Every ninety years twelve Gods from the various pantheons and religions from across the world are incarnated as young, beautiful people for a period of just two years, then they die. They are adored, worshipped, loathed in whichever aspect works best for the times. Now they are celebrities, the most phenomenal pop stars of all time, but when Lucifer is accused of murder, a crime against humanity AND the gods, she strikes a deal with super-fan, Laura, to help her out of the situation. The politics and mythology Laura encounters are more profound and petty than she could ever have imagined.
Another review of a creator owned Image title, another totally sycophantic gushing about how this company is publishing not only the most original comics on the wracks, but the most original concepts in any entertainment medium.
I’ll keep it short, as I’ve waxed lyrical about this on numerous occasions, but the kind of sci-fi/crime/supernatural books Image are putting out could never find the budget they require in films, aren’t populist enough to secure a long running TV show and are too fast paced and imaginative to be pinned down with the kind of extended prose that would be needed to bring them to life in novel form.
The latest offering is the first volume of Kieron Gillan and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine (otherwise known as WicDiv), an ‘ongoing’ series in the same fashion as the Vertigo books of old, which is to say, a long-form story with a finite ending (usually spanning somewhere between 60 to 100 issues). This team has previously brought us the music-centric Phonogram graphic novels, and more recently the critically acclaimed but criminally under-read Young Avengers for Marvel; both truly excellent books with a new angle of storytelling for the genres they find themselves in.
Here the British team are outdoing themselves and defying genre, delivering a book that is as original and savvy of contemporary youth culture as you are likely to find anywhere, yet still engaging enough to be enjoyed by open minded readers of all ages.
Gillan, a writer who is perfectly aware of his own penchant for over-thinking just about everything (as explained and exampled in his frequent blogs, tweets and extra materials), is generally able to put that idiosyncrasy to good use by presenting books that are wholly different in concept than anything else on the market. Sometimes he portrays his intent excellently in books that should be considered classics of our time (Young Avengers, Journey Into Mystery), sometimes his myriad of new ideas are lost, to some extent, in the translation (Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men).
With WicDiv he takes probably his MOST complex and original set-up and successfully presents it in a seamlessly easy to read way that betrays that complexity and almost lets the fact that it’s SO original totally slip by without notice, not dissimilar from the way Alan Moore does it; world building with the kind of expert subtlety that tricks your mind into thinking it’s reading a story set in a world that you already know intimately.
His own attraction to current cyber/pop-culture ensures that his finger is truly on the pulse when it comes to writing young people, and his obsession with pop music ties his ideas and characters together in an allegorically lyrical song of a story, that could just as easily be sung about by Ziggy Stardust.
Arguably the success in delivery of his ideas is directly proportionate to the relationship he shares with the artists, as it’s my observation that when working with one regular artist his work shines brighter when compared to those works with rotating artists; and he has no better collaborator than long-time creative partner McKelvie.
As contemporary in his own field as Gillan is in his, McKelvie is one of the few artists out there that actually goes to the trouble of observing what kind of clothes and hairstyles the younger generations are currently wearing and relays them to perfection in all their varieties with the cleanest line imaginable and with just the right amount of originally conceived design work to separate it from slavish imitation of real life.
Aside from having clean line work, he also has an immensely clean layout aesthetic that makes the book a pleasure to behold, gliding the eye from panel to panel, page to page as easily and slickly as to make you believe each issue/chapter has slipped by you in a few minutes, and his ability to portray convincing facial expressions is almost uncanny; not since Kevin Maguire has an artist been able give characters such a vast array of emotions with the most minimal of eyebrow slants or twitches of the mouth. Matt Wilson’s equally clean colour work perfectly compliments. Amazing.
With characters as extraordinary as any superhero, a concept and world as original yet familiar as you are likely to find anywhere and artwork so clean and stylish as to be described as near masterful, The Wicked + The Divine is highly recommended to anyone who loves comics and isn’t a stuffy, old grumble-Gus. Go buy it!