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!
THE 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…