Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are the minds behind Phonogram, one of the most personal and esoteric stories in recent memory.  Now, they return to the creator-owned fields of gold for a book that expands on similar themes from an entirely new perspective…  Your Major Spoilers review of The Wicked And the Divine #1 awaits!

TheWickedAndTheDivine1CoverTHE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1
Writer: Keiron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Chrissy Williams
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in The Wicked + the Divine:  “Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critically thermonuclear floor-fillers Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to start a new ongoing superhero fantasy with a beautiful oversized issue. Welcome to THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.”

A VERY GILLEN/MCKELVIE PREMISE

We open on the image of a human skull, at the tail end of the last generation of “gods”.  The few remaining specimens have gathered to close up the books, and perform their last act together: On the count of four, they snap their fingers…

…and are consumed by a massive explosion.  That’s really the end of the part that has a conventional narrative, as well, as the story quickly jumps forward to the present day, as a young girl prepares to go to a concert featuring Amaterasu, one of the new generation of gods.  It’s an intense scene, even by Gillen/McKelvie standards, leaving our seeming protagonist unconscious at the end.  When she awakens, we meet another of these new gods, a woman named Luci (last name Fer) who is clearly manipulative.  The major selling point of all of this is the kind of wonderful character work that this team is known for, including some lovely extrapolations on Egyptian (?) cat-goddess Sakhmet.  There is swift and blinding violence to be had here, leading Lucifer to take extreme measures, which land her in a courtroom.  The bits and pieces of it all feel almost like fragments of myth, fitting the concepts in play here.

“PRECEDENTS ARE INTERESTING FOR THAT, TOO…”

There’s a lot more plot than I’m used to from Phonogram, which was a bit surprising to me, and the question of why this wasn’t just another volume of that book is answered implicitly by the story in play (with it’s fantastic elements) and by Gillen himself (in the final text piece.)  There are some lovely chunks of character-building in play here, especially as Lucifer practically taunts the judge who arraigns her to declare her legally a god, leading to the legitimately shocking climax of the story.  I especially like the skillful way the creators use an arrogant interviewer to point out in-story the more problematic aspects of using extant deity names, whether or not the characters actually are gods in the first place.  (The possibility of it all being a hoax is raised more than once, as well.)  McKelvie’s art almost silky in its texture, and there is much beautiful stuff herein, especially as regards the face-paints and makeups worn by the goddesses and their followers.  I’m legitimately fascinated by every single frame of the book.  I don’t know how many issues are planned for this story, but I’d be onboard for the whole run based on either this story or art this strong.  Together, I’m afraid I have no way to resist.  The fragmented nature of this story may not appeal to all readers, but if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and hang in for the premise, there’s a lot of potential to be had in these pages.

THE BOTTOM LINE: BIZARRE AND EPHEMERAL

Long story short, I enjoyed this book considerably, even the parts of it that felt a little bit too raw and revelatory, and I find the central theme (the “Are they or aren’t they, and either way, what does it all prove?”) of the story to be a compelling one.  Certainly, it’s not for everyone, but The Wicked + The Divine #1 makes for a unique and entertaining read with gorgeous art throughout, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  The concepts may not play in Peoria, but it makes for good comics…

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. Damascus
    June 25, 2014 at 1:29 am — Reply

    I’ve never read Phonogram, so I don’t know if there are elements of that story that would have made me more prepared for this one, but I’m at confused and kind of happily so. I don’t feel like I have any idea what is going on or where it’s going but I get this feeling from the writing that if I just hang on a while that it will reveal what I need to know. The interviewer helped as far as exposition but the rest of the information looks likely to be revealed by just putting bits and pieces together to figure it all out. I’m interested in seeing where else this goes, I’ll definitely check out the next issue to see what the heck this whole thing is about.

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