Ground Control to Major Tom: Exploring Divinity #1
This article contains spoilers! Valiant Entertainment’s Divinity #1 debuted February 11. Helmed by writer Matt Kindt and artist Trevor Hairsine, this Valiant Next miniseries focuses on the first new character in the Valiant universe with no previous ties to other Valiant titles. Initially the story of a young black Russian cosmonaut in the 60s, it bears the hallmarks of Matt Kindt’s style: multilayered narrative, cleverly placed juxtaposition, and underlying themes.
Divinity’s story on the surface is that of Abram Adams, a young black man raised by the state in Russia. Recognized as being highly intelligent and given the best education possible, Abram is viewed as Russia’s opportunity to show their superiority in both race relations and in the exploration of space. He is chosen for an unprecedented and secret mission to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, one that requires an extended 30 year commitment. This will be achieved by placing him in a series of cryogenic chambers that will slow his aging but keep his mind in a dream-like state in order to cope with the isolation. All of this takes place during the Cold War. When we next encounter Abram in his cosmonaut suit, it is present day. What happens in-between has not yet been revealed though we are given glimpses of a possible adventure on Loam, the Vine homeworld initially shown in X-O Manowar, though this may be just a daydream.
The story narrative is non-linear, which is befitting given the focus on time. “Time is not absolute.” A throwback to a 1992 Valiant catchphrase, this notion is demonstrated both literally and figuratively in the text. Kindt does a great job of illustrating this by employing the idea of time being like the whole of a book. Specific dates are just pages we reread to visit memories. Like a book, we can skip forward and backward to interesting parts or to review for understanding. My favorite illusion to this is when he describes two opposing pages meet and their stories collide.
We experience time linearly, but the being that modern day Abram has become does not. While not explicitly expressed in the text, the artwork shows he is visiting himself in the past, possibly reflecting on who he was. Abram has come full circle. He was abandoned in a basket as a baby, and when he is returned to earth some fifty years after leaving it, he is once again abandoned (this time in a space pod) in a world he knows nothing about.
The theme of religion is ribboned throughout the narrative. Like the OTV podcasters, I found plenty of references that could be interpreted biblically. The title itself, Divinity, refers to God or having god-like abilities. The main character is named Abram Adams and his mate is Eva. Another seemingly important character is named David. King David or possibly a David and Goliath situation? David also experienced his own vision of the Garden of Eden.
Who is David Camp? Was it mere chance that Abram attempted to help him before he fell, or did Abram seek him out? Why that name? Some sort of illusion to Camp David? David is too young to be the son he never met, but he is about the right age to be a grandson. If so, how he ended up in Australia is also unknown.
What of Abram’s new powers? We’re given a glimpse of what he can do, and unlike a Harbinger, his ability is not easily defined. He does indeed seem divine. He also seems to view himself as someone other than Abram, so changed has he been by his journey. I’m looking forward to discovering more about his powers and how he came to gain them. Perhaps there wasn’t a singularity, but rather he was able to unlock all of the abilities of his mind during his prolonged dream-state.
I greatly enjoy Kindt’s writing. He teases out explanation and gives readers plenty of room for imagination and theory. He also shows that comic writing can employ literary devices and appeal to a more sophisticated reader without alienating others. For example, the panel that depicts Abram in a leap reminiscent of John Carter with accompanying text about “a page from a purloined paperback science fiction novel” gives a nod to sci-fi fans but does not exclude others from understanding. His use of juxtaposition is also subtle: one panel has a character telling Abram he is the smartest of all, yet the narrative within that panel says Abram was “slow to realize”. These little touches aren’t necessary to the story progression, but they make the text richer.
I’ve got several theories brewing but will hold off until the next book come out. In the meantime, chime in with your impressions and thoughts in the comment section.