Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are a powerhouse team. Whether it’s their first series for Image, Phonogram, or their recent run on Marvel’s Young Avengers, the work this pair does together is unparalleled. Gillen’s prose are as crisp as McKelvie’s lines and together the two not only make great comics but transformative ones.
The Wicked + The Divine, while only in its first issue, could very well be the defining work of their careers. This fusion of mythology and pop music (which the team first explored in Phonogram) may seem unusual, but when you consider that the worshiping of idols is ever present in both, the similarities are glaring.
For instance, the young girl at the center of this story, Laura, is attending a concert for the pop superstar, Amaterasu (a returned Shinto goddess in the body of a 17-year-old girl from Exeter). She compares the experience to a mass or an orgasm. For her and the others in attendance, the show brings them to the brink of pure, unadulterated joy, and because of it, they’re transformed. Whether for better or worse remains to be seen, but to anyone who’s admired someone from afar and had the opportunity to then be in their presence, even for a moment, understands how that fleeting contact can have a profound effect.
The ramifications of idolatry is clearly a theme The Wicked + The Divine will continue to explore. The cliffhanger this issues leaves us with is especially telling, setting up an oncoming conflict where the worshipers of these gods will clash against the unbelievers. Through Laura’s eyes we’ll see these idols, these gods as they truly are: flawed. And it will bring in to question why they deserve our admiration? What do they get out of it? And more importantly, what do we get from it? At least that’s where I believe this wild ride is going, the actually destination Gillen has planned could be something entirely different.
Even if the premise weren’t already so intriguing, The Wicked + The Divine‘s artwork would be worth the cover price alone. McKelvie’s clean lines and acute detail are wonderful for capturing either Laura’s ecstasy or Luci’s (short for Lucifer) fury. The character design is top notch. With obvious influence from David Bowie and Lady Gaga, the gods are at once familiar and unlike anyone you’ve ever seen. It’s immediately evident the kind of power they can hold over mortals, as exemplified by the goddess Sakhmet (a dead ringer for Rihanna) and her pair of devotees.
Yet, for as much as I’ve praised Gillen and McKelvie, it’s colorist Matthew Wilson who’s the shining star. None of what’s on the page would be nearly as evocative without Wilson’s stunning colors; the mood of The Wicked + The Divine hinges on the shades used in each panel. This is most evident during Amaterasu’s concert, where the pop goddess glows on stage and her worshipers are enveloped in a haze of golds, purples and pinks. Later, however, when we’re taken away from the stage and back to bleak reality, everything changes and becomes rather humdrum in flat greys, browns, and beige.
Wilson even manages to make a head exploding – which happens more than once – look like a work of pop art. It’s all depicted in a spray of pink, red, yellow and blue with a halftone texture that makes these gory scenes appear to pop off the page, it’s almost 3-D!
The Wicked + The Divine #1 is a work of art, plain and simple. Were no mores issues to come, it’d still be a book worth recommending. But knowing this chapter is only the beginning makes its forthcoming issues all the more coveted.