Monday, August 17, 2015

Comic Book review: Divinity

Divinity is my first exposure in any capacity to Valiant comics, and while I typically don’t tread too far from Marvel and the occasional Image series, I found its premise of a Soviet cosmonaut returning after a thirty-year mission with godlike powers to be compelling enough to gamble on a purchase. It is clear from the outset that, while we as readers are being fed the background information regarding the Soviet Union’s role in the space race and their advanced engineering methods, narrator and main character Abram Adams no longer perceives these events in a set sequence as his fellow earthlings do. From the first page, Divinity provides a very strong showing of the defining traits of its pivotal character and his impressive powers, as he rescues a man from injury in the Australian outback, and transforms other individuals into their true selves, whether these new forms involve regaining their youth or becoming wild animals.

Abram Adams has the power to create and manipulate – as well as, presumably, destroy – in the blink of an eye, and the events between the beginning of his training for the bold 1960s journey to the stars and his sudden return to modern day Earth are sprinkled in at a gradual but appropriate pace. Even with fringe science designs for both the rocket and space suit, the wonder and terror of what lies unknown far beyond our own blue planet is weaves a compelling plot that is quite convincing within this fictional retelling of history. There are difficult choices to be made, even before the mission begins, and – for better or worse – the ramifications of these will stay with Abram for the rest of his days.

Where Divinity's quality falls short is through its insistence on shoehorning other Valiant heroes into what was otherwise a great standalone origin story. Perhaps if Abram had a brief encounter with one of the heroes, it would have served its purpose in assimilating him into Valiant’s preexisting comic book universe more smoothly. Instead, the entire second half of this graphic novel sees Abrams portrayal shift from main character to primary objective of X-O Manowar, Ninjak, and couple of other previously established heroes who act as anything but in their attempt to contain Abram after no obvious threat was posed from him. These characters invade the narrative in as harsh a manner possible, and from that point on, the story is about their first encounter with Abram, their perceptions of him as an inexplicable danger, which robs the second act of nearly all the aspects that made the previous half such an enjoyable read.

I understand that any comic label that is larger and has more budget to work with than the indie scene wants to bring all of their properties together and coexist within the same space of fiction. But an origin story needs to be just that – the origin of one important character or team. Divinity has a truly commendable first two chapters, but manages to get so steeped in the much during the latter half that it simply loses its fun factor. It’s true that the Marvel Now! properties did feature cameos by Tony Stark and Beta Ray Bill early on in their runs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova respectively, but these inclusions never warped the entire presentation or focus of their stories in the way that Divinity’s invasion of heroes does. Despite an open ending with the possibility for many more stories involving Abram and the people he impacted in the Australian outback, the conclusion of his story for this first trade paperback collection is, bluntly put, lazy and unsatisfying.

My rating: 6 (out of 10)

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