Matt Kindt’s VALIANT Divinity Gauntlet – Review

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Much like waiting for the trade I decided to combine my reviews of the first four issues of VALIANT’s Divinity, the Matt Kindt written introduction of a new character into the VALIANT universe, and as an aside, one of the best comics of last year. Why should you care? Well, I’m pretty smart so you should read my reviews. Actually, I’m actually not smart at all but I do actually try to give my thoughts and convey my experience from reading the comic and not just summarize them, and I enjoy people who do the same so you might too. Or you might hate it, and that’s totally cool too. I should remind people that I did these as the single issues came out, so if I look dumb with some, well to be honest most, of my guesses it’s because I didn’t just read a trade and review all of the issues as if it was one sitting, but instead combined 4 separate reviews I did.

Divinity is new. It gives us a new character. It’s a new series from VALIANT comics, and perhaps most revealing of its quality, it’s the latest Matt Kindt joint.

I’m a big fan of VALIANT in general but what I have been waiting for is not only new characters, because they have plenty in their existing titles, but a new IP as well to give me that same feeling I attach to VALIANT of old, which soon after the licensed and excellent Magnus: Robot Fighter and Solar: Man of the Atom, rolled out new characters that were not only a force in the industry for a short time, but among my favorites of all time: Rai, Harada, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, the Harbinger kids, the list goes on and on. So as excited as I am for something like Imperium #1, I was really intrigued with Divinity, which is not only a new direction, it’s just different.

Diversity is a hot topic word in comics. A lot of it revolves around the creative talent, but I think equally important is what they are creating. Put it like this, I don’t think it matters to anyone watching that white Martin Brest directed the movie, what was important, what affected people, was that Eddie Murphy was Axel Foley, being cooler than anyone has ever been. VALIANT just threw down the infinity gauntlet here with Divinity.

Are you black? Are you Russian? Are you a Commie? Do you climb mountains in the Australian outback just because? Are you a Cold War-era Russian honey waiting for her BBC to come back?

If you are you might be interested in Divinity.

If you just like awesome unique comics in a shared-world setting, you will LOVE Divinity.

A lot of people are going to focus on the nature of the main character, Abram Adams, and how this narrative is is fed to us and the extent of his powers. You can get all of your biblical parallels from them, along with how weighty and layered the book is. For me though, the panels by Kindt and artist Trevor Hairsine that stuck with me were these:

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Pulps are kind of the chosen era of Science fiction that the comics industry tends to connect too and reference, but this kid was probably reading Golden Age SF. I know that many people probably thought and have repeated the idea of VALIANT creating their new Solar from glancing at the promos and synopsis for Divinity. Solar, in the original VALIANT universe, was a fan of the Gold Key comics of the ’60s and when he achieved his powers he more or less took on the form and powers of Solar from that line.

When considering Abram’s probable age it’s actually somewhat problematic figuring out whether he was reading old pulps, or the aforementioned Golden Age science fiction, or even (less likely) the beginnings of the New Wave, but what struck me was he began as one of the former, yet Kindt is telling it to us in that New Wave style.The Golden Age boy that didn’t die and came back trying to fit in and find a story he doesn’t have the pages too, one that he doesn’t know.

Time is not absolute.

The other thing about these panels is that I’m kind of sure they are the only ones that are most assuredly real. In a narrative that goes through time and mentions dreams, and creating from dreams, the one thing we know that Abram didn’t take with him from earth was knowledge of the Spider-Aliens, one of the only familiar elements of VALIANT lore in the first issue . Did he dream up or recreate our new VALIANT universe in the way Solar did? Is what we see in this issue false and he was merely abducted and then abandoned again?

VALIANT has returned with some great comics and I always read them but Divinity is the first that is a top of the stack book. It offers questions I can’t really go to my VALIANT history files to answer. Not only that, they are questions I wanted answered. Further, this is the first book that I felt like didn’t try to recapture something., instead Kindt’s Divinity is creating, and VALIANT fans should love him for it, and non-VALIANT fans need to jump on the genesis of something funky.

