The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1
Story By: Kieron Gillen
Art By: Jamie McKelvie
Colors By: Matt Wilson
Lettering By: Clayton Cowles
The premise is deceptively simple: every ninety years, twelve gods return. They inhabit the bodies of young people, blaze a trail of glory across the sky — and are dead within two years. The last occurrence was in the 20’s, so it’s happening again right now, in London.
It’s the story of celebrity, seen mostly through the eyes of Laura, a young fan who’s become obsessed with the Gods and their music. (This time, it’s music. There are hints that in the 1830s, the gods were poets and writers who were mad, bad, and dangerous to know.) After fainting at a concert, she finds herself in a holding area with others who also fainted — and face to face with Luci, aka, Lucifer, who is the very image of David Bowie in his “Slim White Duke”phase. By the way, the pop music references are everywhere, beginning with the count that starts off the story.
It’s through Luci, her actions, and the consequences of those actions, that Laura and we are drawn into the story. There are mysteries, both mystical and mundane, and people who are more than happy to make certain this set of Gods don’t last the full two years.
If you’re familiar with comics mainly through Marvel and DC, that isn’t what you’ll find here. The team has done superhero books and the series bears surface resemblance to their 2013 run of Young Avengers, with its witty dialogue and beautifully drawn panels. But it’s more than that, and a quick surface reading can leave one somewhat confused. This is dense storytelling, with layers and layers of meaning and references, enough that each time through, you catch something else. Having the story in one volume helps, rather than having to wait four weeks for the next chapter. The denseness can be a problem, especially at the story’s beginning, where there is a lot of information to take in. There are obscure pop music references that have sent me to Dr. Interwebz more than once, trying to puzzle out what it all means.
What keeps me coming back (I purchased this volume and subscribe to the on-going issues), is there’s a fascinating story being told, and one that can make you pause. There are big themes — life, death, resurrection, the cult of celebrity and who we hold up as our icons — though this isn’t a polemic, beating the reader over the head to make a point. This is more…seductive. It’s not a book for the easily offended; there’s a fair amount of language, rampant abuse of traditional theology, drug use, blood, and this is, as Gillen said at one point, “problematic people doing problematic things.” But if you’re looking for good storytelling that might not lie within your usual comfort zone, give Luci and her fellow deities a try. They’re happy to welcome more worshippers.