A Writer’s Commentary: Ben Fisher talks grand finale, Great Divide, on sale from Dynamite. Cover and interiors by artist Adam Markiewiz.
I’ve been fortunate enough to do a few of these for The Great Divide, and it’s more than a little bittersweet to be writing about the final issue (well, at least until a new arc begins!), but I’ll do my best to avoid becoming overly saccharine or sentimental. This commentary assumes you’ve already read Issue 6 and now want to peek behind the curtain — and maybe pick up a few clues as to where the story might go from here.
So, let’s take this little walkabout together, shall we?
First, we need to set the mood. Adam Markiewicz and I wrote a soundtrack for The Great Divideway back when this all began — it had sort of an ambient synth feel with a clear John Carpenter influence (you can find it on iTunes, Spotify, and all the usual places, and its also available for free here: https://soundcloud.com/user-867986415/sets/tgd-ost ) Go ahead and start the music. Get that apocalyptic vibe going just right.
Now, pour yourself a nice glass of wine. Or whiskey, if you’re hard core about your dystopian fare. And oh, let’s say, a Monster energy drink if you’re under 21 or you lost all your taste buds in the robot uprising.
All set? Let’s do this.
Speaking of walkabouts, we’ve been talking about them for five issues, and now we finally get to see one. This was a challenge for Markiewicz because we wanted to convey the “zombie walk” effect without dialogue, and also without the silly arms-out-in-a-trance image. This was also an opportunity for me to reveal why it mattered that Fritz was a trained support dog for seizure victims — Paul’s willingness to take the dog with them is rewarded in spades when Fritz saves his life during the walkabout.
When I first discussed introducing Fritz with Markiewicz, he agreed to draw him on one condition: that the dog lives. Interestingly, he didn’t say that about any of the humans in the book. I agreed to his terms, but between you and me, Fritz was always safe. I’m a lot of things, but I’m no fictional dog killer. Side note, I almost got into a bar fight with Paul Tobin after he reminded me that he killed an owl in Marvel Adventures. The only things that saved him were (a) he’s a really fantastic person and writer, and (b) he’s way bigger than me.
So I’m a fan of callbacks. If I show you a rifle in the first panel, you can damn well believe someone is shooting it a few issues later. Not at a dog, though. See what I did there? LAYERS of jokes this time around.
In any event, this issue is full of callbacks. The blurred panel of Fritz licking Paul is a reference to the rat in Issue 1, right after Paul is mugged by Maria. His dialogue about being “out of the game” is similarly a riff on that prior scene. The Square Q Market is the same chain where our heroes met Sebastian in Issue 2.
These pages are where Paul’s character arc finally plays out. In the first issue, he remarks that he doesn’t know why some humans still band together despite the risks. Now, after spending so much time with Eli, Victoria, and (especially) Maria, he finally understands.
I wanted to explore how sexual orientation becomes even more fluid once someone’s head is full of other people. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to delve into that particular theme in these six issues, but I drop a little hint at it with my Idris Elba joke on this page.
In these panels, we confirm a reveal that’s been hiding in plain sight since the very first issue. Maria has been heading towards Seattle to find a psychiatrist who specializes in rider therapy — the same psychiatrist Victoria has been communicating with in her chatlog. Every rifle gets used, folks.
And while we’re on the subject of callbacks, remember when Sebastian told Paul to read his book in Issue 2, promising it would help him with walkabouts? Well, Paul should have listened, because Sebastian has figured out a way to let his riders do the walking while everyone else is wandering like a zombie.
But Maria makes him pay for it. She even gets a one-liner, which I generally hate, but it just seemed to fit really well for this scene. Of course, it’s not the best one liner, because all of those were used up in Army of Darkness.
Then again, who among us doesn’t keep an ongoing journal of witty Ash retorts just in case Dynamite ever offers an AoD gig?
Markiewicz and I spent some time deciding the best way to show riders inside someone’s head — something we intentionally avoided until Maria is overwhelmed with riders. I like the TV in a white room effects a lot (and, of course, we hinted at this visual in Issue 2 when Paul described having Carlos in his head as someone constantly turning the channel in his thoughts) — and it was Guzowski’s idea to color the balloons to match the screens. The fourth panel of Page 19, showing the close up of Sebastian, still gives me the creeps.
This was also the first chance Markiewicz had to draw extended fight sequences since the Tiger Pit in Issue 3, so it was a lot of fun all around.
Maria’s emergence from her own head space is where her story arc finally plays out, and she allows herself to move on with her life. It’s not a coincidence that both Paul and Maria achieve their personal satori while awakening. Those two have always mirrored each other to some extent throughout the series.
And here — well, here I finally fire the biggest rifle of them all. The one that we’ve been teasing since the very first issue. The GPS is reinserted into Victoria’s laptop and the military are quick to track them down. Paul’s gambit is a dangerous one, and it leaves our heroes at the mercy of a desperate government, but at least they aren’t feeding the Soul Box.
Ending a book is hard, in every sense of the concept. The Great Divide was always more about Paul and Maria than it was about the strange affliction that ruined the world. It was about relationships and intimacy and how people cross an emotional gap to find each other. I liked leaving them here, like this. Their relationship isn’t romance. It isn’t governed by sexual orientation or attraction. It’s two people realizing that they’re better together than apart. As Paul says at the beginning of the issue, strength in numbers may no longer exist, but maybe strength was never really the end goal.
Okay, I promised not to get sappy, so let me make it up to you by talking about the cliffhangers a bit. Obviously, the first big one is that we can’t count Sebastian out just yet. He promised Maria he’d find a way out of his “box” — and he’s making good on that threat. Maria has plenty of story left to tell, and some serious personal demons to fight. But what happens when one of those demons can take control of your body? Perhaps the answer can be found in the tales of riders who seek immortality by hijacking fresh, healthy bodies, jumping between them like parasites?
And speaking of parasites, the Reverend Danielle has a surprise encounter with my favorite callback of them all — a certain ex-MMA champion who sees the potential of an army-building Soul Box squandered on a cult that lacks true vision and purpose. The post-Divide world is about to get a lot more dangerous …
Thank all of you so much for joining us on this post-apocalyptic journey. We’re very proud of the book, and the story that Dynamite allowed us to tell, and we appreciate all the love and kind words you’ve shared with us.
If you have any questions or comments about the series, I can be found on Twitter, patiently awaiting the end of the world @benjaminpfisher