What’s next? Lemire on Ninjak. Let’s get Michel Fiffe on this. Let’s get Kagan Macleod. Bring back Emanuela. Oh my god let’s bring back Emanuela. Let’s get Nate Powell. Let’s get these creators Brandon Graham finds to work with him that all are badasses. VALIANT Next could be the scene. Kindt’s brought forward that Alpha and Omega. It all starts here.

Maybe. Because it’s possible none of what we see here has happened. But it still matters. Like I said in the beginning, this is a Matt Kindt joint.

Divinity #2

This was a review I had elsewhere (from the 19th of this month) and brought over here, to go along with my recent take on The VALIANT #4 (a game changer), for the greater glory of VALIANT comics.

I’m going to begin at the end. I do so because it answers a question I posed had regarding the active integration of Divinity into the VALIANT universe and does so emphatically. What seemed like a first issue that was a bit methodically paced for a four issue mini, Divinity #2 changes that and adroitly avoids a pitfall that I talked about when discussing the function of H.A.R.D. Corps. Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine are delivering the book that makes one most recall one of VALIANT’s must enduring taglines: Time is not Absolute.

It’s only right that Divinity #2 brings us Unity.

Bringing in Unity does two things. It both brings Abram Adams into the world we know and it shows us that VALIANT isn’t scared to bloody their big names, their A-Team, to show us, not just infer, who the new H.N.I.C. is. This is the team that took down the Armor Hunters, a group of people who destroy planets for a living, and then stole their mobile home, and Double A just kills them with kindness, as he sends out a prophet — one who is a scientist — to tell us he has come.

Reading the first issue was so new and fresh it kind of caught me off guard, the way every good story is supposed to in truth, but as I got into this issue I started collecting myself and making basic, albeit still wrong, observations. First, I suspect Adams is still in the cosmonaut suit, hell, maybe still in a human form, to maintain some semblance of his humanity. For a lot of the first two issues he’s going back to the moments before whatever occurred to him and his life with his girl and finding out she was pregnant. Indeed, one of the soldiers he allowed in his Eden is telling his girl, who has baby in hand, they should stay there, together, a possible reflection of Abram’s own desires of a reunion. Then again, it could be that the suit is just too rad not to wear, and not even divine power can conjure sweeter gear. There’s also his choice of paradise. One could imagine he could create anything, of any size,shape, and color. He chose something that looks like home. His Eden is Earth.

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Then again, why would this be his ideal? The kid allegedly grew up reading science fiction in Russia and blasted off into space at a young age. Did he choose the form from co-opting what most people think paradise is? The Vine are also big on plant life. I also think about why is it it’s own autonomous entity and not land based? Is he going somewhere?

I think what Abrams does to the Unity team might be worth looking at. I think the possibility of going overboard is present with a being we have reason to assume is uber powerful, but I’d just point out that when you’re somebody of incredible means, you still would utilize simple when its equally effective. I took his efforts as illusion, much in the way Harada employed in Imperium #1. The part dealing with Gilad is interesting because I’m not sure how I see it. One, it could be showing him as more immune to Abram’s powers as he still is moving forward, but I think it is so in a way not so direct, meaning his words in the panel are not for the Unity team but more of an example of Kindt showing us the realization of what they are confronting in Divinity. Sure, someone called The Eternal Warrior may want to die, but only to something in his heart and mind he knows he cannot defeat. Our greatest soldier and warrior, the champion of the earth is overwhelmed. Not panicked because that’s not how Gilad rolls, but more the expert observation of someone who has faced everything head on and walked away. Gilad may want an end, but not one he thinks he even has a chance to conquer. Even more, he doesn’t just die, he gets older. The Eternal Warrior perhaps wants to drop the Eternal part. He wants to be subject to time; for time to be absolute.

