon’ trope, especially when it comes from a family-ending bloodbath, I mean, look at The Punisher.
The real heavy lifting goes to artist Felipe Watannabe and colorist Frank William for creating visuals that seize your attention frame by frame, not letting go from beginning to end. Even though I laugh every time I see a gun fired and the words BLAM! are spread across the page, but they weren’t much of a distraction here as the artistry had me mesmerized. The look of the Gods themselves had a strange familiarity to them, which definitely made it easier to try and guess who was who without a label on their chest. Being a fan of violent comics, but specifically, violence with purpose because anything else is excess, Ordinary Gods fits the bill. I will definitely be looking forward to the next issue as this was a strong hook into this not so ordinary world.