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'Golgotha Motor Mountain' #4 shatters truth and reality to reveal a truly spellbinding story
IDW

Comic Books

‘Golgotha Motor Mountain’ #4 shatters truth and reality to reveal a truly spellbinding story

‘Golgotha Motor Mountain’ will devour your heart, soul, and body for all eternity.

There’s been a secret I’ve been trying to hide. Over recent months, I’ve done my best to try and dissect Golgotha Motor Mountain. Similarly, the team (co-writers Matthew Erman and Lonnie Nadler, artist Robbi Rodriguez, and colorist Marissa Louise) have done their best to craft this gorgeous and maddening story of the Damnage brothers (Vern and Elwood) selling alien meth. I mean, that’s what it is on its bizarre, psychedelic surface, and this book has been as much about family and shared trauma as it is about the underbelly of American history, the way trauma exists as an entity in the world, and the politics of small towns, among other massive ideas.

But after the fourth and final issue of  Golgotha Motor Mountain, it’s clear that I’m wholly incapable of truly distilling this deeply important and emotionally and intellectually potent series.

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I mostly felt like that through the bulk of the three issues, but my relationship and robust interest in this book had me trying feverishly to distill its Inception-level layers and robust offerings for both mind, body, and soul. But it’s issue #4 where the mirage of my own competency becomes inescapably clear, and my only consolation prize is that I hope everyone else feels mostly the same. Because the Golgotha Motor Mountain crew have created something that I firmly believe we’ll be talking about for years, and trying to analyze with the vigor and depth of the Zapruder film.

But since this is an actual review, I may as well try and break down the finale of Golgotha Motor Mountain despite those existential uncertainties.

The main thing that made reviewing the first three issue so easy is that they were snapshots — with Elwood and Vernon running from Sheriff Carter, Jr. and making deliveries of their unique brand of astro-meth. Here, though, Golgotha Motor Mountain really unfurls itself in this robust, multifaceted chapter that sort of dips and weaves back into itself a few times as to create this slightly meta, mostly textured story about the Damnages’ last stand before they try and make their way to the mecca that is Cincinnati.

And so given all the events — which center around a lot of driving around and a big confrontation with the “evolved” Carter in a cave — what we really get is this farewell letter from the creator as to what Golgotha Motor Mountain is really all about. Yes, it’s those ideas I’d mentioned already, but they also manage to reference things like the in-universe manga (and the story of its unfortunate creator); the Tunguska event; the Trail of Tears; and much, much more. And that certainly complicates the “body” of Golgotha Motor Mountain, pushing this mega-narrative into new heights that drive home just how much Nadler and Erman put into crafting this story that demands your energy and brain power to engage with it fully and completely.

For even more Golgotha Motor Mountain goodness, read our extended deep dive with Erman and Nadler.

It’s a story that shows you the massively complicated nature of human history, the soul of our very nation, and even how we’re all pawns in the grand game of cosmic overtures and inescapable biological tendencies formed over billions of years across the very cosmos. A thing that will make you feel deeply, deeply deficient in all the very best ways, and to pull you by the face into confronting ideas of both your own inadequacy and celestial wonder.

And yet the truth of it all, the nugget that really seems to matter amid all the chaos and majesty, is really simple enough. Golgotha Motor Mountain is, I believe, about how we can do better — as the people of a country, as siblings and family, as great apes on a giant spinning rock. Everything will transform and/or eat you eventually, but in the meantime, the universe almost begs you just to keep riding that transformed hoopty of yours into the bright and terrifying future. You can never escape your own mistakes, or the mistakes of those who came before, but you can try and do a smidgen better every time because you’re a g-d star child who has been forged on a planet of great magic and fiery tragedy and no bad word or ill-timed deed should stop you from inching past the abyss of your own baser instincts.

It’s an idea exemplified by a series of absolutely gorgeous moments by our sweet and saintly Elwood, and while I dare not spoil the ending proper, it affirms my overarching theory: it’s not about love or glory or happy endings, but stripping yourself bare and living life in a way that seeks honesty and sincerity and joy even if those are silly, fleeting ideas. The idea is that you can make a little more room for yourself and squirm more slowly into oblivion by just trying to do better each time and to trace the path you’ve been stuck to and understand its arc. The conclusion is almost always a heartbreaker, but you can’t deny the true power of embracing an idea so pure and essential.

