Title: Goddess Mode.
Writer(s): Zoë Quinn.
Artist(s): Robbi Rodriguez.
Colourist(s): Rico Renzi.
Letterer(s): Simon Bowland.
Release Date: October 22nd 2019.
Genre(s): Comics, Cyberpunk.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
Back in 2018, DC Comics saw to the relaunch of “DC Vertigo”, looking to give one of the most revolutionary comic book imprints the chance to kickstart another era of incredible creativity targetting a mature audience. With seven new comic book series (Border Town, Hex Wives, American Carnage, Goddess Mode, High Level, Second Coming and Safe Sex) as well as four others set within Neil Gaiman’s classic Sandman universe, DC Vertigo was on course to reinvigorating the comic book business and expanding its reach, trying to accomplish what writers like Alan Moore have given to fans through the Vertigo imprint back in the day. Unfortunately, in June 2019, DC announced the end of this imprint as they wished to regroup their content into three distinct labels: DC Kids (young readers), DC (for readers age 13+), and DC Black Label (mature readers). While some of the new series was canceled since their announcement (Border Town, Hex Wives, Second Coming, and Safe Sex), sometimes before even publishing a couple of issues, the rest lived to see their publication, including a magical girl cyberpunk comic book series written by the Hugo Award nominee, Zoë Quinn, and drawn by Spider-Gwen’s co-creator, Robbi Rodriguez.
What is Goddess Mode about? Set in the future, an all-powerful artificial intelligence called Azoth provides all of humankind’s needs by making use of nanotechnology. Supported by Hermeticorp, its parent company, the world’s deepest desires are all known as they tap into the minds of every individual. However, Cassandra Price, the low-level tech support who works at this very company that her father had helped see its rise knows that there’s much more to this company now run by a despicable president than what the eye can see. Although she has never been able to expose them for the inequality and social atomization that they’ve instaurated in the world, it is on the day she is sucked into a secret virtual realm of mayhem and metadata within Azoth that she discovers the Oracles’ war against a growing horde of Daemons. With consequences beyond her grasp on both the online and real-world, she discovers that her role is also far bigger than she ever wished it was.
This brand new comic book series definitely brings the desired “modern, socially relevant, high-concept, inventive” touch that was looked for in the rebirth of the DC Vertigo imprint. Without tackling the usual platitude associated with a future founded on technology where nothing but bad can come from it, this story brilliantly fuses technology and magic together, making it near impossible to distinguish one from the other, while also allowing the reader to understand that they are both nor bad or good but tools that we can control to do what we desire most. The world-building in Goddess Mode is also incredibly complex and multilayered, making it easy for the reader to immerse themselves in the cyberpunk universe.
What is especially notable from this comic book series is that it revisits some of the classic tropes seen in women-centric superhero stories. In this case, it suffices to imagine Sailor Moon within a cyberpunk era to see where I’m coming from. The story essentially revolves around Cassandra Price and portrays her as a broken and powerless lady who is reeled into a secret world where she’s forced to make decisions that she never thought she’d ever had to take. Within this first volume, she goes through a sequence of self-discovery filled with revelations on what she can accomplish if she believes in herself and what she can do for others if she first understands what she is capable of.
Through friendship and hardship, the main character evolves before your eyes and it is wonderful to see it unfold, especially thanks to Robbi Rodriguez’s artwork and Rico Renzi’s colours. From epic splash pages to magical group chats occasionally substituting dialogue bubbles, the artwork is a treat for fans of a more aggressive retrofuturistic visual style. The kaleidoscopic colouring is incredible and vibrant from cover to cover, capturing the fusion between magic and technology with near perfection. Although the story is a bit verbose, it remains captivating even if the world-building is sometimes dumped on the reader without warning. While it is an intricate story, I do believe it would’ve been nice if it had more issues to flesh out the ideas. Instead, it personally often felt like there was too much flesh for too little bones.
Goddess Mode is an empowering, kaleidoscopic, and multi-layered story about overcoming your deepest fears by not only believing in yourself but those around you to ultimately bloom.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!