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Elena: Divinity Rising #1

Written by: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor

Move aside, Jason Bourne! There’s a new CIA agent in town, and she’s anything but ordinary.


Creator/Writer: Darren Pearce and Stuart Jennet
Illustrator: Stuart Jennet

Elena Anchova is a remarkable young girl from Moscow brought up in a world of betrayal and espionage. Gifted with the ability to infiltrate communication intelligence, she was mentored by Ruslan Kalikov, the former head of the KGB special abilities acquisition program and now the nemesis of the CIA. Since being abandoned by her mother, Elena has continued her CIA work. However, a new threat has emerged and readers will come to find that her painful past is just as important as her future.

Divinity Rising #1 immediately opens up in the middle of the action in New York City. The CIA have encoded a Yuri Level 2 threat and it’s up to ground agents Elena, Alex, Dawson, and Miller to scour the area for any clues pointing to trouble. As the story unfolds with the team chasing down a lead packed with explosions and mysteries along the way, creators Pearce and Jennet take the opportunity to weave in a bit of backstory to push the story forward. Not much goes on yet, but readers are greatly introduced to some of Elena and Alex’s abilities, their past, and their relationship.

Elena: Divinity Rising at its core is a spy thriller full of secrets and deceit. But it’s also about individuals like Elena who have special abilities for the world to take advantage of and control. 

Pearce writes, “Divinity Rising is very much a spy thriller interlaced with the story of how Elena Anchova came to be where she is at this moment in time.” He continues, “We think of it as a story inspired by Bourne / Bond with a dash of comic book pzazz. At its heart is the story of good versus evil with family themes and a very strong female lead character.”

While the story has only begun, it’s very fast-paced, especially with the action sequences. Pearce and Jennet don’t bog the story down with unnecessary dialogue and long-winded explanations to set the stage. It doesn’t need it, as the art creates the mood for them. The characters jump right in, and the first issue can be viewed as the opening sequence of a film where the good guys dash around covertly with the viewer not yet understanding exactly what’s going on. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s a glimpse into a much bigger problem at hand and we’ll very much get the broader idea later. It’s fun and captivating to read as we try to fit the pieces together. Oh, and there are ninja stars involved. Nothing beats a spy thriller without ninja stars.

What is Elena’s potential and why is she so important? Who are the Yuri and can the CIA itself be trusted? Those are a few of the underlying questions to be answered in this 4-issue story arc.

The only trouble with this first issue had to do with the mechanics of storytelling, mainly the syntax. Some dialogue (not all) felt stilted, forced, or misplaced. There was a moment where young Elena states, “Free? I don’t feel free,” when no other character mentioned anything about freedom. This may have just been overlooked in the editing process. Many of the dialogue also had commas where it may have best to use periods. This is very minor and is in no way a deal breaker, but it can take a reader out of the story who is oversensitive to zoning in on such a detail.

The art is terrific. All the main characters are very distinctive and have a personality of their own through the way their hair is presented and how they’re dressed. Their snarky or serious temperament shows through even without dialogue. As previously mentioned, the colors set the mood and the setting nicely. It’s bright and explosive, and readers are able to tell what and who we’re looking at.

With the scenes of Elena and Alex, the ominous and somber colors greatly show they’re in a cramped city with some very rude people. It would have been nice if the first page actually had the label “New York City,” although the art clues readers in. The blue-toned panels clearly convey their CIA boss working in some headquarters. And finally, the black and white panels make for fluid transitions into flashbacks. As an aside, the last flashback / scene was somewhat random and awkwardly placed. As a whole, the best part of the art is how Jennet uses it to illustrate Elena’s powers. Readers don’t just get told what Elena is seeing in her mind. We get to see it too.

Elena: Divinity Rising is off to a good start. It’s not the strongest first issue, but it’s engaging, nicely illustrated, and sets up a thrilling story. After all, a first issue isn’t entirely telling of a whole story that’s waiting to be told. So issue 2, here we come!

Elena: Divinity Rising #1 is out on ComiXology today! Follow the team on Twitter @ElenaAnchova.

3.5 out of 5.0