We’re getting back into the swing of these group reviews! This week we have Divinity from Valiant Comics and oh boy are several of us chomping at the bit to tell you our thoughts and give you our scores. But don’t be shy! Tell us your thoughts and score in the comments below. Now a quick synopsis of the issue: At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union – determined to win the Space Race at any cost – green lit a dangerously advanced mission. They sent a man farther into the cosmos than anyone has gone before or since. Lost in the stars, he encountered something unknown. Something that…changed him. Long thought lost and erased from the history books, he has suddenly returned, crash-landing in the Australian Outback.
First and foremost Divinity is an issue to be discussed. It’s why I’m looking forward to everyone else’s comments because there’s so much perspective to be given from everyone reading it. Personally I loved it. I think it’s one of the best things that Matt Kindt has written and I found it to be awe inspiring.
Kindt takes us on an emotional journey with our main character and it’s hard not to be invested in Abrams story as we see his life and know what’s to come for him. The journey is awesome and while we only know surface level things about his character it was the perfect origin story for him.
The other thing that I liked was how Meta it is. The pages turning the narration straight up telling you that it knows you’re reading a comic book and how the art lined up when it described the two pages touching. Ah, it was so damn brilliant because Kindt and Hairsine forced you to put the pages together in your mind. To see how they would look. They took you out of the comic for just a second to expand on what it means to read a comic book. This issue was fantastic and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
When I first started reading Divinity #1, I can’t say I was hooked. I noticed that Matt Kindt was writing this and the opening lines were interesting enough with that cryptic scene of the baby left out at the doorstep and perhaps the baby when he was an adult. But the following few pages didn’t capture me as it seemed like another typical tragic start for a superhero-type character. Abram Adams was abandoned on a doorstep, he was taken in by adoptive parents, and eventually they died too. Nothing incredibly new.
However, once it gets past this things really start to heat up and Kindt’s mind-bending work comes into full force. His writing is just genius as usual, I especially enjoyed the page-turning metaphor used throughout. This is definitely an issue you’re going to have to (and more importantly want to) read over a few times to catch everything. There were a few moments towards the middle that threw me for a loop like Abram having a girlfriend and then these shocking moments are amplified ten times towards the end and leave you begging for the next issue. I really enjoyed the artwork as well, especially the coloring. From the vibrant sci-fi blues and purples to the lush jungles, everything is nice and detailed and really pops off the page. This is a mini-series not to miss if you’re a fan of sci-fi comics and unconventional storytelling.
I must say that Kindt has brought things off to a sweet start in what is showing some serious promise to be a real good miniseries. I like the pacing and the artsy edge of Kindt’s writing that he uses being philosophical in his depictions and use of time and space. The flow is nice and it definitely keeps your attention.
Art wise, Trevor Hairsine, like Kindt, brings a par to the course display demonstrating the healthy mix of style and substance that exist in all of the Valiant titles. With this issue, it is no different and done well. It certainly does have style.
And man, that cover! If that doesn’t make you want to read this title, I don’t know what would. It is one that is inviting, yet aloof. Like this opening issue, we see some of the surroundings, but only from the back side. We have three more issues to go to the front, and I am solidly on board to take that journey.
Kindt manages with Divinity to set up a mystery and give us an origin story in twenty-six pages while maintaining a rhythm that doesn’t feel like an exposition assault. Although we’re given glimpses into just what our protagonist is able to do following his space mission, there’s still no confirmed origin for why Adam Abrams can transform a man into a bird…man or teleport a man’s wife to his location. What we do get is set up for some great emotional stakes for Abrams, who’s forced to leave his lover in order to complete his mission, and who’s birth has its own share of mystery surrounding it.
While the story of an encounter with extraterrestrial beings changing an Earthling has been done before ad nauseam, Kindt’s take makes some choices that allow it to stand out. For instance, Abrams lives in Soviet Russia at the time of the space race with the US, devoting his life to the state once his adopted family has passed. This distinction from the typical American origin story changes the way in which we consider Abrams’ motivations and fate since rather than enforcing the American ideal of individual self-empowerment, Abrams as “Everything Russia represents” takes on the ideals of ‘Strength. Perseverance. Commitment.” Whether his national origins will continue to play into the comic is hard to say, but Kindt seems poised for interesting storylines should he focus on this aspect of Abrams.
