The Great Divide (#1 – 6) – Ben Fisher

5 out of 5

This, my friends, was quite a treat.  An original plot – an original post-apocalypse plot to boot – that maintains its quality throughout all of its issues and subplots, including after the “things are explained” point of no return.  There are a lot of miracles mixed in there, but that last one is especially impressive: think of how many reveals you can truly classify as quality that stand up to rereads and sustainability beyond the reveal…  My bet is that list is pretty slim.

And I reread the bulk of this thing within a fairly short time period: first the first three issues to run my “do I want to keep buying this?” check (obviously the answer was yes); a second time when the series completed and I got up to issue four before realizing I was somehow missing issue five; and finally completed, starting again from issue one, when I’d tracked down that missing issue.  Each time, it was  a fresh and exciting read, reminding me of the rare kind of excitement experienced when a few comics a month were a treat (i.e. when you’re a kid and it’s not your money), and you’d reread and reread what you had, not knowing if next month you’ll get to see the subsequent issue or not…. You end up hanging on every word, intimately familiar with the panels, not dating to assume where the story may lead.

See, I want to read it again just talking through that.

The Great Divide focuses on Paul, survivor of the planet’s current status quo for the past couple years, in which any skin-to-skin contact causes one lucky person in that partnership to sorta, eh, rupture.  Paul is of the Yorick Brown mold of lead characters, perpetually humored and intelligent enough to be useful, but equally willing to cause a bit of mischief if it helps him get by.  He’s also much more real than Brian K. Vaughan knows how to write characters, his internal monologue a rambling narrative of cynicism and backhanded positivity; he will survive by taking it a day at a time, preferably on  his own.

Of course, circumstances don’t play out that way, leading him on a road trip with reluctant companion Maria, dodging new world concerns like Baredevils and surprise walkabouts.  Their goal is Seattle – as per Maria – but things inevitably get more complicated along the way, as the duo stumbles into possible explanations for the Why of The Divide.

I promise you, there’s more to it than all that, But the organic way in which Ben Fisher introduces all the fascinating concepts is a big part of the read’s joy.  There is no exposition dump; no odd “reminders” about what’s happening; just conversation and in-story happenings that let you know what you need to you to understand the stakes and appreciate the equal importance of and difficulty with companionship.  Paul and Maria’s odd couple pairing makes perfect sense, as do they decisions along the way – both good signs of good characterization and seamless plotting.

On art, Adam Markiewicz has an interestingly ragged style that always seems like it’s a line away from becoming amateurish, but actually ends up capturing the emotions of the story and fluidity of any given scene really well.  So that raggedness is a feature, not a bug, and you really come to appreciate his reliability to communicate what’s happening across unique locales and a set of colorful characters.

Writer Ben Fisher’s power over me is now such that I am planning on buying a Grumpy Cat comic with his name on it…  That’s some voodoo.  I only hope that calling this Volume 1 means there’s more to come.  The Great Divide satisfies on all fronts without exception, with extra online content and excellent horror homage covers adding to the pile of positives and the general sense that we’re reading something pretty special.