Writer: RG Llarena
Artist: Axel Medellin
Cover Design: Felipe Sobreiro
Publisher: Heavy Metal
Divergent Dimensions 2 is the reason I chose to review comics. More than that, it’s the reason I became a comic book reader. Reading this collection of sci fi stories instantly transported me back into my early teens when I first discovered the scope of the comic medium.
The stories in this collection are both challenging and brilliantly executed. At its best, sci fi is designed to impart wisdom and lessons in what makes us human under the guise of pop culture. From the work of H.G. Wells to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, good sci fi has always fulfilled the role of morality tales. The weakest sci fi does little more than confirm man’s sense of entitlement as the chosen species in the universe. Quality sci fi forces the reader to question this.
The stories in Divergent Dimensions 2 are varied, all apparently set in a similar future. They are linked by the theme of choice and self-awareness. They put forward the theory that true awareness is the enemy of senseless violence, bigotry and mindless obedience.
Each story can be read on its own. But to do so is to deprive yourself of the full impact of the book. Think of the collection as a diamond – each tale displays a different facet of the theme, the artist’s skill and the writer’s craft.
Another appealing aspect of Divergent Dimensions 2 is the variety of protagonists. Many of today’s sci fi comic books, movies and video games seem to be super-saturated with the concept of the chosen white male single-handedly saving the day (through his action or sacrifice) or else pushing into the unknown frontiers, winning the war for humanity against unsympathetic alien beings. There are exceptions such as District Nine which deconstructed this myth rather than re-enforced it. But they are the exception rather than the rule.
Divergent Dimensions 2 breaks away from this. It features protagonists of all ages, races, genders and even species. From bad-ass old man gurus like Papa Loco to the alien being in the story Darwin’s Defeat, we are encouraged to see self-awareness and choice through a variety of different eyes.
It’s as if the writer, RG Llarena, wants us to experience empathy for many different povs, most vastly different from our own, and thus help us become more self-aware in turn. Like all good sci fi, Divergent Dimensions 2 challenges the readers to try open their minds.
At the same time, it certainly has enough to appeal to the mass market. Axel Medellin’s artwork is phenomenal. I have long been a fan of this particular artist and he doesn’t disappoint here. His alien worlds and outlandish characters are beautiful rendered. His work is free of the unnecessary cross-hatching that clutters so much modern comic book art.
Expressions are delicately rendered and emotional scenes have a feeling of intimacy. He draws exotic creatures and dramatic moments with equal skill. His artwork just feels more real than the work of many other artists. You have a sense that these worlds and characters could exist.
Action scenes are dynamic. The figures participating have a sense of weight. The reader can feel the power behind a punch and more than a few readers will cringe at some of the more visceral scenes. The book does have a high level of violence.
But the violence seldom comes across as gratuitous. It is either used to show the senseless brutality of the unenlightened or else it highlights the cost of making a choice. Because the stories make one thing clear – a true individual stands behind their choice; they face its consequences. And those who don’t, like the protagonist from “Those Who Accept” run the risk of being pulled back into mindless obedience
Writer RG Larena manages to express complex themes through simple stories. He handles scene changes deftly; each story flows well. Without resorting to exposition, we are made aware of each character’s motivation and emotions. It’s a rare talent that makes you feel something for characters you know for only twelve pages or less.
This is a collection that deserves to do well, both critically and commercially. I only hope it isn’t too challenging for today’s comic book market. But for intelligent readers, this is a treat. A reminder that comics are much more than they’ve become and a promise of better things ahead for the comic book medium.