Since they first collaborated together on Phonogram back in 2006, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have been the poster boys of the UK comics scene. Together they have produced a critically acclaimed run on Young Avengers, and have separately worked on titles such as Uber, Journey Into Mystery and Defenders. But for me, and for many others *cough* Joey Braccino *cough* one books stands head and shoulders above the rest.
So, where do I start with the magnus opum that is The Wicked and The Divine? Well, it was the ‘Best On-Going Series’ in the Talking Comics Awards for 2017 (finally!), it is currently up to six (six!) trades, three special editions, another special issue that was released just this week and three more trades planned – including one collecting all those specials. The basic elevator pitch is that every ninety years twelve gods are reincarnated into human bodies. They will die within three years. Think about that for a moment… One day you’re just walking down the street, an any-person with a job and family. Next thing you are an omnipotent god, with the appropriate powers for your skill set, and just three years to live. What do you do? Well personally I would probably go more than a little doolally, making the most of the time I had left, but that’s just me. Or is it… (dun dun dun)
Anyway, back to comics and away from my sociopathic tendencies, let’s take a look at why this comic is so loved by so many people. I’m going to start with the regular artwork from Jamie McKelvie with colours by Matt Wilson. Each of the twelve gods has their own individual stylings and colour schemes, although a glance at any of them, separate or together, will show you the heavy musical influences that pervade the book. One of my own personal meta-references is in issue 6, where the lead character refers to her own fan art of Sakhmet – one of the gods – “looks more like Rihanna” than the goddess herself. The detail that McKelvie puts into the book cannot be underestimated, from the sharp lines of the suit Baal wears to the acres of flowing fabric following Amaterasu wherever she goes, the art is simply to die for. Let us not forget about the hair either! My own person favourite is The Morrigan, who manages to sport all the hairstyles (all of them!), with a depth of detail that has to be seen to be believed. Each and every issue of The Wicked and The Divine is fashion goals, hair goals, and cosplays goals all rolled up into a stunningly beautiful package.
The work of Matt Wilson cannot be underestimated on this book. At the end of the trade there are always a gallery of variant covers, and a ‘Making Of’ section, which show the transitions from scripts to the first black and white sketches, through to the final produced artwork. The colours often indicate which of the gods will be appearing, and the purple sparkling glory of Inanna hits me in the heart every time this Prince of love, desire and fertility appears. Each god comes with their own backstory, and we can often first identify who we are going to back to visit in their pre-god years thanks to Wilson’s palettes alone. But it’s not just the art that makes this book a wonder to behold, oh no…
The writing is premium Gillen, with the twists, turns, and wheels within wheels that readers have come to expect from this powerhouse of British comics. Yes, I audibly gasped when I got the end of issue 33, as did everyone else I know who has gotten to this point. The crossing, double crossing and politics in the series thus far are not to be sniffed at, and my bizarre habit of re-reading all the series when each trade comes out has stood me in good stead when it comes to keeping up.
Also, can we please talk about issue 23? Only a writer of Gillen’s calibre would be able to produce a full issue based around guests interviewing his characters, with a gorgeous glossy magazine style art spreads, that fits perfectly within the ongoing narrative and fills in back story for several of the main players. As someone who reads in trade I almost was let down when I first came across this, as I can only imagine how good it must have been to receive this in my pull list!
The occasional specials are also wonderful, with Gillen taking us back to different time frames for some of them, and filling in even more backstory in the Christmas special (warning, very NSFW thanks to some gorgeous Kris Anka artwork), to give us an idea of how the Pantheon might have responded to the different stimuli that Ancient Rome, the Romantic Era or the 1920s would have provided.
Don’t be put off by the amount of trades that already exist in this series, and are scheduled to come out in the future (including that extra one collecting all the special editions) jump on board now and enjoy the ride because trust me, it is a hell of a ride.