Review: Devolution #1

I first heard about Rick Remender’s Devolution a while ago, after seeing some concept art I was sold. This was bound to be another one of Remender’s crazy sci-fi stories that would entertain me for months, what we got was a little bit different. Part post-apocalyptic survival story combined with Remender’s anti-war and anti-religion philosophies. Things get a bit heavy-handed and an exciting premise feels a little dull and cliché. It’s hard to write a post-apocalyptic story without falling for some of the more tenacious tropes. Devolution doesn’t exactly stray from the well-treaded path, but its basic plot is fun in theory. War broke out across Earth, some governments decided that organized religion was the cause, these governments engineered a chemical that would erase the part of the brain that allows humans to believe in God. This chemical is weaponized and tested in battle, resulting in a mass “devolution” as the chemical turns viral and spreads across the planet. Only a select few survived the devolution and are now trying to survive, our protagonist, a savvy scavenger named Raja being one of those few. Sure the idea of the government fucking everything up for the rest of the world isn’t new, but seeing modern cities in ruins with dinosaurs and mammoths roaming through them is still cool.

Devolution01-Cov-A-LeeThat’s what made me stick with this book, crazy looking devolution-ed animals and plants. I was tentative about the political and anti-religious ideas Remender was putting forth, but at least the world the comic took place in was cool. Well, unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to save the rest of the issue. Over the past few years I’ve become a pretty big fan of Remender’s works, reading all of his ongoing comics, which I’ve praised highly, but this one feels off. When I read one of his books I look for the wild imagination that has captivated me so many times before. Devolution just seemed to lack any of that ambition that I’ve seen in his other works.

I think part of this is that it’s a post-apocalyptic comic, which pigeon-holes it into having rules and stigmas. Raja has to team up with other survivors in order to find a lab that still has the cure in it. That just seems stale to me, following the old “savior of mankind through the wasteland” is a plot device that I’ve read one too many times, dinosaurs or no. On top of that it just lacked the human element that books like Low or Black Science have that makes them transcend their pulpy sci-fi roots. Admittedly this is going to be a five issue mini-series, so Remender had to pack a lot into this first issue, and it covers a lot. The first half of this issue is just montage backstory telling how the world ended up covered in prehistoric fauna and giant animals. While the second half brings in an entire colony of survivors into the mix that Raja promptly gets caught up into. And Jonathan Wayshak brings some compellingly grotesque art to the table, which greatly improves upon the dry story, making this altered Earth look pretty gruesome.  Overall it’s an interesting first issue, if not a little disappointing. Here’s hoping that things pick up and get a lot more fun during the rest of this mini’s run!

Score: 2/5

Devolution #1 Writer: Rick Remender Artist: Jonathan Wayshak Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/20/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital