Comic Review: Valiant’s Escape From Gulag

What do you get when you lock an evangelical Christian and a 10,000 year old immortal inside a Russian Gulag?

You will need to read the new Divinity III: Escape from Gulag 396 (Written by Eliot Rahal,
Art by Francis Portela) comic to find out. This newest iteration of characters Archer and Armstrong, throws the duo into Stalinverse. Valiant Entertainment has been developing this universe steadily over the last few years. But this is the first appearance for Obadiah Archer and Armstrong (originally named Aram – one of three brothers who unlocked the secret of immortality 10,000 years ago in Sumeria). Fans of the duo, first created in 1992, then released again in 2012, will still find the core of their favorite heroes intact. For those yet to meet them, you had better hold onto your seats. This new setting is darker and grittier than any of their previous adventures.

In a world where the Russians now dominate the world, there is no room for religion, or for free thought. This alternate history setting, in similar vein to shows like Amazon’s Man in the High Castle (where the Nazi’s won the war) gives a compelling and often frightening view of what the world might have been. Archer, locked away in a gulag from which no one leaves alive, decides it is the perfect setting to spread God’s word. The Warden takes exception to this, but rather than punishing Archer directly, he offers a wager: tame the one inmate they have never been able to tame, and he can have anything he wants. Fail, and he will know Archer’s God is a lie, and the guards will be ordered to shoot anyone who even whispers His name. This is a the set-up to the rest of this tale. This is where the story hooks you.

Escape from Gulag 396 gives a graphic but succinct backstory for Archer, and hints at the origins of Armstrong. Within only twenty or so pages there is enough to drag you into the story, wrap you up in the characters, and give you enough insight into the characters to care what happens next. I was a little hesitant at first glance, concerned that some of the dialogue came across in little cliche snippets of Christianese. But as the story progresses the characters took shape, and it is clear to see Archer’s heart has not been darkened by his surroundings. He believes he can make a difference in the lives of these lost men, starting with Armstrong, the most lost of all.

With solid artwork, a compelling set up to the story, and the harsh alternate reality of Stalinverse as a backdrop, I have a feeling this one-shot will leave you wanting more.

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You can grab your copy March 15 for $3.99 wherever comics are sold.

(Guest post by Marc Nutton.)


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