Review: Divinity III: Escape From Gulag 396 #1

Gulag 396 coverIn the Soviet-controlled world of the Stalinverse, there is a place where liberty is sentenced to die…and it’s Gulag 396. A maximum-security prison where the only escape is through death, the gulag is the final stop for all enemies and detractors of the world’s oppressive authority. But when public enemy Obadiah Archer is admitted as the latest inmate, could his gospel of goodwill and optimism be the spark that ignites a new faith in the prison’s population…including the immortal undesirable known as Aram Addi-Padda?

There will be two types of Valiant fans interested in this story; those following Divinity III and those who follow the adventures of Archer and Armstrong. I’ll tackle the latter camp first, because if you’re not reading Divinity III but are a fan of Archer and Armstrong, then you’re going to enjoy this standalone alternate reality style take on the two characters.

When I say that this is a standalone  story, I genuinely mean that the main story has nothing to do with the overarching Divinity III events, which is ideal if you’re not reading that story, but less so if you’re looking for a comic that sheds a little more light on the main miniseries – the backup story by Matt Kindt (writer) and Juan Hose Ryp (artist) does give us a little bit of background on The Pioneer, but it’s not nearly enough to make buying the comic worth it if you don’t care about either Archer or Armstrong.

You may be thinking at this point that I don’t care for the comic, but nothing could be further from the truth.

With Escape From Gulag 396 Eliot Rahal tells a story that captures the essence of both Archer and Armstrong and their relationship that we’ve come to know and love over the years, while simultaneously showing their first meeting in the Stalinverse. There’s also some fun little Easter eggs for their fans scattered throughout the pages, but if you don’t catch them then it’s not make or break.

As a tie-in comic this is pretty good, but when you read this as an Archer and Armstrong comic then it will reinforce everything you thought you knew about the characters in a story that’ll make you want to read it several times over. Rahal‘s understanding of the two unlikely heroes is awesome, and really comes across in the story – if he were given a shot at an ongoing series featuring Archer and Armstrong then I’d be all over that like sprinkles on a donut.

Story: Eliot Rahal Art: Francis Portela Colour Art: Andrew Dalhouse
Story: 9.5 Art: 8 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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