Back when this series first began I knew it’d end up being something special. Frankly, it already was, but as The Wicked + The Divine concludes its first arc today with issue #5, it’s clear that this deeply personal exploration of celebrity and art is only just getting started.
In fact, if I’m reading Kieron Gillen’s column at the back of the issue correctly, this issue was originally imagined as the first issue. Had that been the case, The Wicked + The Divine would have started with one hell of a bang, but it wouldn’t have resonated as strongly with its readers as it does now.
The Wicked + The Divine #5 blindsides us not once, but twice before it’s all over. The intensity with which those surprises come is all thanks to the meticulous job Gillen as done building the central character, Laura’s relationship with the divine. What began as worshiping pop stars from afar has become full blown idolatry, with Laura standing as Luci’s only real ally in world that wants her dead.
Yet, it isn’t so much that Laura worships Luci, or any of the gods for that matter, but that she seeks to understand them as fully as she can – she wants to be them. However, that just isn’t possible because she doesn’t live with same level of exposure and scrutiny that they do (not yet, anyhow). It’s much like how a musician’s manager, producer, and even fellow band members can never fully understand what it’s like in the spotlight, because they aren’t in it.
And though this central idea of wanting to emulate super stardom is as present as ever in this issue, there’s also way more action than we’ve seen in The Wicked + The Divine so far. Like, a lot more action – cars on fire, chaos everywhere, and gods brawling in the streets kind of action. And it’s exhilarating in a way that only the best superhero comics ever are. To the point that if everything else that makes up The Wicked + The Divine wasn’t so spectacular, I’d be all right with a book where gods knocked the snot out of each other every month.
This bombastic street brawl masks a much bigger and more devastating surprise, however, one I won’t spoil here, but damn. There are going to be a lot of broken hearts on Tumblr. But one shocking reveal only leads to another, and it’s the final twist that’ll bring readers back when The Wicked + The Divine‘s second arc begins in December.
As always, the artwork from Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson is sublime. Those fight scenes, for instance, where Baal and Sakhmet are laying in to Lucifer with unseen fury are captivating, and Wilson’s colors give these superhuman beings real power. There’s also something to love about the care that went into the different characters’ fight choreography. Both Baal and Sakhmet are ferocious and unrelenting, while Luci is as cool and collected as a cucumber.
Though where McKelvie’s strength lies is his character work. There are a lot of emotions flowing through The Wicked + The Divine #5, and it’s expressed so clearly in each character’s face. From Luci’s anger to Amaterasu’s concern – it’s all readily apparent right on the page. It’s with Laura that McKelvie really cranks up the expressiveness as she goes through quite the emotional roller coaster this issue; so much so it’s impossible not to feel every ounce of disdain, horror, and eventual hope right along with her.
Speaking of that smidgen of hope, The Wicked + The Divine #5’s closing moments are what will leave fans speculating from now until issue #6 drops. Has Laura finally gotten all she ever wanted? And more importantly, at what price?
Finally, the way in which they’ve chosen to sign off this issue – with a slow, sloooow fade to black – is so clever, and leaves a strong image seared in our minds as we look forward to where things go next. Like any good conclusion this early in a series’ run, The Wicked + The Divine #5 leaves readers with more questions than answers, but it’s the sort of questions it’s asking that make it so fantastic.