The Divine – a tale of dark magical realism in the war-torn jungles of Southeast Asia

See sample pages of at Wink.

It seems as though Lord of the Flies-like tales are all the rage in comics these days. Here on Wink we've reviewed several books that feature kids gone wild, namely The Wrenchies and Beautiful Darkness, and there are others. Adding its own unique spin to this trope is The Divine, a graphic novel of magical realism. Inspired by actual events, The Divine follows the fated exploits of Mark, an ex US army military explosives expert who's trying to make a go at domestic bliss, but having a hard time finding a decent job to support his wife and baby on the way. He wants anything but to accept an offer made by a meat-headed former military buddy, Jason. But the job Jason dangles before him – a quick and dirty mine explosives job in the obscure (fictitious) Southeast Asian country of Quanlom – offers too big of a payday to turn down. It seems so easy. Get in, get out, collect the fat paycheck, live happily ever after. The door to hell has well-oiled hinges and easily swings for those who push.

That hell breaks loose the moment Mark steps foot on the matted jungle floors of Quanlom. And we feel like we're right there with him. The art in this book, so gorgeously rendered by twin Israeli artists Asaf and Tomer Hanuka, masterfully uses saturated blocks of color to create a very dense and intense feeling that can be claustrophobic one minute and explosively expansive the next. The Quanlom scenes in the book are almost entirely rendered in shades of green, creating a jungle density so thick, you can nearly feel the humidity and the bugs crawling on and biting you. 

Within the reaches of that jungle, Mark ends up rescuing an injured boy and getting captured by The Divine in the process. The Divine are two twin boys who lead a rebel band of kids left parentless after years of civil war. The Divine are said to control a dragon that lives in the mountain and spirit armies. They fear that, if Mark's explosive team destroys the mountain (what he was actually sent here to do), the dragon will no longer have a home. Mark thinks it's all silly tribal superstitions. Until he begins to see things that he can't easily rationalize away.

I really enjoyed the sweat-soaked journey this book took me on. I thought the art was spectacular, the world that Boaz Lavie and the Hanuka twins create was very immersive, and the story had a great resonance. Some people have criticized the book for ending rather abruptly and for not fleshing out the twins, undoubtedly the best part of the book. I have to agree. I really wish we'd gotten to see more of the twins, to learn more of their backstory, and to know more about the civil war that spawned them. How did these boys (and the real-life Htoo twins) end up leading an army, and how did their perceived powers come to be?

At only $12.27, The Divine is a great bargain for the lovely little artifact that you get. The artwork alone is worth the price of admission.

The Divine

by Boaz Lavie (author), Asaf Hanuka (illustrator) and Tomer Hanuka (illustrator)

First Second

2015, 160 pages, 4.1 x 8.4 x 0.4 inches (paperback)

$12 Buy one on Amazon