The Wicked + the Divine #13
I’ve stopped talking about The Wicked + the Divine because, while I love reading it, I’m not sure I understand it fully. I thought it was about more than just making us love characters and then destroying them, although that is the premise of the series by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie — that a new group of gods have been created, they’re massively famous young people, and they’re going to die within two years. I may be wrong to expect more. That may be the goal, and it may be enough.
Anyway, I’m here to talk about The Wicked + the Divine #13 from a different perspective. Instead of the theme or the storytelling, let’s look at the art. This issue was illustrated by a guest artist, Tula Lotay. In his editorial note, Gillen says, “I couldn’t be more pleased by what she brought to the page…. I’m glad we managed to get an issue from her before she inevitably becomes a superstar and stops talking to us.” She tells the story of Tara, self-contained in this issue.
And yet, I was struggling with the story from page two, shown here:
It’s the costume, you see. We get two figure shots of the main character, one right after the other, and yet, the artist couldn’t be bothered to make sure that the outfit was the same. The neckline changes drastically, and the belt is V-shaped in panel one and straight across in panel two. Does it matter to the story? No, not really. But I thought it looked incredibly sloppy, not up to the level of quality I expect from this series, and it set what followed off on a bad note for me. In other words, it made a poor first impression.
The lesson here is that details matter. If Lotay found the costume hard to draw, she could have chosen panels and angles that didn’t have her drawing it twice in a row. It’s not a very interesting page, anyway. Turn the two panels into one larger shot of the figure, maybe with more background details that aren’t funny colors, and the captions would still work. Since most of what we have to look at on that page is Tara, of course the reader is going to focus on that figure.
The next page, if you continue, has a similar problem, since her high boots seemly disappear in panel one to come back in panel two. Later, she’s drawn with a necklace that appears to be a row of white sticks (tusks?). When I noticed its significance and went back to the earlier pages, the same item is there, but it appears to have been added during coloring (since there are no outlines on the row of white; Lotay also did the colors). Once I start seeing things like this, more popped up, and it became distracting from the story. It felt like a puzzle book — “did the artist mess up something on this page?” — instead of a story.
The previous credits mentioned for Lotay in the back of the issue focus on covers and an art book, which would explain some of the issues I had — if she’s used to doing single images instead of storytelling, consistency isn’t as important a skill.
I do like the costume design, what Tara wears for her stage show. It’s the most superhero-y of the gods we’ve seen so far, which adds interesting thematic comparisons to the story of fame destroying its wielders as portrayed in the comic medium. It’s a good issue, a nice single-installment summation of the series overall. It’s a shame that the art had these flaws, or I’d be recommending it as a jumping-on point. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)