Valiant Announces ‘Divinity III: Escape From Gulag 396,’ The Stalinverse’s Darker Take On ‘Archer & Armstrong’ [Exclusive]
In the regular Valiant Universe, the mismatched heroes of Archer & Armstrong tend to find themselves dealing with problems that are a little on the sillier side, from a cult of nihilists who literally worship nothing all the way down to... well, the state of Florida and all that entails. In the Stalinverse, however, things are a little bit darker.
With the Valiant Universe being overwritten by a timeline where the Soviet Union took over using the most powerful being in the world, characters like Bloodshot and X-O Manowar have found themselves recast as "heroes of the revolution," but Obadiah Archer and Aram Anni-Padda aren't so "lucky."
In March, Eliot Rahal and Francis Portela are bringing you Divinity III: Escape From Galag 396, a one shot in which Archer finds himself imprisoned as a religious extremist alongside an immortal enemy of the state. Check out an exclusive first look at the covers and some of Rahal's thoughts on the story below!
ComicsAlliance: Archer is the product of a uniquely American take on religion. How does growing up in a fundamentally different context change him?
Eliot Rahal: If we take the idea of Archer growing up as a product of religion in an anti-religious world, I think it only solidifies his core sense of belief. When I was writing and breaking this story, I kept coming back to the idea of early Christianity --- or really, any non-compliant belief system. Their existence is somewhat based on persecution. The more they push back, the more they are emboldened. His story is the story of all underground cultures. What’s unique about Archer is that he is Archer. He actually means it. He believes it. He lives it. And he has seen the horrors of it.
CA: Since Armstrong has been able to stay relatively under the radar in the normal timeline of the Valiant Universe, what made Stalinverse's Aram an enemy of the state? Was there just too much for him to go along with?
ER: Well, it’s still Armstrong. Who hasn’t he made an enemy out of? He’s just that kind of guy to me. However, on a serious story note, Communism is/was supposed to take the form of religion in many cases. The idea of devotion to the State requires the same basic principles of faith that Christianity has. So Armstrong, being Armstrong, just doesn’t abide. The guy has seen too much. To him the current red rule of the world is just a flicker. Soon it will be something else. He’s a little jaded to all of it.
That, and the fact that totalitarian governments hate it when people don’t fall in line. Which is why Armstrong is in the gulag. Also, they can’t kill him because of his whole immortality thing... That’s a thing people with guns also hate.
CA: Gulag 396 seems like a much more serious take on the characters than we usually get from Archer & Armstrong. What's the challenge in doing that? How do you keep what's essential to the characters while still raising the stakes?
ER: To me, the challenge was doing this idea only as a one-shot! There was so much here I wanted to really sink my teeth into. That being said… the thing I always needed to remember was who the characters were. Where they came from. The dichotomy between the two. Immortal and mortal. Why does the altruism of one earn the contempt of the other?
We have to remember, Armstrong is a man who has no country. His culture and his identity died long ago. His very existence is in utter contrast to the current existing world. What reason does he have to care? Archer, on the other hand, is a Christian, and faith without works is dead. Faith, in this case, is exercising itself against extreme circumstances. His actions have to come now. They matter now. It’s totally anachronistic to Armstrong’s current emotional mindset. Therein lies the conflict. Therein lies the story.
DIVINITY III: ESCAPE FROM GULAG 396 #1
Written by ELIOT RAHAL
Art by FRANCIS PORTELA
Cover A by ADAM GORHAM
Cover B by KHARI EVANS
Cover C by ANDRES GUINALDO
Character Design Variant by RYAN LEE
Variant Cover by KANO
Archer & Armstrong: Enemies of the State!
In the Soviet-controlled world of the Stalinverse, there is a place where liberty is sentenced to die...and it’s Gulag 396. A maximum-security prison where the only escape is through death, the gulag is the final stop for all enemies and detractors of the world’s oppressive authority. But when public enemy Obadiah Archer is admitted as the latest inmate, could his gospel of goodwill and optimism be the spark that ignites a new faith in the prison’s population...including the immortal undesirable known as Aram Addi-Padda?