Divinity III: Escape from Gulag 396 #1 – Review
Writer: Eiliot Rahal
Artist: Francis Portella
Cover: Adam Gorham (Cover A), Khari Evans (Cover B), Andres Guinaldo (Cover C), Ryan Lee (Character Design
Variant), Kano (variant)
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
To truly understand this review let me disclose my serious Valiant bias. I have been reading valiant comics since 1992 and there was always been one comic by valiant that I have enjoyed without fail, Archer and Armstrong. There have been 3 series so far detailing there sordid adventures through out the years and I’ve read them all. I have collected everything Archer and Armstrong i can find posters, comics, beer bottles and the bottle openers. I am currently working on collecting all of the various variant covers to all of the books. So when I say i am an Archer and Armstrong fan you can take that to the bank. The other thing you need to understand about me as the person reviewing this book is I am an unapologetic Christian.
Over the years the consistent trope with Archer was that he was this naive backwater Christian whose faith was the punchline. in this book Eliot Rahal uses it as the driving force behind Archers actions. While telling the story of Archer within the Stalinverse, Eliot is also telling the story of the underground churches in communist Russia and China. Solidifying the Valiant world is the world right outside your door. Making Archers faith something to be admired not mocked. It also shows us how truly sad and lonely Armstrong would have to be, after spending lifetimes watching everyone you love and care for die and leave you. And shifts the dynamic from Archer needing Armstrong to save him from his own naivete, to Armstrong needing Archer to save him from himself.
Rarely do you notice the coloring on a book. However, Andrew Dalhouse’s colors stand out and really sets the mood over Francis Portella’s lush art. This team works perfectly to capture Archer’s story as he hardens and ages in prison. Clearly years of hardships and punishments have been endured and all told without any extra exposition.
This week we also get another back up by the always great Matt Kindt and Jaun Jose Ryp telling the tale of the Pioneer and really makes you wonder what is going to happen with these characters if or when things return to relative normalcy.
In closing, Gulag 396 is the Archer and Armstrong story I’ve always wanted to read. And is by far my favorite single issue to date. I only hope Valiant lets Eliot and friends write more tales of Archer and Armstrong.