The Wicked & The Divine #1: Gods Just Wanna Have Fun
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie create a companion piece of sorts to their fan favorite Phonogram, when they move the focus from the artist’s fans to the artists themselves in The Wicked & the Divine #1.
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Writer Kieron Gillen has created a universe for everyone from a teenage Loki in Journey into Mystery to super-powered Nazis in Uber to slaves of Sparta in Three. Now the British author revisits his music-loving roots with The Wicked & The Divine, building a new world for celestial pop stars.
Initiating an introduction to these immortal characters, The Wicked & The Divine begins in 1923 where four beautiful teens perform a ritual that appears to end their current incarnations and allows them to reemerge nearly a century later. A large explosion ends their lives and, with the turn of a page, we are dropped into present day. A young girl named Laura dresses for a concert, attempting to emulate her hero by painting her face in delightful art. Laura explains how absolutely commanding and hypnotizing her favorite performer can be, and the singers effect is so intense it causes listeners to pass out.
Upon waking up, Laura is greeted by the devil incarnate, a faux-hawked teen looking very much like Pink and Annie Lennox had a pop star baby. The old serpent instructs Laura to call her “Luci” and takes the devoted fan to meet her idol, Amaterasu. When they arrive in Amaterasu’s green room, the singer is being interviewed by a reporter who is hammering her to admit that she is “full of shit,” and her reincarnation story is merely a hoax. Laura, who watches in excitement as she stands only mere feet from her icon, realizes that she is also in the presence of Sekhmet, Baal and Inanna – all gods/performers themselves. Some interesting alchemy then happens in the last few pages of The Wicked & The Divine that may make you a believer, but only time will tell.
It’s wonderful to see Gillen and McKelvie utilizing their love of music to create another adventure similar to Phonogram, and the switch from fan focus to celebrity is a welcome change. Gillen himself points out that, while he enjoys writing Phonogram (and assures us that more is coming), he really wanted to put the lens on the artists and what some of us will sacrifice in the journey to create the art we love. Additionally, I appreciated his scholarly use of actual gods and goddesses when naming the characters. McKelvie splendidly utilizes his 80’s pop-style art for The Wicked & The Divine and continues to draw delightfully beautiful people with dynamic style. These are the types of people you want to be friends with, and hopefully borrow their clothes. Many of his choices for makeup and hairstyles gleefully reminded me of Jem and the Holograms, a design decision I enthusiastically approve. McKelvie should consider writing a fashion blog because he totally “gets it”.
The overall narrative started out as wildly intriguing and electrifying and I felt like a fan at a concert – sweating, flustered and anticipating what would happen next. Unfortunately, the excitement plummeted near the end, and it felt a bit like a deflating balloon making farting noises as I stretched the blow hole. Its build up to “this amazing thing is happening!” finished more like “Oh, wait that wasn’t it. It was something else,” which was a bit jarring and felt disappointing and unfinished. Gillen explains in his letters section that this ending meant to be a cliffhanger and perhaps it will reveal something astonishing in the second issue of The Wicked & The Divine. Until then, I remain much like his critical reporter character: somewhat dubious about the actual legitimacy of these teen pop stars and what they are capable of.
“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” ~ Tom Waits