Summary: 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 and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.
The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 1, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Clayton Cowles and Matt Wilson 7.75
What if we discovered that the deities of Ancient lore were real? What if we discovered that some of our biggest pop stars were in fact reincarnations of those deities and were given supernatural powers and fame for two years before extinguishing themselves? What if this took place every 90 years?
Such is the central conceit of ‘The Wicked + The Divine’, Kieron Gillen’s latest masterpiece, after the phenomenal ‘Phonogram‘. Inspired by his father’s terminal cancer, Gillen takes us to London through the eyes of Laura, a seventeen-year-old fan who begins to mingle with some of these 12 deities.
After Lucifer blows up the heads of two snipers trying to assassinate them at an interview session, and allows herself to be arrested and taken in front of a judge, she’s set up with that judge’s murder. So Laura takes it upon herself to help her newfound friend – but, in the process, stirs a hornet’s nest.
My first impression when I started reading this collection of five issues was that Gillen had mined similar themes as ‘Phonogram’, what with the trendy, pop culture-centric characters imbued with supernatural powers – except that the accent here is on its young gods and goddesses, not the music.
But, given that it’s from Laura’s perspective, we get both an outsider’s and an insider’s perspective, as she floats in and out of the Pantheon’s (as these assembled Gods are called) inner circle. We see these events with the eyes of a teenager, a starstruck fan, an eager friend, and even a would-be deity.
Laura feels real to me. We discover how detached she is from her peers, how she doesn’t always understand why her parents react the way that they do – and how she reacts to them, sometimes. Gillen is quite good tapping into her psyche, though I wonder how many teenagers are as self-reflective.
The deities we meet are exactly the kinds of self-absorbed and self-indulgent blowhards that you’d expect when ancient religions meet modern pop stardom – except über-slick, with pristine skin, perfect coiffes and chic attires. Thankfully, they’re written as more than just two-dimensional creatures.
Imperfect though they may be.
They’re also drawn impeccably, as is all of the book. As has become standard, McKelvie, Cowles and Wilson have produced a book that’s well-penciled, glossed over really nicely and highlighted with sharp colours. It’s as amazing as the more recent ‘Phonogram’ books. I burn with envy for their talent.
One extra touch that they added to this book, however, and that I found rather amusing was an old-school anaglyph 3D effect on some pages. I have no idea if the red and blue lines would created the proper effect if I dug up some 3D glasses, but it amuses me somewhat that they teased us this way.
Creative madpeople, the lot of them!
And so my first impression of ‘The Wicked + The Divine’ is that it may have been gimmicky, but it was also a lot of fun. Granted, this is just the set-up, an introduction to this world and its characters, but if as much creative juice is put into developing both, this could prove to be a Mephistophelian good time.
I pray that I’m right.