THE WICKED + THE DIVINE: Issue #3
Written by Kieron Gillen, art by Jamie McKelvie, colours by Matt Wilson
31pg / 17+ Only / Mature Readers Recommended
Published by Image Comics (available in stores and online, 20/08/2014)
“Laura has no choice. She has to go underground to find the goth-goth-gothity-goth of the Morrigan. Is this the most ill-advised underworld-related decision since Orpheus decided to see how Eurydice was doing in the back seat? To find out, read the comic that people are literally calling “The one by GILLEN/MCKELVIE/WILSON with the very long title.””
I love it when fiction and fantasy writers bring gods and monsters into the modern day; I dunno, maybe it’s the atheist in me, it just pushes my buttons – the conceit strips away the organised religious dogma and plays with the classical theology. I loved it when Douglas Adams did it, I love it when Neil Gaiman does it. Hell, I especially love it when Robert Rankin does it.
It especially seems to work particularly well when the comics does it, too. I grew up reading books like 2000AD, Warrior and an anarchic little thing called Crisis, published by Fleetway back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, which featured a masterful strip called New Statesmen, written by John Smith and drawn by the brilliant John Baikie, in which a collective of genetically modified ‘superheroes’ related to each other – often violently – and reacted to the world that spawned them, worshiped them, feared them. There’s a strong thread that binds both that book and The Wicked + The Divine, the on-going work by Phonogram/Young Avengers team, writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie.
But, y’know. With more swears. And hipsters. And lots and lots of cigarettes.
The first chapter launched us full-tilt into a landscape where twelve gods have reincarnated into forms of Lady GaGa’s wet dreams, and incorporated theirselves into our pop culture as messianic cult leaders, tastemakers and pseudo-superstars. Now, with one – Lucifer herself – behind bars for the murder of two would-be assassins and a judge, acolyte Laura has taken it upon herself to find out who possibly set her up: the introduction to the pieces. The second chapter was where the board was laid down and the pieces introduced (by name, at least): the Pantheon of gods. With two major scenes – a jail visit between Laura and Lucifer, and a prickly art gallery meeting between Laura and a doubting journalist – set against backgrounds of spaces on large, stark walls, McKelvie gave focus purely on the faces and the dialogue of the characters.
Chapter Three is when the game, then, truly begins – and, from the get-go, all bets are off.
Full double page splashes, rhythmic and crackling dialogue, visual shocks and sexually charged back-and-forth; it’s off the chain. To indulge Gillen’s NME-esque whimsy for a moment, if the series so far has been an Camden Palace showcase, this is where the waif-like chanteuse kicks off her flats, the amps get turned up a notch, someone in the booth finds the strobe button and shit gets real. It’s gorgeous to look at (Matt Wilson’s colours are a vivid joy), it’s a visceral delight to read and, frankly, an ecstasy high of f##king fun, while steeped in hardcore mythology – while the girls are dancing down the front, the book has an appealing undercurrent of danger and malice to keep the boys at the back, nodding their heads.
Oh my Gods. The whole thing is a Suede gig! (Ask yer mum.)
Okay, I maybe imprinting a bit too much of Gillen/McKelvie’s previous work, Phonogram, here – it’s hard to resist, really, that really was a masterpiece, no doubt – the gods on display aren’t so much pop stars as they are described in the series overview. They are more performance artists, shifting and sliding depending on their moods, seemingly indifferent to the mortals around them yet parading and prancing, knowing they’re on show.
The ‘dance-off’ between Baphomet and The Morrigan – two goth gods which, if you read your Wikipedia, have implicit ties to both sides of the moral divide – is more a art installation than a brawl with witnesses caught in the crossfire like a flashmob at a happening. It’s loud, it’s flashy and, if it wasn’t being held underground, would probably go viral in a heartbeat. The sequence advances the plot little but it’s designed more to make the reader more aware of the passion plays of the Pantheon than anything else: the Gods going to die soon anyway, why should they care about you, puny humanz?
One or two niggles abide: school kids are able to setup clandestine meetings with pop culture bloggers and easily walk into prisons with god-like murderers behind bars, like it’s the most normal thing in the world to do. (Okay, plexiglass. You know what I mean.) The reincarnated Gods have been aren’t supposed to reveal themselves and their powers but are seemingly more than willing to at the slightest provocation; and everyone always has perfect styling, even after being raided by the fuzz – the Camden riots via a Roxy Music cover. But I have to say I’m very much enjoying the steady pacing and the visual vibrancy of the series, it’s allowing me to drink in more of the world where such things are normal when, quite clearly, nothing is ever going to be normal ever again.
Such is the effect of having Gods having access to the London Look. Thanks, Rimmel.
The Wicked + The Divine #3 is available now in all good comics stores and via digital retailers.