The Wicked and The Divine: 1923
Story: Kieron Gillen
Art/Variant Cover: Aud Koch
Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Review by KrisK
The Wicked +The Divine (TWATD) and the Roaring Twenties just had a baby, and its’ more beautiful than you could have hoped for. TWATD, fresh off a Christmas Special, just dropped another special about a previous recurrence, ninety years previous.
For those of you not familiar with the best piece of British literature since Harry Potter, TWATD is about a pantheon of gods from across the religious spectrum returning to human society every ninety years. They take over the bodies of existing humans, and for 2 years, they are powerful and influential as gods and artists. After the two years are up, the gods expire and take a 90 year cicada nap. There is an immortal named Ananke who serves as their guide, she brings them into the world like a mother. She is trusted by the gods, but she, like the gods cannot be trusted.
This special takes place in 1923, the last time the gods cycled. This cycle ended abruptly, and this special issue lets us know why. The gods are all based on historical artistic characters, most notably writers, and the thought put into this part alone is exquisite. You can lose an afternoon trying to decide the identity of each of the gods, though some are easier to deduce then others. (Cough*Dionysus*Cough*god of Cubism*Cough*Picasso)
The issue begins with a caption nodding to Agatha Christie: And then there were none. The issue starts as a lock door murder mystery. Lucifer invites all the other gods to a castle he had built on an island. The castle houses cutting edge technology, and Lucifer is clearly proud of it. Everyone is settling in when, with a CLICK! BOOM!, fingers snap and someone loses a head. The mystery spins out from there.
This issue is very new reader friendly, serving as its own novella. Half the issue is in prose, ala Hickman, and the other half is in sepia. The sepia portion even has the black screens with white captions that gave words to the silent movies which would have been prevalent in 1923. The special is thicker then the average issue, and it easily earns the $4.99 price tag with quality and quantity. I have finished miniseries faster than I finished this.
The story is seductive purely as a mystery, and as the mythology and philosophy of TWATD start to develop, the book becomes addictive. The issue even teases that the gods may have a much larger influence on history (at least in my opinion) than previously thought. This insight gives a whole new depth to the main series as it approaches its probable end in the next two years. That is what makes this series beautiful. You never know what is going to happen next.
The writing is perfect, and you can’t help but get the feeling that Gillen knows this is the best he has ever written. The layers to the story, with its various subplots and machinations, make this story worth re-reading. When I finished the issue, I wanted to read it again to catch all the details I know I missed. The art is a gorgeous F. Scott Fitzgerald/Agatha Christie fever dream, and I loved the panels I was treated to. The fact that the bulk of the story is told in prose, which while logistically necessary with a story this deep, gives the art that much more meaning. The few panels serve as beautiful exclamation points to the subdued prose style. Without the prose, this special very likely would have had to have been a graphic novel. I would have loved it just the same, though.
Verdict: Buy! I know this comes as no shock, but this thing was perfect from beginning to end. The writing and art were creative giants at their zenith. This issue brought me dangerously close to literally squealing with delight.
PS. For more The Wicked + The Divine goodness, check out the newest True Brit editorial on the series by Sarah Miles!