The Wicked + the Divine Volume 1: The Faust Act
The first collection of new series The Wicked + the Divine is bargain-priced and mind-blowing, which makes it a wonderful deal.
Kieron Gillen writes and Jamie McKelvie draws the story of reincarnated gods as pop stars. It’s a dynamite high concept, but one that becomes something a lot deeper. Laura meets Luci, short for Lucifer, at a concert, and her desire is so great it gets her backstage. The portrait of a dedicated fan, finding meaning in life through adoration of a performer, is both very current and disturbing, particularly since her object of worship is literally that. The gods are doomed to die within two years, but Luci takes a different route, getting imprisoned after exploding the heads of some guys trying to kill them.
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the surface. McKelvie’s art is so slick and attractive, and Gillen’s dialogue so snappy, that it can be difficult to comprehend everything going on, particularly when the gods are lesser-known. Everyone’s got some idea of what Lucifer means, for example, even when she looks like a young David Bowie, but Sakhmet or Amaterasu are much familiar. They’re global, drawing from more traditions than the European, another modern touch.
Reading all the issues of The Wicked + the Divine at once helps. The idea of reincarnating gods is a particularly potent one for the comic business, with their superheroes being reinvented every so often for a new generation. Sometimes it clicks, and sometimes it’s a failure that fades away. Playing with the concepts of youth and power and sex and fame and passion and yearning is nothing new to comics, but this incarnation is darned attractive. It’s very enthusiastic about the nature of death and transformation, another idea that often fascinates the young, with their unconscious feelings of immortality.
Lucifer is birthed through fire and mysticism, surrounded by phrases that carry significance beyond their cliches. It’s not just the art that speaks to us, it’s what we bring to it, what it touches in us. Idols once meant gods; now they mean pop stars. Or here, both. Their countdown to magic, “1-2-3-4”, also sounds like a drummer getting ready to start playing the next hit.
As for the book, I understand, I suppose, the desire for a work to speak for itself, but I found Gillen’s text pieces in the issues very helpful in understanding what I’d just read, particularly the one from issue #5 that talks about the themes that inspired the book’s creation. Those pieces, sadly, aren’t included here. I suspect that’s to drive single-issue sales, but that effort seems to look backwards, towards keeping the market the way it has been. A collection should include all the significant material from the issues, in my opinion, since it’s got so much more potential to be found by a wider audience.
On the positive side, all the gorgeous variant covers are included in this book, plus a gallery of promo art. I wonder what happens in the next story in this series? And whether we get to find out who Tara is? We’ve seen a number of the pantheon, but not all twelve yet. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)