New Comics: The Divine, Divinity and Hawkeye #22 (Finally!)
Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.
By Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka and Boaz Lavie
First Second Books
Fifteen years ago, a photograph was taken in Myanmar of two twelve-year-old boys who led a guerilla army of hundreds called “God’s Army.” In the photograph we see Johnny and Luther Htoo smoking, wearing military fatigues, and bearing a world-weary squint that made them look fifty years older than they were. The Htoo brothers were said to have magical powers making them immune to bullets and landmines. How two children could seem to have shed everything childlike about themselves in order to wield such military might became the inspiration for another pair of twin brothers, Asaf and Tomer Hanuka, in their latest graphic novel The Divine.
Mark, a military contractor with a pregnant wife at home, takes on a lucrative job in the fictional Southeast Asian country of Quanlom where he encounters an army of children led by two obvious stand-ins for the Htoo brothers. The Hanukas, along with co-writer Boaz Lavie, latch onto the legends that surrounded the Htoos and create a breathtaking fictional story in which the legends are true and the magic is real.
The Hanuka brothers are well known for their editorial illustration work as well as their early 2000s project Bipolar and Asaf’s autobiographical strip The Realist (which was collected in book form earlier this year). Their colorful, sometimes grotesque style is a joint effort in which Asaf draws and Tomer inks and colors. It makes for a stunning, cohesive combination as you can see in this preview.
By Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine
Part of the “Valiant Next” wave of new titles introduced earlier this year, Divinity is the first comic to introduce a new character to the Valiant universe rather than just reboot characters that were first created during the “Valiant 1.0” days in the 1990s.
Drawing parallels to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Watchmen, and the recent film Interstellar, this comic is a legitimate sci-fi epic that begins during the Cold War in the Soviet Union when a cosmonaut named Abram Adams is sent on a 30-year mission into the deep reaches of space, leaving behind the woman he loves who is pregnant with their child. When Adams returns to Earth 30 years later, he has god-like powers that he uses to give people their greatest desires, but can he use that power to give himself what he wants?
It’s a beautifully designed and conceived book from the eerily minimal logo down to Kindt’s narration which uses the motif of book pages to explain the theory of relativity. It works well enough that digital comic readers may want to switch to a format with actual pages to get the full effect.
This new character, who is indeed referred to within the book as “Divinity,” has a big week this week. In addition to this book, he will begin making his presence known more throughout Valiant’s interconnected titles beginning with an appearance in the first issue of their latest crossover event, Book of Death.
Godzilla in Hell
By James Stokoe
Back in my very first column here, I wrote about James Stokoe’s masterful mini-series Godzilla: Half Century War, which followed one man and his decades-long struggle trying to contain and destroy Godzilla. Now, Stokoe and Godzilla return in a new mini-series called Godzilla in Hell, and the terrible lizard finds himself falling through the bowels of hell, battling kaiju-like beasts of the netherworld. There is no dialogue or narration in the entire issue, but what you’re here for is to see Stokoe unload on the page in all his crosshatched and vibrantly colored glory.
This will be a five-issue mini-series with Stokoe only on the first issue, but there are some other pretty exciting artists following in his footsteps like Ulises Farinas (Judge Dredd: Mega City Two) and Dave Wachter (The Guns of Shadow Valley). The AV Club has some great preview images.
The most metal comic of the year is definitely Zé Burnay’s webcomic Witch Gauntlet about a long-haired teenager named Melvin who picks up a mystical gauntlet from a fallen warrior and begins a quest to save his town from an evil cult called Doombringer. This is Burnay’s first webcomic, which he started in early 2014 and has built up a small archive of pages, publishing a new one every “Sabbath.” While the early pages have a rough quality to them that makes it look like a Beavis and Butthead comic, Burnay’s use of detail and coloring has improved to an epic—almost Mike Mignola-esque—proportion in recent installments.
Burnay, who lives in Sinto, Portugal, publishes the comic on Tumblr, which is not the easiest platform for diving into an archive of webcomic entries. But if you’re willing to deal with the lack of user-friendly navigation, you can start from the bottom of this page and work your way up.
By Matt Fraction, David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth
It has been 5 months since the last issue of Marvel’s Hawkeye was released. In that time, writer Matt Fraction has officially moved on from Marvel to focus on his successful creator-owned books at Image Comics, like Sex Criminals, which was recently optioned by Universal TV. Marvel, in turn, is already three issues into All New Hawkeye, the next Hawkeye comic by Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez.
Why the issue was delayed this much is unknown (seemingly to the creators as well), but what's important is that it is finally here this week, marking the end of something truly special at Marvel Comics.
Hawkeye was an unexpected surprise when it launched in 2012. Fraction and artist David Aja approached the book more like a low-budget indie film than a blockbuster superhero movie. Their goal was to show what Hawkeye did with his time when he wasn’t being an Avenger. The result was a funny, hip, and heartfelt comic about the relationship between a hapless, beaten-down but well-intentioned superhero and his sassy, competent teenage protégée. Both Hawkeyes—Clint Barton and Kate Bishop—now have huge fan bases because of this comic, but that popularity is mostly due to the way Fraction writes them. Marvel has yet to launch another comic that has quite the same appeal to mainstream audiences who are typically indifferent to superhero comics.
The inevitable has been delayed long enough. It’s time to say goodbye to the Hawkeye comic as we know it. Here’s a preview of the final issue.