During the Cold War, the Soviet Union launched a dude really deep into space. Now he’s returned to Earth.
Things are about to get weird in the opening chapter of Valiant’s new four part series, Divinity. Is it good?
Divinity #1 (Valiant Entertainment)
Abram Adams is abandoned as a baby on the doorstep of the Russian Foreign Minister in 1945. Lucky for them, Abram is an exceptionally smart kid, excelling in his studies while also developing the hunger for discovery and adventure that great minds always crave. He didn’t just want to dream about it; he wanted to do it.
His wish comes true when the Soviet government taps him for a deep space mission unlike anything attempted before. He accepts the mission without hesitation, continuing to hone is incredibly sharp mind while also hardening his body…but not his heart.
Despite his superiors’ insistence that Abram not form any attachments, he can’t resist falling for a lovely Russian girl (which is understandable). As you might imagine, she is heart-broken when he tells her about the mission. Abram is pretty upset about it, too, but his desire to learn beyond the confines of earthly knowledge outweighs the pull of true love.
Meanwhile in the present day, some dude named David Camp is rock climbing in Australia… okay, yeah, I know this seems random, but stick with me… and he slips on a hold. Luckily for him, a returned from space (and really awesome looking) Abram is there to lend him a hand.
“FOOLISH MORTAL! Always double check your hand and foot placement before climbing to a new one.”
But instead of accepting it, Camp freaks out and falls down, bashing his head on the side of the mountain before collapsing (and somehow surviving) on the unforgiving outback. As he wanders the desert, he starts to give up before once again coming a across a trippy/cool looking Abram… who is being watched by a sniper… who Abram promptly turns into a bird… and uh… things start to get really strange.
But the point is that David and Abram meet and something big is going to happen between them.
Is It Good?
Okay, so that ending was a little out there. Fortunately, the rest of the story is pretty great. I’m cool with mind bending, avant-garde science fiction as long as it has that: An actual story.
Here’s an example. Some of you might have read my minimalist commentary on Grant Morrison’s Nameless #1, which consisted almost entirely of a .gif from the head explosion scene in Scanners. The issue felt like we were inside the mind of David Lynch during an acid trip. But lo and behold, most reviews for the issue were absolutely glowing.
Now I don’t doubt that there were people who genuinely liked the issue. Heck, Chris Burnham’s art made it almost worth the purchase alone. But you can’t tell me that some of those people weren’t reviewing it based on ‘Morrison Credit’ i.e. “Grant Morrison is a genius writer, so all this will make sense eventually.”
And you know what? They’re probably right. It’s why I’m still going to keep up with the series for now. Grant Morrison is a fantastic writer and he probably will mold Nameless into something really great. But slap a lesser known creator’s name on that first issue, and I think you’d see quite a few reviews with a very different tone.
THAT is where a series like Divinity, at least in this opening issue, differs. On one hand, Abram comes back from space and turns a sniper into a bird and makes another one start seeing pretty butterflies. There’s a character introduced by out of nowhere who promptly cracks his head open on a rock and survives. Add in some hits about otherworldly beings, and things are definitely weird.
But there’s also a strong and relatable narrative behind the weirdness that has me hooked. First we have Abram, a black kid abandoned in the Cold War-era Soviet Union and raised by the government. In terms of life experience, he’s already been to an alien world. From there, we get to watch him counterbalance the Soviets attempting to shut off his humanity while his heart fights between its desire for love and his mind’s thirst for knowledge. Writer Matt Kindt has expertly crafted an engaging, tragic, and beautiful origin story that has me completely on board for whatever happens next.
And speaking of beautiful, my original reason for being interested in this book was the artwork of Trevor Hairsine. He’s usually pretty great, but his pencils also seem to be far more susceptible than most to how they’re inked. Thankfully, Ryan Winn does a bang up job in that department. The end result is (in my opinion) some of the very best work Hairsine’s ever had published.
So yeah…maybe things got a little whacky at the end, but we’ve got a really cool backstory and some gorgeous artwork leading into it. That’s more than enough to keep me on board for the next issue.
Also, I’d like to note that my fellow reviewer and not-so-secret mancrush David Brooke has been telling me for a while to give Valiant books a try. If the level of quality found in Divinity #1 is the norm, I’ll definitely need to pick up some more of their titles in the future.