By Kieron Gillen. Art by Jamie McKelvie
Review by Sarah Wagoner
The Wicked + The Divine follows the life of Laura, a teenage fangirl, as she interacts with her idols, ‘The Pantheon’. ‘The Pantheon’ is a group of people who have discovered they are the reincarnated versions of old Gods. They are treated as music stars in this world. As they are Gods, they have Godly powers which attract the general population to them. However, every power has a price. Theirs is paid by dying every two years as part of the 90-year cycle called Recurrence.
The series was created, and mostly written by Kieron Gillen. He is a popular British comic writer, largely known for his independent series, such as “Phonogram”, “Die”, and “Once and Future”. From time to time, he has written for popular companies, like his involvement in the “Star Wars: Darth Vader” comic for Marvel Comics. His writing has been critically acclaimed for his likeable characters, interesting stories, and diversity in ethnicity, religion, and sexuality.
Jamie McKelvie is a British comic artist, also known for his work on “Phonogram” and “The Wicked + The Divine” with Kieron Gillen. Together they have gotten nominations for “The Wicked + The Divine” for ‘The GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book’ and ‘Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story’. They won the ‘Kerrang! Award for Best Comic Book’ for the same piece. McKelvie is also known for his popular character redesigns. For example, he designed the Captain Marvel costume that is still used today and was inspiration for the 2019 film.
The series was published under Image Comics, an independent company created in the 1990s in order to give creators more creative control and profits. They are the third most profitable comic book company under Marvel and DC. Most of their stories tend to be adult, as well. “The Wicked + The Divine” being one of them.
Considering the awards it has been nominated for, and even won, you can imagine that this has been a critically successful series. It has been hailed for its diversity. Not only is there a diversity in characters, but they are written as flawed individuals. For example, one of the most important characters is Luci, a reincarnation of Lucifer. As you can imagine, she is very flawed. She is the devil, after all. But she is also a sexually fluid character, and not afraid to show it. Sexual fluidity is a rare occurrence in media, and when it appears, it is often fetishized. However, this aspect is treated quite respectfully, as is the character. It may seem weird to praise that a seemingly evil character is LGBTQ, but it is not only her, many other members of the Pantheon and characters in general are in the community. It is not portrayed that they are good or bad for being in the community. Same goes for the rest of the diversity in the series.
The series is a roller coaster of emotions. As we see the world through the eyes of the main character, we are introduced to intense twists and turns, which may seem forced in another series. But as this world is so creative and beautiful, they make sense. They are also subtly hinted at with foreshadowing and other devices.
I’d say the only issue with the writing is at times, curse words are overused. I am not opposed to those words. I think they are utilized quite well at points, but they use them so much at times, that they lose the power they could have. There are a few scenes of exposition whichcan also be a little too much. While they are important, they are overwhelming at times. Instead of slowly revealing the information, it is all given to you at once.
The art is gorgeous. It keeps with the fantastical atmosphere of the world, as well as the mundane aspects. The characters look just what you would imagine Gods mixed with music stars to look like. The art never stops being relevant to the scene. When it is scary, the art is horrific. When it is heartfelt, it is soft and beautiful.
There is a good balance of pace with the art and the writing. The writing slows down when it comes to big events and the art is page-stopping at those moments. When it needs to pick up the pace, it is still beautiful, but the colors are fast-paced with neon colors and fast characters.
I absolutely recommend this book. It is a perfect mixture of contemporary fiction and old concepts such as life, death, and religion. The characters are complex, as are the themes. It makes you think while taking you into a different world.