‘Devolution’ Graphic Novel Review
written by Rick Remender; art by Johnathan Wayshak; coloring by Jordan Boyd; lettering by Rus Wooton
The Devolution graphic novel takes the post-apocalyptic genre and adds an evolutionary twist: Neanderthals. Earth’s return to a prehistoric landscape is the result of human meddling—of course. The leaders of the modern world thought they could resolve humanity’s inclination towards violence. They thought the key to human’s gravitation towards brutality was religion; so the obvious course of action was to eliminate the concept of God. From there, scientists created the DVO-8 serum, humanity’s setback is inevitable, and the Raja’s quest to re-evolve man begins.
Ridding the world of religion stemmed from a seemingly honorable desire. The world leaders wanted to stop the countless wars driven by religious sentiments. They hoped that a world without God would prompt science-based reasoning and eliminate the quarreling, but nature had other plans—or at least that’s how it appeared at first.
The devolving agent did make belief in God disappear, but it affected cognitive skills as well. Consequently, it encouraged racist and misogynistic attitudes among those who were considered “Still Sapin.” Even with humanity dwindling, the leader of the Sapins, Gil, is still encouraging death, destruction, and archaic gender roles. For instance, women are forced to cook, clean, take care of the children, and cater to a man’s sexual needs, or at least his. He is the only man with wives—sister wives. He subjugates the women to demeaning dialogue and—since he is essentially imprisoning and forcing his will upon these women—rape. Gil has no regard for human life and no interest in building back civilization in a meaningful way.
The evidence of man’s inclination to work against the prosperity and well-being of others, even in the face of extinction, shows that humanity’s faults extend beyond religion. That innate need for self-preservation at the expense of others is something that even Raja cannot help but notice. It makes her wonder if “God wasn’t the problem. Maybe it was man all along.”
In a previous review of Devolution’s first issue, I mentioned that the comic hints that the devolution of humans was inevitable; humans just sped the process along. It proves to be more true than I had originally suspected. The twist at the end may have been apparent to other readers, but I was genuinely surprised. The twist changes the narrative in a significant way, but it still manages to highlight the same themes that are stressed in previous pages. Readers are now examining the themes under a slightly different lens, but the resulting contrast is impressive. The comic shifts from showcasing brutal destruction to calculating, manipulative, mass murder. There are also a hints of elitism and entitlement within the Devolution graphic novel, and their presence simply adds to the multifaceted nature of the work.
The twist does take away from Raja’s mission, and I am still not sure how to grapple with that and the theme of destiny. Raja’s mission becomes meaningless, and her autonomy is undermined; however, I think it adds to the unconventional hero-narrative. Our hero survives and she fulfills her destiny but in a subtle, indirect way. Overall, the Devolution graphic novel comes together in a thoughtful, engaging way. The result is an adventure that I highly recommend taking.
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