The race is on! Will Raja and what’s left of her crew make it to the “re-evolution” agent in San Francisco before warlord Gill catches up to them? And if they do, what will the other characters in Devolution #4 have to say about it? Is it good?
Devolution #4 (Dynamite Comics)
Hey, remember these people? Raja takes center stage again in Devolution #4, and returns to pontificating on the nature of religion and human behavior, however simplistically. She’s determined to set right what her father ruined, and turn the clock back by jumping us forward. There’s plenty of sacrifice, as in issue #3, but the thought that it’ll be worth it pushes her on. Some old faces look to dash those hopes for their own gain.
The art by Jonathan Wayshak and colorist Jordan Boyd is on point as usual, but slightly less spectacular this time. The hues are more muted, but the same great use of perspective is there. When Raja mentions that the cure is on an office building’s 43rd floor, looking up at the towering structure gives a visceral sense of how daunting the climb to redemption will be.
Is It Good?
Devolution #4 slightly redeems the series, as we finally return to the characters and story that began in issue #1, following what felt like a grindhouse detour. But writer Rick Remender still doesn’t follow through on the potential of the ideas presented. The “is religion necessary” question is quickly and rather unequivocally answered, and then it’s on to more bloodthirsty cavemen. Cavemen we’re only one step away from, it’s intimated, if we lose our sense of faith and purpose. As if those two concepts were inextricable. The scene seems to beckon a teleological discussion, but never mind that; Gill’s spraying everyone with Gatling gun fire!
It’s tempting to say that one shouldn’t tease ideas without following up, but maybe that’s not such a terrible thing, depending on what the creator intended. With one issue yet to go, though, it’s still fairly unclear what Rick Remender has set out to do with Devolution. It might have been to address philosophic issues, but millennia of discussion was put to rest over two pages. If it were to tell a better (or at least different) apocalypse story, as suggested by the mix-up in narrative progression in issues #2 and 3, why the standard “science bad, faith good, don’t meddle in God’s domain” tropes? If it’s just meant as a fun lark, why even introduce such serious issues, or take the creative chances in the story’s middle? What is the purpose of this series?
OH MY GOD THE WHOLE THING IS A GIANT TELEOLOGICAL QUESTION! Or not. Whatever Rick Remender intended, it probably wasn’t to create the ode to artistic existentialism Devolution has become.
Devolution #4 returns to the story’s roots, with a somewhat unexpected twist on the twist we all saw coming. It succeeds in subverting some tropes of the post-apocalyptic genre, but wholeheartedly plays into others. There are some pointed questions remaining for the characters in this penultimate issue, but it’s hard to invest in them when the bigger, more enticing question is what Devolution wants to accomplish.
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