Everybody else has family issues, the Ninjak one sticks out probably because I just read the Kindt penned Ninjak #1. I’m not sure if the background art is not clear or if that’s Colin’s castle in a dilapidated state — a broken home. From this page we also can see that Abram’s powers are not in any way resisted by Aric’s armor. Livewire sees a vision of an apologetic Harada and it got me thinking about the scenes that are highlighted that Abram saw and shared with his prophet. Scenes of world changing violence — is his coming going to be tied with the rise of Harada’s Imperium?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around where exactly Kindt wants us to go with the scenes going back to Abram and his girl’s pregnancy. Obviously a reader is supposed to wonder about the child but I’m unsure of the relevance of that would be, as surely if relevant, Abram could find the child with little effort, and my mind keeps going back to a single panel from the first issue of a woman on a throne surrounded by the Vine. We only get two women, barring Livewire, in the the first two issues, and the two in Abram’s life are his apparent former girlfriend and an alien authority. I also find myself thinking about his girl’s name: Eva. Eva fits a comic that is riddled with biblical parallels, but “EVA” also means “any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere.” I also wonder how the Soviets, who put so much into Abrams wouldn’t have known about his girl and the possible attachment issue. Is his kid’s name Erica?

I also find the scene where he is in the ship talking somewhat confusing, and I’m not sure if it’s intended or not. I know it’s stated that he keeps reporting back home via radio even though he doesn’t know if anyone is listening, out of habit, but a part of it can also be read as if there are rather SPECIFICALLY two more occupants.

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Who are “you both” if he’s not talking to people back “at home”?

Alpha and Omega is on the shortlist, and maybe tops it, when considering the greatest VALIANT stories ever told. Solar cast the old VALIANT universe and that arc spawned the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancers. It was about creation. That very thing is what is exciting about Divinity. I’m reading it like Abrams did; I’m turning and bookmarking pages; it’s VALIANT so I’m looking at the past, present, and even 4001 A.D. Tokyo. This is new ground. VALIANT ground.

I don’t know what’s going on but I’m as engaged as I haven’t been since I was buying VALIANTs with coupons in them. The comic collector in me views the cutting of such coupons as a form of personal torture, an anathema, but if I had to do it to get Divinity #3 coupon cutting would be my new hobby.

It’s probably about a girl though. It usually is.

Divinity #3

Matt Kindt seamlessly goes from solo street level corporate espionage adventures of Ninjak to VALIANT comics cosmic with the third issue of Divinity, where one becomes three, twice, and where Kindt and Trevor Hairsine takes us where no man has gone before.

That there were two more members on the mission with Abram makes sense, I pointed out visual evidence of that possibility in my review of Divinity #2, and the number 3 tends to be symbolic in a lot of ways, including in religious discourse. It strikes me that they are all conveniently color coded, Abram is red, a female is orange, another man is either black or gray. Now VALIANT fans will scurry to find characters in other titles wearing those as accents.

At the moment of truth, we get a glimpse of a woman, who everyone in VALIANT fandom … okay just me wants to associate with Mothergod, which coincidentally would be a perfect name when considering the Abram we have seen thus far. I guess it could be his girl from Russia, or they could be the same. There seems to be extra care given to image though, there’s a clarity to it that is lacking in some of Harisine’s renderings of her. It’s magical, the color and art emanating serenity at the border of chaos. It’s beautiful.

Back in present time, facing Unity, Abrams chooses the word “tovarich”, which means comrade in Russian, though unless he’s being ironic, it might imply an actual friendship between him and Gilad in the future, which is possible due to Abram being Abram and Gild being functionally immortal. They attack and Abram hits them with his Divinity Gauntlet power, the guy is just untouchable, literally being able to warp reality and time for separate individuals in an instant. It makes you think the only reason he allows for a confrontation to occur is because he wants it to. As we see in the back-up stories in Ninjak, Colin has had run-ins with some fairly odd folk, and in this case he learned some sort of meditation technique from an “undead monk”, which just increases this guy’s totally next level Batman-factor he has going on, and he proceeds to free the rest of Unity. The unpowered man, saving a group that’s more or less super powered, while doing it looking kind of like a Brit Twilight Samurai.

