Heavy is the head that wears the crown, until Golgoth cuts it off.
Luthor, Doom, Beelzebub, The Great Gazoo. Many superbads have tried to take over the world and remake it in their own image (Okay, The Great Gazoo just because he signaled the beginning of the end of the Flintstones, but I still love me some Harvey Korman. #respect), but there was always someone to stop them: Supes with some new power he’d always had; the Richards clan teaming up (“He’s stronger than each of us, but not all of us” – if that line didn’t scare you away from that mess, then that’s on you.); Spawn raising hell, and Boomerang. (‘Cause reruns are the best. I promise to stay on topic from now on.) Not so for Golgoth, the mighty Emperor before whom nations fall with ease. Having brought the bulk of the world to its heel by eliminating all the “good” supers and allowing his ministers just enough freedom to keep power struggles among themselves and not dare to usurp the most powerful being on the planet, Golgoth has now turned from conqueror to ruler, and those that oppose him will use every trick they have to try to take the god-being down.
Mark Waid and Barry Kitson pick up where they left off ten years ago (or just a few months ago when they re-released the original run in a beautiful TPB, as you can read about here) with their super evil ruler of Earth still reeling from the loss of his daughter (For reals, check out the first collection to see how deeply messed up THAT was!) and dealing with more and more people trying to squirm out of his control. What I truly love about this collection (and the series as a whole, really) is that we are presented with a murderous, overpowered nigh-deity who lays waste to his opposition in every conceivable way, from tactical brilliance to raw power in direct combat, and yet we find that we can feel for him, we are allowed to know his mind. We can find ourselves perhaps seeing his side right up to the moment he does something horrendously awful that makes your soul weep. Everyone in this book is looking to bring Golgoth down, and not only does he repeatedly drop the dopes with ease, he does so with boredom and no will to continue the fight, save the instinctual need to hurt those who attempt to hurt him. He’s not even really trying, and that’s the tragedy of his story. It’s like the whiny, mopey form of Hamlet laying waste to all of Denmark with less blood. (No, this thing’s loaded with gooey ends, it’s just that Hamlet’s so very…messy to stage.) The twists and turns will keep you guessing at who will finally top the master, and his reversals of the carefully laid plans are always so swift and thorough that you almost have to laugh at the seeming ease of it.
Barry Kitson brings such a wonderful and inspired look to the world, with a bright and bold palette hearkening back to the four-color pages of the old Super teams at the Big Two, yet with the clarity of line and action that makes it completely modern at the same time. Though Golgoth’s thoughts and motivations are impenetrable to all who serve and fight him, Kitson manages to parley big emotion from the stillness of his hulking form, finding the tragic emptiness and putting it on display for us, showing how the armor can protect the man, but that man cannot always fill it. On top of all that, he blows us away with incredibly one-sided fights, reinforcing the ideal that combat in comics feels only truly valuable when the sides are closely matched, where every side has at least some chance of victory, unlike this world where, though it’s amazing to see Golgoth mow down his enemies, the loneliness even he feels while doing it gives us a hollow feeling that is the essence of the storytelling arc.
There’s a lot of Batman in Golgoth in the vein of The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns, the lonely righteousness, the adherence to order. Of course, there’s a lot of not Batman in the “death from any angle” and ruthless, unmerciful repudiation sort of ways. This is a comic with great fun that also examines what it means to be of singular vision, and imposing it upon a world of your “lessers.” It’s an interesting mix and well worth the journey.
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