Friday, October 9, 2015

Paneled Goods: Divine Right

Oh man the 90's, the most action packed decade in comic books! I grew up during the Image Comics boom, reading and collecting the science fiction tinged and kinetically violent WildC.A.T.S., Brigade and Backlash and later thanks to .25 bins picking up runs of Prophet, Youngblood, Cyber Force, Savage Dragon and more. I'm not sure when I grabbed Jim Lee's Divine Right: The Adventures of Max Farady but at a recent show picked up the first several issues in a collected edition for a few bucks. I have the entire run sitting in storage halfway across the country which was not going to help me after getting hooked again. For any comic book fan, Jim Lee is one of the luminaries; his crisp, exciting art coupled with his nice guy attitude has served him well from being a young upstart at Marvel to laying claim to the highest selling comic book issue of all time to creating imprint Wildstorm at Image, selling that to DC and now running the shop as Co-Publisher. DC has recently re-released Divine Right in a graphic novel and included several tie-in issues along with some sketches from the man himself. It's on Amazon but if you're reading this from the west side of Los Angeles, check out Pulp Fiction on Sepulveda where most graphic novels are 30-50% off.

Starting in 1997, Divine Right introduces us to Max Faraday, a part time pizza delivery guy and college student with a hot older sister and thinks he's cool but really isn't best friend. Always on the internet, Max has struck up an online relationship with Susanna Chaste but never met her in person. Remember chat rooms from the 90's? Phew, flashbacks! One night, Max randomly downloads the Creation Equation, a mystical formula that goes way back and from beyond our universe. Basically, Max has downloaded the powers of God but doesn't know it. Soon enough he's being chased by aliens and rescued by members of The Fallen: Brande, Tobruk and Exotica; wizard, warrior and babe types who know all about the Creation Equation. International Operations, Wildstorm's version of S.H.I.E.L.D., gets involved so we get universe familiar faces John Lynch and Caitlin Fairchild along with the members of Gen 13, along with former agent resurrected from the dead Christy Blaze helping to guide and protect Max. It's only a matter of tick tocks before members of The Rath catch up as of course they have their own nefarious plans for using the power of God.

Reading Divine Right again after all these years was at once familiar and nostalgic while at the same time exciting, fun and surprising. You get 1997 style chat interfaces, computer windows and comic book-ness, you know, all dudes are super buff and chiseled, all women are super hot, big action scenes and one liners. There's a lot of juvenile humor and male fantasy turned on it's head while providing several strong female characters. What surprised me was how deep the story goes into the Wildstorm universe and in watching Max change as a character. He starts off innocent and kind then when corrupted by power and threatened by evil, he suddenly feels he knows what's best for the entire planet, becoming an "evil" force himself. I also didn't remember it drawing in so many characters from the Wildstorm U like Gen 13 and Lee's awesome super powered team WildC.A.T.S. but it all fits tightly together since the CATS were always fighting alien warlords and whatnot.

Lee writes and pencils here with assists from the likes of Scott Lobdell, Carlos D'Anda, Albert Deschesne, Rachelle Brissenden, Richard Starkings and Scott Williams to create a big, exciting and vibrant tale of huge adventure, faith, love and action that takes us from a crappy apartment to an alternate version of Heaven and back again. There's character and ideas layered deep throughout as each issue starts with a passage from the bible as well as one from Max's personal slacker manifesto, recurring bits like Whak! cola are a nice touch as are the fantasy sequences that turn out to be horrible nightmares. The detail and scope in Lee's work is always impressive as each panel is filled to the brim with characters in ornate costumes, giant vistas and of course, action. This is what I feel comic books were made to be, larger than life, epic adventures that explore life's themes with manly men and womanly women. It's a fantasy, it's a break from reality so let's really revel in it and go for it. Next up, rereading some WildC.A.T.S. and Backlash!

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