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Required Reading: DV8 – Gods & Monsters

By / Posted on 20 July 2011

DV8 Gods and MonstersIt’s not an entirely original concept to compare modern comic book superhero stories to classic mythology of Greece, Rome, and beyond. The Spider-Man films are often compared to the morality tales of the Bible, fresh writers often refer to their love of the Superman mythology over the powers and characters, and then, of course, there’s Thor, the Norse god who has integrated Asgard into Marvel continuity. All manner of scholars have written books and lectures relating superheroes to gods and the relative stories of each, but precious few heroes have made the same connection. Plenty of villains, like Darkseid and Apocalypse, but almost none of the “good guys.” Perhaps it’s a good thing, then, that the ’90s gave us so many popular “anti-heroes.”

The very height of the anti-hero trend came in the form of DV8, a book about a team of genetically modified teens who used their superpowers for personal gain in between missions of intense violence and debauchery. The team, known as the Deviants, served as antagonists to good-teen-team Gen 13, whose book was so popular for the time that it crossed over with Marvel’s Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and similarly-themed Generation X, DC’s Superman, and deeply rooted itself into continuity with several other books from Image Comics. The first series of DV8, as a spinoff and counterpoint to Gen 13, famously launched with seven alternate covers, portraying the team members as the seven deadly sins.

It’s been over ten years since the first DV8 series ended, so readers are forgiven for having only a loose concept of who and what the teens are in this new volume, a story popular scribe Brian Wood (Channel Zero, Demo, Local, DMZ, Northlanders) had been pitching to DC for years before finally getting approval. The teens, who are often kept sequestered or in stasis between missions, are dropped on an alien planet where the primitive natives have split into tribes and are preparing for war the way so many humanoids do. As anyone who has read classic mythology would expect, the natives immediately confront and attack the strangers out of fear, but, upon seeing their incredible powers in action, worship them as gods. The Deviants are confused and alone, having been separated on an alien world, just go with it and do what comes naturally. A god for each tribe, and each tribe believing theirs is the most powerful. It isn’t long before “my dad can beat up your dad” escalates into a full on world war.

DV8 - Gods and Monsters

The teens that had developed a conscious by the end of the previous DV8 series look begin to look for ways to help the natives and avoid violence, while the other self-serving Deviants relish the opportunity to lead their worshippers to genocide. Personalities clash, as is to be expected, but things take a sharp turn when a threat to the entire planet is revealed and the proclaimed “gods” acknowledge that they are powerless to save their followers from extinction.

DV8: Gods and Monsters is not a war comic, though. The action is never highlighted as much as the character struggles, personal interactions, and morality questions involved in taking on the role of a god. There are a lot of parallels to be made to similar stories in all number of religious myths of the past, and inherent questions connected throughout. Was the Romans’ Mercury truly a “God” or simply a charming man who could run really fast? If Spider-Man were real, would we be more comfortable with him wearing spandex or a tattered robe and sandals? The quiet personal moments of doubt and debate are the heart of DV8: Gods and Monsters, with noticeable character growth and personal tragedy by the end. It’s a shame none of this will lead anywhere as all of the characters are about to be retconned out of DC continuity anyway.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.