Kindt returns to the trio of cosmonauts and sets up the possibility of two more uber characters, as Abram decides to return home while his teammates proceed on. While questions are answered, or rather truths clarified, I’m still unsure about what might be fundamental realities that help me find where I am in the story. Questions from the leftest of fields enter my mind. Obviously Abram really wanted to get back home and he may have been sent back to earth, but now I wonder if he was pushed to go in the first place with a hook to insure his return. Also, he says he came back too late, and the exact words chosen was “entire generations” had come and gone. While technically I guess that’s correct as we see it in the comic book, but he may have returned MUCH later initially, and we are seeing him come back to our time — we did get an image of him in the first issue looking at what’s almost definitely 4001 Japan. It looks like after he lands he travels. Back to that in a moment. I get that the desire to be with his wife and coming child is this innate human pull that we are supposed to buy blindly, even crossing the cosmos, but while a basic instinct that could be taken plainly at a universal face value, it could be too easy for Kindt. Is everything for his girl and child or is everything because of them? Does being Abram’s constant mean they are the ground or are they the inspiration? In the pages of Divinity we have a god-like being who still tells us he chooses to remember events the way he wants to, the way he has to. In fact, look at how he chooses to confront Unity, he distorts time and reality, makes them live a life they don’t fully recall or understand. Alone and lost.

I’ve read many novels about books. Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Ende’s Neverending Story, Goldman’s The Princess Bride, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, dozens more, so when I keep seeing a book being inserted into a narrative that seems to mirror or be the impetus of the story being told, it always piques my curiosity — I love fictional books within fiction. VALIANT has always had books in their universe. From the original universe the ad for The Book of the Geomancer is an enduring image of that era and they’ve recently been releasing press releases for The Book of Death, which is probably the book I told you about tucked away in a panel from the ages of The VALIANT #4. Those books I mentioned above are all masterpieces, some in multiple mediums, and if you are familiar with Kindt’s independent work, you know he is into minutia, he uses all parts of a canvas to tell story, and more is even more welcome when he has Hairsine at his best in the pages of Divinity, with inker and colorist Winn and Baron just killing it, most noticeably in the scenes where Abrams and his crew reach for the divine. What we do know is that Kindt and the art team have given us, yes, a page turner but one that has some weight to it.

You know what the purple Infinity Gem is? It’s the space game. It’s power?

Allows the user to exist in any or all locations, move any object anywhere throughout reality and warp or rearrange space. At full potential it grants Omnipresence.

Abram’s child has a purple rose pinned on her. Different colors have come to represent many things. Purple can represent love on first sight, royalty, or enchantment. Her mother has a similar colored dress. In the first issue we see Abram visiting a woman on an alien throne. More importantly, and I told you we’d come back to this, he didn’t summon them to him. They didn’t just appear. It seems like he went to them. He can see every page, he has seen the end, but I’m not sure if it was every his story.

Divinity #4

VALIANT. I’m not sure what happened here. After being blessed with three mind bending and rapturous issues of Divinity

… I’m not sure what to make of Divinity #4, the concluding chapter of the first Divinity miniseries. More and more the title to my third review seems more apt here or now. So let me start with what I am sure about.

I don’t really care about David Camp. A character we were introduced to the first issue of the mini, seeming destined for a grand purpose, and at the time, many thought was perhaps in some way Abrams or his child, does in some way become his first child, a first apostle, and forms what looks like another group in a VALIANT world overrun by groups, cabals, organizations, and ninja nuns. We were introduced to him climbing a mountain, and now we seem him writing or bearing what I guess is the word or covenant between Abram and his people. As an outcome it’s at best a non-story within the story I wanted, because my assumption coming in was that they would be a dedicated commie flock, given the name of the book. Once you go nunja you don’t go back.

I thought what was a pretty interesting about the whole first arc of Divinity, my favorite comic to read of the last four months, was how unfirm the footing was throughout. We weren’t sure what was real, we weren’t sure if it was real how reliable the narrator was, and the path seemed to be headed toward the nature of Abram Adams, the extent of his abilities, and what he wanted. Because of this, the neatness with how this was seemingly wrapped up was more aggravating to me than what I think the intended satisfaction of having a conclusion was meant to be, even with the added promise offered to us via an immediate ad for Divinity II to follow. I suspect this prison or the length of the sentence is more or less self imposed more than anything, and while that probably is the only logical outcome considering his power, it isn’t one that I found totally satisfying. They literally put Abram neatly into a box and buried him. There’s probably a bow around it.

