Obadiah Archer has one constant in his life. It doesn’t matter if it’s a manifested Stalinverse or his normal timeline. Archer’s faith, his belief in the power of prayer will once again get him to where he needs to be. Then there’s the immortal Armstrong. His need to be left alone with his demons puts him on a direct collision course with the young man, in this world, who never once raises his fist to get what he needs from those seemingly more powerful.
In ‘Divinity III: Escape From Gulag 396’ we see the continuing effects of this alternate reality. Archer defines himself as a criminal since he has stolen several times. Having characterized himself as such, he is now in the role of the subversive. Inadvertently this leads him to his partner Armstrong. Seeing Armstrong you get the sense that he is not trapped in the gulag. Instead he has imprisoned himself with his memories. After living for so many centuries, Armstrong is tired. He doesn’t care what reality he’s in as long as he’s left to wallow in his own ennui. Still, in his confrontation with Abram Ninjak could have used Archer. Not because of his physical training, but for his reasoning. In this issue Archer is able to meet with Armstrong and in doing so surprises the reader and perhaps Armstrong himself.
There is no levity in this created world. The usual lightheartedness that fills Archer and Armstrong in their respective series is mostly absent here. But that doesn’t mean that writer Eliot Rahal doesn’t get to play with the ironic, dry-wit streak that tends to run amuck with these two men. At one point Armstrong is given by Archer the book ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh.’ The incredulous look on the large man’s face is priceless. In the ancient story Gilgamesh is a physically good-looking man, who is also a wanton despot. In reaction to Gilgamesh’s ways, the wild man Enkidu is created. Both men ironically become friends. And as a result of Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh begins his own personal journey. Here are two men who should have nothing in common, yet become more than friends. The same goes for Archer and Armstrong. On the outside they may have exchanged one prison for another. Archer believes in Armstrong even if the immortal does not believe in anything, much less himself. Rahal shows us that friendship, despite circumstances could never be fully broken. It’s like the comic book cover where you see Archer determinedly forcing his way out through concrete. The possibility of freedom seems to drive him, but the connection to one person in particular is what helps him succeed.
The myths also increase with Matt Kindt’s origin of ‘The Pioneer.’ A force of nature this woman becomes the last of her kind. You get the sense that she has been manipulated by the powers that be to become a weapon for them. Unknowingly, she decimates who she believes responsible for her people’s destruction. It is another example of the destructive forces of the one manipulating this Stalinverse. The one question remains in this comic book crossover, how will this all end?