I know that I sing a lot of praise for the books that First Second publishes. It’s hard not to when they produce not only some of the best stories in the industry, but also the best looking books as well. Now granted there’s always going to be a reason “why” and the why is that monthly books have tighter deadlines and graphic novels have longer deadlines meaning that more time can be taken to make a book look beautiful. With that said, when a book looks as good as The Divine it’s a lot more than extra time that has made it that way. The biggest thing contributing to its beauty is the coloring. There’s a lot of great coloring out there and particularly the creators that publish through First Second always seem to be amazing. I haven’t seen a book this good looking since Delilah Dirk and that was a beautiful fucking book.
From the first page I was absolutely hooked on the visuals which meant I was hooked on the story. We open with a Race Bannon looking dude telling a story about the last time he was in Quanlom. He describes being on a helicopter and shooting every possible animal he could as it ran down a mountain that was on fire, but that there was something else. Something he described as not being in any zoo… a dragon. His gun jammed, but then with his pistol he shot it in the eye. It’s a strange story to open with as it makes you wonder about this man. Should we like him? Should we care about a person that would shoot animals running for their lives? That would shoot a dragon in the eye? And did he really see a dragon?
From his story we pour out into the present as he’s telling the tale to his co-worker because he’s going back to Quanlom for another job. Jason (the man from the story and narrating currently) tries to entice Mark with the pay and the exotic story to get him to go with him to blow up the mountain. He says it’s a government job and that it’s not a big deal, but Mark appears un-interested. He mentions a promotion that he’s applied for and Jason tells him good luck.
After meeting Mark’s wife and getting an idea of their living situation, Mark ends up going on the trip. He receives a promotion, but it’s not the one he wanted and so to make his wife a little happier he decides the money would be nice. At this point it becomes clear that he’s not really that good of friends with Jason because Jason is an insufferable prick.
In Quanlom things seem easy. In fact Mark and Jason set up to do their job relatively easy, but the local military mess up by not having their helicopter ready in order to detonate. During this time Mark spots a wounded boy and is hell-bent on rescuing him. But this boy changes Mark’s life when he ends up leading him into the hands of the Divine; twins with supernatural powers that reveal that Mark’s mission isn’t as cut and dry as he thought.
Hopefully that’s enough information about the story to entice you to read it. I’m leaving a lot out and there’s even some parts that I don’t quite understand myself. I think that’s the point of them though, to be left wondering what is real and what isn’t in the story.
For the most part though everything is pretty straight forward. If you don’t pick up on the deeper social commentary or care then you’re still looking at a well told supernatural story. If you dig deeper there’s a ton of meaning from the first page to the last and it makes for a rewarding reading experience. Also one that I couldn’t put down. It’s not that it’s that long, but it definitely holds your attention the entire time.
Really the star is the artwork and more than that the coloring. If you like that cover, well it’s nothing compared to what’s inside the book. The opening sequence is so powerful looking, so striking that it stays with you until the final page. The fire that’s raging paints the sky red, while Jason stands on the helicopter like something out of a Vietnam War moving gunning away. What really sells the scene though is Jason’s response to the dragon. The visuals never show it, but you can see the fear and aw in his eyes.
The coloring is some of the best I’ve ever seen and that’s not an exaggeration. Tomer Hanuka Asaf Hanuka are incredible. The lighting they pull of its just stunning, but overall the world looked real. It was so real that I wanted to visit it, even though Quanlom didn’t come across as being a friendly place. It was just gorgeously colored making it very hard to turn the page without first soaking in everything on the current one.
The aesthetics of the book are also very pleasing. Due to the rich coloring a thicker paper stock is used and it gives the book a glossy look of dampness. I personally love that look and you could smell the ink when cracking open the book which is an experience unlike anything else. With all that hitting you plus the opening, it just serves to make The Divine worth every penny.
The Divine is different from a lot of other First Second titles, but then that’s the bases of their entire line to present new and interesting stories which this does. The Divine might be better for an older audience, but if you like stories with realistic characters, deeper context and some of the best looking art being published today… then check out The Divine.