"Devolution" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Originally published as Devolution #1 - #5
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Jonathan Wayshak
Colored by Jordan Boyd
2016, 128 Pages
Trade paperback released on August 23rd, 2016
In the not-too-distant future, mankind has screwed itself and everything else on the planet. We tried to make things better and eliminate war, but failed miserably. This resulted in everything on the planet getting exposed to DVO-8, a viral agent that knocked all the species down a few pegs on the evolutionary ladder. Raja, a lone woman who's been vaccinated against the disease, is convinced there's a cure and she's ready to take on all kinds of mutated beasts – including man – to find it.
Devolution has an incredible hook. It's almost creepy how much it makes sense. I'm not going to go into too much of the details here because it's worth reading cold. Writer Rick Remender performs an info dump in the form of a literal history lesson to fill you in on what happened to the world prior to the comic beginning. This usually comes across as lazy storytelling with a very dry delivery. Remender knows a thing or two about well-made stories, so he makes this interesting to the point where you can't look away as the world starts to spiral out of control and back the stone age.
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Unfortunately, that spiral gets bigger and bigger until the story loses some of the good will it had built up with that great hook. It's part dystopian survival mixed with monsters, a sprinkling of dark humor, and a whole lot of bloodshed. The final chapter jumps the shark (complete with actual shark) with the appearance of astronauts with an all-too-convenient connection to Raja.
Artist Jonathan Wayshak delivers jaw dropping artwork from the opening pages featuring this post-apocalyptic wasteland landscape through the space station at the end and all the mutated beasts in between. These creatures are the clear standout of Devolution. It's hard to pick a favorite as they're all pretty awesome. There's the aforementioned shark, gigantic in size and capable of swallowing a man whole, and the giant mosquitoes who can stab right through you. Then there's the one that will probably haunt my nightmares for a bit: The lobster spider. It's a huge spider with lobster-like claws. When I say “huge” I mean like “take-down-a-helicopter-huge.” That would have been horrifying on its own, but add in the lobster claws and now you're in Terrorville.
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Mankind is also up there with the monstrosities. Most of the species have been changed back into Neanderthals with large brows and hulking muscles. We consider them primitive now, but the fact of the matter is, a caveman could tear any one of us apart with little effort. There's a reason these few remaining survivors avoid them at all costs. The main villain, Gil, is somewhere in between. He's embraced this new world, as it's allowed him to give in to his baser instincts and live like a king – or rather a tyrant – over a small group of people. He's not unlike The Governor from The Walking Dead, and just as heinous.
I don't know for sure what a prehistoric world would look like, but I imagine it looks a lot like this, especially with Jordan Boyd's colors. It's tough to think of a world devoid of fluorescent lighting and billboards. That's what we're seeing here. There's a natural light that comes through, coloring everything differently. This, coupled with the harsh reality Devolution paints, creates a gritty texture to every page. This is a land without hand sanitizer and wet naps. You can feel the dirt and grime all over.
Devolution starts strong and then quickly loses focus. It tries to cram too much into its five chapters. Perhaps this would have been helped had another issue been added. As it stands, it has a terrifying yet almost believable series of events that leads to cavemen and dinosaurs roaming the planet once again, and it's nothing like The Flintstones.