Divinity, vol. 1

Monday, April 11, 2016  By  Thomas Maluck     No comments

Divinity coverAbram Adams, the black, adopted, Russian, communist cosmonaut protagonist of Divinity, was one of the most interesting character debuts of 2015. An excellent student and soldier raised during the Cold War, he was chosen for a mission to the edge of the cosmos when America was still shooting for the moon. What Abram saw out there changed him, and he returns in the present day with a suite of godlike powers that Earth and its governments don’t know how to handle. What are Abram’s intentions for the planet he once called home? Is there anything he can teach us from his decades abroad?

Abram bears a close comparison to the character of Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen: both men are physically altered beyond human limits by science, can become unstuck in time, and struggle to bring humanity to their big-picture level of understanding. However, unlike Manhattan, Abram’s former life is given a more thorough treatment, as the reader follows his adoption, early schooling, and farewell to a lover before leaving in a rocket ship to parts unknown.

Divinity is an uncannily well-designed book: clocking in at four issues, it’s a poster child for publisher Valiant’s practice of spending only four issues per story arc, a method that demands efficient storytelling so as not to shortchange the reader or leave dangling plot threads. Matt Kindt accomplishes this story with all the sci-fi thoughtfulness and memoir-like gravitas the story aspires to, including a refreshing subversion of superhero tropes. Midway through the story, when Abram has transformed the Australian outback into an oasis, several Valiant characters are deployed to neutralize him (despite the appearance of several established characters from other Valiant comics, this book is entirely friendly to new readers). Just when readers would expect some sort of big crossover fight, the unsuspecting “heroes” are instead subjected to mental projections that transport them to their innermost fantasies. Abram handles other obstacles with direct matter manipulationan enemy soldier is transmogrified into a cloud of butterflies, finally able to find the peace he’s always wanted. Abram wants to use his divinity powers to bring world peacewho could say no to that?

The art astounds at every turn, with visual motifs and clear layouts making this a joy to read. One sequence in particular, which juxtaposes slowed down “real time” with characters’ mental experiences, achieves an amazing tension as the reader gets a ringside dual perspective that perhaps even Abram cannot enjoy. Trevor Hairsine’s pencils, along with Ryan Winn’s inks and David Baron’s colors, are sharp and vibrant in all the right ways. Don’t take my word for it: the back of the book shows off several pages of art cut into thirds, with the penciled, inked, and final artwork all visible at once so readers can fully appreciate each artist’s contributions. These behind the scenes pages come with commentary from the creative team, discussing artistic intentions and how they each worked together for certain effects.

Divinity is an excellent addition to any graphic novel collection for teens or adults. This book has the potential to open readers’ minds in more ways than one: what makes a superhero (if Abram really is one), the joys and struggles of divine intervention, the production and collaboration process that creates a comic, and the memories we hold onto no matter what else changes.

Divinity, vol. 1
by Matt Kindt
Art by Trevor Hairsine
ISBN: 9781939346766
Valiant, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (16+)

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