While Kindt’s story most attracted my attention, Trevor Hairsine’s art grounded it in a realistic and rich vision of 20th Century Russia in the comic’s first half. From his wardrobe designs to his backgrounds, Hairsine ensures that readers feel present within the world of Divinity. Even prior to the comic’s most fantastical elements, the glimpses into Abrams’ find do well to set up the book’s otherworldly elements. I have little idea where this comic will be heading, and whether or not I follow-up with it for the site, Kindt and Hairsine have me hooked.
Oh how I loves me some Matt Kindt! But if it’s one thing Divinity #1 proves, it’s that I prefer him in large doses. As expected, this is a book that shows incredible promise, with a high concept that meets somewhere between the super-science underpinnings of Manhattan Projects, the treatment of godlike power in Edmondson’s Genesis and the “communist superman” conceit of Red Son.
While Kindt impresses in his ever-gripping writing style throughout, I feel like the latter half unravels too quickly after such a solid character intro. Its surreal twists are weird enough to make me want to answer Divinity's questions, but I think its gravity (ironically for this story) weighs it down. Still, in the same way I like reading Mind MGMT, Kindt’s flavor of slow burn demands collection, and a solid block of time.
Hairsine’s art here carries its usual crumpled-paper aesthetic, which has become so ubiquitous at Valiant, it’s almost a house style. As usual, he excels in the liner notes - the quieter moments of story - but as I usually find with his stuff, it sometimes gets a bit too loose. I also think he has some lingering 90’s-itis, but overall his stuff here does the trick, if not always being as neat as it could be.
In the end, I like Divinity #1, but I don’t love it yet - something tells me that will happen when it hits trade.
So little happens in this issue. Not only does so little happen but the text frequently reiterates what the art is showing. There is an additional discussion about pages of a book and how it involves time travel I think? Or some other temporal fluctuation. But really not much happens here. There is so little in character, plot, or any story based progress. It felt like a very long prelude at best. It is devoid of story. There are random teases of a story, and one random cliché female character added for some kind of “emotional depth”. I don't know what is going on in this story outside of a boy going off to space who was never natural and normal to begin with. Maybe this is Valiant's Superman?
Now the art is beautiful. I will give it that. There are panels showing off space and a beautiful garden, and those blew me away. If this was an art book I'd recommend it. But story matters in comics too, I don't know where the story is.
So Divinity. Here I am, not reading any monthly Valiant titles that aren’t events or mini-series, jumping into another event/mini-series. Sometimes this has been to my disadvantage--Imperium made little to no impact on me as a non-Harbinger reader, where I still frickin’ love The Valiant; but Divinity seems to exist in its own special, lonely corner of the Valiant Universe. I’m sure at some point forgotten cosmonaut Abram Adams (which, is Adams a Russian surname? I’m honestly asking; it seems like a bastardization at best) will interact with fan favorites like Bloodshot and the Delinquents, but it’s nice to see Valiant launch an entirely new thing. That’s the sign of a healthy, growing universe.
Having said that, Divinity didn’t blow me away. It has a lot of things going for it, to be sure. It’s interesting to see a black Russian in a Cold War context, and Trevor Hairsine’s art is much better than I thought it was going to be from the previews I saw. Running counter to some of that, however: the race issue is addressed in passing (less than a page) as a way that the USSR at the time was different from the US, and for as much as the book was about Abrams’ experience growing up an orphan in the USSR, you’d think it would have been touched on more often, or at least in a stronger scene. He also manages to keep a lot of secrets from the Soviet government, for a guy who’s under constant surveillance to see if it’s appropriate to launch him to the edge of space. My biggest gripe with Kindt’s writing, though, is that it’s very novelistic. He latches onto a metaphor in the first panel of the first page, and while, to his credit, it plays out very well as a microcosm for Abrams’ life before and after his voyage, it leaves very little work to be done by the dialogue. It’s not bad narration, it just leaves the comic feeling more static than not.
This is a solid book, but the only reason I can see myself shelling out cash for it is that it’s only four issues. I’ll have to see how issue 2 grabs me; issue 1 was only interesting at best.
Writer: Matt Kindt Artist: Trevor Hairsine Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/11/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital