Nihilism and post-apolocalyptic fiction go together like peanut butter and jelly. If the human race doesn't fail, how can we possibly get to the fun aftermath that follows? It's a solid formula, but one that's done so often, it is tough to make it feel fresh. Devolution feels not only fresh but downright sharp, with an added dose of cynicism. This is the kind of book that breathes new life into the genre.
Writer Rick Remender is no stranger to weirdness. He has been putting out his own brand of off-kilter comics for years. His work on titles like Black Science and Fear Agent shows a penchant for unconventional storytelling and a critical eye for the human condition. While Remender may come off as someone who hates people, he has become adept at entertaining them through his well honed way of storytelling.
Devolution follows the protagonist, Raja, through a world filled with oversized animals and Neanderthal humans. The plot of Devolution is this: Scientists decided to dust the Earth in a chemical that they thought would lead to peace amongst the human race, but instead devolved humanity to its most primal roots. Raja is one of a small number of survivors, and she is on a quest to find and administer the cure.
As in any good story, Raja is continually met with obstacles. The joy in this for the reader is how Remender chooses to make the remaining humans just as awful as the subhuman monsters they should be running from. Raja spends a good portion of the story debating whether or not to save humanity at all.
Helping Remender to craft this post-pocalyptic wasteland is artist Jonathan Wayshak. Wayshak brings a visceral style to the pages of Devolution. It is very clear early on that he comes from a classic illustrative background, while drawing inspiration from familiar classic artists. The art harkens back to greats like Todd McFarlane and Sam Kieth. The latter especially shines through in the style of character design Wayshak uses throughout the book. Also his knack for creature design is a gift to behold. From giant drooling spiders to early sci-fi style mutants, Wayshak makes everything surreal but believable. The subject matter of the book plays to Wayshak's strengths, making him the perfect collaborator for this story.
Devolution has the makings of a cult classic graphic novel. Filled with the kind of sex and violence you look for in B movies, but balancing all of that with interesting characters and subject matter, the book is never afraid to push the envelope and in return never leaves the reader wanting. It's the kind of title that could become a strong, to-the-point feature film, yet I suspect no matter how hard the studio tried they could never touch the power of the original novel. In this time of comic book oversaturation, it would be understandable to have overlooked this book. The shame in that is the level of awesome being missed out on. Devolution may be gritty and it may be harsh, but sometimes progress needs a stern push forward.