How does one care for a world plagued by war? By dropping a bomb on the whole thing, of course! And if that doesn’t work, just devolve the human race far enough back that they no longer have the technological sophistication to make weapons of mass destruction. Such is the prehistoric, post-apocalyptic scene introduced by writer Rick Remender in Devolution #1. Is it good?
Devolution #1 (Dynamite Comics)
Actually, the (United States?) government didn’t intend to blast all our minds back to the Stone Age. They only wanted to shrivel the God module, the part of the brain responsible for religiosity (I guess in typical political fashion, the powers-that-be failed to read the recent research that suggests there’s no such thing). The Great Decline must be kicked into overdrive in this other America, as religion was fingered as the source of all our aggression, leading to the miraculous congressional decision to excise it.
Of course in the real world it’s pretty clear that there are other factors lurking behind religiously-motivated atrocities, and all available data shows an unequivocal, centuries-long slide in worldwide violence, but hey, a story’s gotta have a premise. This one leads to the unintentional “devolution” of all life on Earth, which is a weird concept in itself, considering that evolution isn’t directional; “simpler” forms are often preferable in certain circumstances. And who the hell knows where the saber-toothed cats and pterodactyls came from, considering they have no known, living descendants, while the chickens remain chickens instead of becoming dinosaurs.
But seriously, just go with it! Caveman-ruled planet with pockets of immune humans trying to survive. Got it? Good.
Is It Good?
Devolution #1 follows a foul-mouthed woman named Raja who holds the same views on religion that the toppled government did. I mean, if God exists, why isn’t he fixing this? Why does Raja have to hide in silence, not even emerging to bathe, lest she be pummeled by ubiquitous, dim-witted barbarians? Why are the few remaining Homo sapiens settlements governed by sex-crazed warlords, while a few (un)lucky astronauts are stranded in space? And how will she escape the warlord’s grasp now that her horse has been slaughtered? Doesn’t seem like much of a divine plan.
The plot of Devolution #1 is solid enough, despite the rickety scientific underpinnings, and Remender’s curtailed his more wordy instincts in favor of lyrical brevity, but he also breaks a rule the importance of which he’s hammered on in interviews. A large chunk of the book is devoted to explaining—in explicit and gratuitous fashion—how this world came about. The first few pages rightly focus on the protagonist, but then it’s off to Exposition City, where the profanity seems shoehorned in rather than used to simply highlight the desperate situation.
The imagery provided by Jonathan Wayshak and Jordan Boyd is a saving grace, depicting the bygone mayhem like the most twisted paleo-art book, sure to horrify any young, would-be fossil-hunter. In a nice stylistic flourish, the human forms are also disfigured to match individual personalities, and loud sounds are accompanied by rushes of warm colors for emphasis.
If you can get past how we got here, there’s an interesting story in Devolution #1. Whether the hinted commentary on religion’s place in society ever materializes, or it’s been permanently jettisoned now that the narrative’s in high gear, remains to be seen. A lack of follow-up would be sad, and likely resign Devolution to being just another book about a terrible future (that this time happens to look like the past), but even then the art team might make the mini-series worthwhile, if you’re into snarling smilodons. It’s hard to get a read on Devolution from this first issue, but there are enough hooks here to make you interested in checking out #2 for a closer look.