This issue’s grandiosity is also very much captured in the primo narration from Nadler and Erman (as facilitated by the always exceptional lettering from Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou). There’s so much heart and personality in that stuff that it expertly ties together those massive, massive ideas into a tart but tasty package, which makes their consumption easier to slam down your gullet. But even that visual function doesn’t match the art from Rodriguez and Louise, who after three issues of groundbreaking work, have a literally career-defining run in issue #4.

Golgotha Motor Mountain‘s previous issues have been an absolute mind-bomb of psychedelic insanity, like the Mona Lisa painted with gunpowder and globs of peyote. Yet issue #4 maybe takes the cake for somehow achieving even more. The design work and body horror emphasis remain an essential thread; they’ve managed to craft something resembling a level of “comfort” and familiarity, and yet it’s never wholly easy to let slide or embrace full on. That tension, then, keeps our attention and also moves us along in a specific way across the brothers’ final leg.

Golgotha Motor Mountain

Variant cover by Nikola Čižmešija. Courtesy of IDW.

At the same time, though, the pair get to explore some of the brothers’ past with their nasty, abusive father. In this, they manage to push along the same kind of tension and unease even as they foster something resembling the warmth of nostalgia (but very much caked in a psychedelic fever dream). Through that threading of the needle, as it were, the Rodriguez-Louise duo bring the past into the future and vice versa, and we see the layers of this story and its interest in exploring threads of commonality come alive in this profoundly engaging manner. The art very much is the representation of this book’s more overt tendencies, and where the storyline whispered a lot about history and seemingly disconnected ideas, it’s the visuals where we really see how connected and aligned everything is in life.

Not only that, but the pair have such force and passion to exude that we feel our brains cracking open, and we’re drawn into this fungal colony of life and story in a way that feels both hugely terrifying and massively rewarding. It doesn’t make this book easier to swallow, or the ideas any less confrontational and scary, but we exist as a thread in this really vital story, and there’s no way to not feel like it’s our story as much as something we’re just consuming. It actively consumes back, and it makes the experience both a profound delight even as it never lessens the ache and violence that such a prospect demands. And in that way, your own doubts or insecurities about engaging with this book in a meaningful way are slightly soothed because it feels like life — hard and angry, but packed with so much promise.

It’s really that sentiment that made me both feel better about my big “secret” and also come to the conclusions that I’ve flaunted here. But I totally welcome the idea that Golgotha Motor Mountain could be something else entirely — not only thematically, but that I guessed its shape as, say, a whale when really it’s a black mamba or something. Which is totally fine — Golgotha Motor Mountain has done the only thing that matters and brought me in full stop.

I now live, at least mentally, in Golgotha, Kentucky, and these people are my neighbors, my friends, and my family, for better and worse. It’s now an inescapable part of my life, and I welcome the way this book’s altered my brain chemistry, shown me the power of a great story, and both soothed and confronted some of my core assumptions about life on this planet. I laughed, I cried, and I’ll never be the same — thank you, Golgotha Motor Mountain for infecting me with your space drugs and giant heart.

'Golgotha Motor Mountain' #4 shatters truth and reality to reveal a truly spellbinding story
‘Golgotha Motor Mountain’ #4 shatters truth and reality to reveal a truly spellbinding story
Golgotha Motor Mountain #4
The finale proves what I've thought all along: we are not worthy of 'Golgotha Motor Mountain' and its singular, one-of-a-kind tale about family, fate, change, and the real monsters of the world.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.8
The narration continues to dazzle as it melds folk tales and history into a compelling path through this massive book.
It's another peak for the series' art team, as Rodriguez and Louise give us this menagerie of past and present, reality and fantasy.
There's so many layers and nuggets of ideas baked directly into this book that it's a pleasure to inadequately try to crack it.
Why is this book only four issues?!
10
Fantastic
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