The Wicked + The Divine #1
Writer – Kieron Gillen
Artist – Jamie McKelvie
Colourist – Matthew Wilson
Letterer – Clayton Cowles
Designer – Hannah Donovan
Review by Joey Braccino
Once again, we return to this…
JB – WICKED & DIVINE #1!!!
BS – [IT’S] YOURS…. ALSO I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT WICKED + DIVINE I’M WRITING IN ALL CAPS
JB – I KNOW RIGHT
^^The actual e-mail exchange between me and Talking Comics EiC Bobby Shortle when I requested Wicked + Divine to review.
When The Wicked + The Divine was announced back at the start of 2014, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (and Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles) were launching the “After Party” in their acclaimed Young Avengers run for Marvel. I like to think that a lot of the buzz over Wicked + Divine has been derived from the overwhelmingly positive response to Gillen and McKelvie’s work on that mainstream Marvel book, which is great because, as a creative force, the team behind this new comic from Image is one of the absolute best in the business.
I’ve been a fan of Gillen & McKelvie since I first read the cult-favorite comic, Phonogram, a few years back. A post-modernist, fantastical love-letter to rock music in all its underground iterations, Phonogram is Gillen & McKelvie at its most raw. Glimpses of Phonogram can be seen in a lot of Gillen’s more mainstream work on Uncanny X-Men and Iron Man as well as his genre-bending, youth-in-revolt team-up with McKelvie on Young Avengers.
As Gillen mentions in the letter pages of Wicked + Divine, a lot of fans (including Matt Fraction) were surprised that this comic wasn’t the third volume of Phonogram. Yes, the tone and tenor of Wicked + Divine parallels that of Phonogram, with its exploration of music and music’s power to inspire and transform, but, as Gillen writes in the letter, the vector of that exploration is different for this new series. Whereas Phonogram explored the listener, Wicked + Divine is set to explore the creator.
And if that word “creator” seems loaded with biblical, omnipotent symbolism, then you’re five steps ahead of the game in terms of grasping the central conceit of Wicked + Divine.
With Wicked + Divine, Gillen and McKelvie present us with a simple premise: every century, the gods (of all denominations) reincarnate themselves in the bodies of teenagers. These teenagers become celebrities, idols, and, for lack of less-obvious terms, “real-life gods” to the world. But, as we discover in this first issue, the reincarnation only lasts for 2 years. We don’t know yet what happens after those two years, but the gruesome prologue may contain some hints.
As is often the case with Gillen, the characters are vivid, eccentric, and filled with both gravitas and whimsy. Luci—a Bowie-esque lady Lucifer (keep an eye out for a Rolling Stones joke)—is the real stand-out this issue, partly because of Gillen’s crisp, clear characterization and partly because of McKelvie’s striking design. The image of a young woman with close-cropped blonde hair, dark eye-liner, and clad in a clean white tux makes perfect sense for Luci(fer)… in the fantastical world of Wicked + Divine.
Gillen deftly uses a cynical journalista as his source of exposition in the middle segment of the text. The woman’s questions help bolster the mystery surrounding the whole reincarnation thing, while also asking serious questions about the commodification of the celebrity and idol worship. The cliffhanger ending is brutal and gory as well, raising yet another question: just how crazy and wonky and profound is Wicked + Divine going to get? Because I don’t know how much awesome I can handle right now.
Whereas fans of Phonogram will relish the return of that pure, post-modern, musically-atuned Gillen voice, fans of Young Avengers will admire a visual experience that is both stunningly natural and absurdly surreal. While Wicked + Divine doesn’t necessarily play with paneling as much, it does feature some of the most incredible figure work and character designs I’ve seen in this (post-)modern era of comics. Matthew Wilson is a welcome addition to the Gillen/McKelvie team, providing an invigorating, diverse color palette that stimulates and engages.
The Wicked + The Divine is an absolute, 100%, go-and-get-it, true-to-form, make-it-so, I’m-out-of-hyperboles BUY. The creative team is comprised of some of the best in the business today, and the synergy behind the creators is palpable on each and every page. This comic is a must-read, so stop reading this and go check it. Do it in 1 – 2 – 3 – 4… KLLK.