I think this comic could be a little confusing, and is so because of specific line by Livewire, “My projections are working, he’s lost in his own head”. Confusing shouldn’t ever be confused with complex, layered, or nuanced. Kindt is too aware to know that isn’t the most potentially misdirecting line in the comics, and it is so somewhat unnaturally, put in simply to be confusing. I say this because if you remove that piece of dialogue, nothing changes, we follow the dialogue and we are left with Abram having the ability to bend and warp reality and space. Abilities I’m sure he has but are somehow being looped by Livewire, which makes this taking down this dude pretty much a walk in the park, just having to beat up on some civilians turned cult — wearing what looks like commie red battle scarves they stole from Bishop — for a second and catching their ride. I think on those terms, the taking down of Divinity, the conclusion was a bit soft and pat. I don’t think we learned anything in this issue that we already didn’t know coming in, we just witnessed the parking of the miniseries.

Parking is a term that came to me yesterday while he sat in his pod prison and it hit me as I read the issue with Ivar, Time Walker #4 sitting right next to it, — I came to the thought that Abram cannot actually time travel as we conceive it in popular culture. He can witness history, he can see it unfold, rereading it over and over until the pages of history are worn from his use, but he cannot intercede or interject. He cannot jump back to his life. He merely can be an audience to it. He can warp reality, and I think even bring you back from death (I think what we saw of David Camp showed us this) but I don’t think he can actually manipulate time. He can be an audience to it, but cannot participate. This is why his interpretation from the beginning has been that of a book and of a reader, not as an author. He has immense powers but he keeps searching for a lost horizon that does exist but cannot for him. Life went on. His girlfriend and child are not part of his story, they had lived their own. As Neville says for us later:

“We can’t change the past, we can’t control the future”

Something for us to think about when considering both Abram and Toyo Harada but these words are striking because if we go back to book analogy, only an author can do so. He’s still a kid who read pulps. Remember, as I noted in my review of the previous issue of Divinity, and it is made real here, his journey to his wife and child was the first thing he did when he touched down. It was the reason for his journey “The first thing I did when I came back was this”. I think it was illustrated pretty well and clearly by Hairsine last issue

I don’t think Matt Kindt is unaware of the confusion.

Now I flip through the life of Abram Adams like the worn pages of a dog-eared novel.

Wondering at the meaning.

Kindt wants us to reread Divinity, in fact, he knows we will. At some point when we come back to this page we already would have. Then would be now. You’re looking at now. Everything that happens now, is happening now. I suspect Kindt did some of his own digging in the creates reading as his prison is eerily similar to a previous VALIANT prison used on a god, but enough about old stuff.

He has been busy looking though the pages of the book that isn’t his story. Instead his story is written by his followers, as he imself processes a book he doesn’t want to end. I think it’s also compelling that while I don’t really get excited for yet another group in VALIANT, I think the “travellers” may be named such because Abram gave them a lifetime of their wants and dreams already, as he did for a shorter time with the Unity team. He gave them Eden as he is rejected from his. I do wonder if his power is limited as recounted by his former girlfriend and child, or if this is a wall he himself has set. He doesn’t like endings. He rereads. Meanwhile, Neville Alcott is the type of guy that a much maligned cinematic Jonathan Kent fears in Man of Steel. He would bury Superman.

When I first started writing this I was going to title it “God Fall”, but I later found it inappropriate. There is a child-like simplicity to Abram, even armed with what may be ultimate power, and it’s because of inexperience, yes, but mores, is that, again, he’s been only reading one book. He’s the hero of it. Instead, he’s reminds me more of another term familiar to comic fans: a New God. We are witnessing the birth of a god, not the fall of one. A new god for a new VALIANT universe. In the end he almost playfully converses with his child, something that could be interpreted as Livewire visiting a prisoner to sate him and keep him occupied, but I think he has this power and his child visits and leaves, prolonging his journey, one he probably relives while she is gone.

The first arc of Divinity was magnificent, and while I’m a slightly underwhelmed by the finale, I understand it to mirror the title character. This book is not yet about Divinity, it’s the book Abram Adams has to put down before his can be written. The symbolism of a fallen new god from unknown heavens buried underneath us, who only wanted love has potential. A god left sitting in the dark by his children. Down under.

Let’s not forget that he has two friends out there too. Two that didn’t buckle and run home.