The Wicked + The Divine, Book 1
So I’m officially addicted. In love. Obsessed. And going bonkers waiting for the next volume of the graphic series The Wicked + The Divine to come out.
A quick side note – technically, I’m reviewing the full Book 1, because I want to cover a bigger chunk of the story than Volume 1 provides. So before you gawk at the price, know that the series is available in smaller issues or volumes (and on e-book!) – however you wish to consume this inspired must-read.
Here’s the story: every 90 years, twelve gods reawaken in the bodies of mortal humans and basically live life as pop stars for two years. And then they die. But they wreck glorious havoc in the meantime, all for the sake of having the time of their lives, or in the name of the greater good. Whatever that means.
Each of them is roughly modeled after real-life superstars: A Bowie-inspired woman as Lucifer. Yes puh-lease. Rihanna as feline warrior goddess Sakhmet. It’s soo right. Also, a little terrifying.
It’s chock-full of plot twists, action, saucy scandals, and to-die-for characters. Suffice to say, I cannot get enough.
And then there’s the art. OMG people, the ART. As I’ve found with many graphic series, The Wicked + The Divine was almost confusingly fast-paced to begin with, but the art had me hooked instantly. I was in a comic book store in downtown Toronto with another Muser (heyy Monika). She pulled it off the shelf and something about it just grabbed me. I couldn’t stop giving myself spoilers, flipping from page to irresistible page of brilliance before sitting down to properly read the thing.
Then all of a sudden the characters really got going. The fast pace becomes less confusing and more wildly exciting. Our protagonist Laura is at once maddening and kind of super cool. She has a classic case of teenage rebellion, and a resulting determination to be misunderstood. She fangirls over the gods, and barely disguises her desperation to be one of them. And she goes out of her way to get into the thick of the trouble. She’s completely likable and frustrating, and some lingering high school part of me totally wants to be her friend.
The Wicked + The Divine isn’t exactly an easy read. I wrestled with almost every turn of the page. But on a deeper level, this is what really reeled me in and made me invest myself more personally. Uncertainty hovers thick throughout the story, echoing in the colorful frames – and in their deliberately missing elements. It brings up tough topics and then leaves them hanging there in the margins. A lingering sour taste that never quite gets resolved.
It’s so far-fetched. So godly and malevolent and pop-y. But creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie aren’t afraid to get self-conscious about reality. They lulled me into a false sense of secure fondness for certain characters, and then when they weren’t killing them off, they also made me loathe those characters. And it’s so familiar because that’s the truth about people.
It made me question everything – the characters I loved at first sight and the ones I loved to hate. Noone is quite right, and everyone is at least a little bit wrong. Macho-guy Bal struggles with the line between leadership and dangerously inflated ego (ahem, Kanye, is that you?). The bubblegummy, happy-go-lucky Amaterasu crosses a different line, between cultural appreciation and self-righteous cultural appropriation.
I love this shattering of the black and white, good vs. evil plotline. I love that it calls people out – pop stars who we’ll forgive for anything because we’re obsessed, and fans who shame the stars they’re obsessed with for being human. I’m going crazy because I don’t know who to root for, or what’s going to happen next. And I’m drinking up every ounce of the chaos. Because it’s undeniably wicked and marvelously divine to the last drop.