Rolling off the success of their recent Marvel Young Avengers Vol. 2 series, writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie recently started a new project under the publishing of Image Comics, a largely known independent publisher responsible for other such ongoing hits as Saga by Vaughan and Staples and Sex Criminals by Fraction and Zdarsky, among many others. The idea for this comic must have come to Gillen through a stroke of divine intervention – or was it wicked intervention? Nevertheless, after some clever and careful planning, The Wicked + The Divine was born and brought to us this past June.
The concept: This series takes a look at the lives of twelve teenage immortals who happen to be pop stars. What we learn soon enough, though, is that immortality isn’t for eternity. Called WicDiv by its readers (who I like to call “The Fantheon”), this book has become a hot new hit since its release this summer. If you like mythology, music, wild style, loveable jerks, and irreverently clever writing, you might want to keep reading this article (and pick up the series when you finish)!
Every 90 years, twelve godly figures from all pantheons of mythology reincarnate into the bodies of young teenagers, who become imbued with magic, musical prowess, a wicked fashion sense, and occasionally a healthy dose of snark. They perform music and garner followers from all around. Fame. Glory. Money. They’re loved, they’re hated. The only catch? They must die in two years in order for the cycle to continue.
“The Faust Act”
The first story arc, collected in five issues, is called “The Faust Act,” available in trade paperback this Wednesday at your local retailer or on Amazon. The series begins with the end of the Jazz era of gods, leading to the new beginning of this cycle in the modern day. Enter Laura, a human girl who worships these performers like, well, gods.
She goes to all the shows she can to see them perform, their music concerts being more like religious experiences than anything else. Soon enough, she gets to meet one in person, and this god happens to be Lucifer incarnate. She [yes, she] goes by Luci, and she, for some reason or another, decides to offer Laura a small slice of life with the gods. Things go south quickly, though, as they are wont to do, and Laura quickly learns the dangers of making deals with the devil. (Thus, the aptly named “Faust Act” title – in German literature, Faust is a man who sells his soul to the devil for a taste of omnipotence. You’ll see how it plays in with this book if you choose to read it.)
The Wicked + The Divine features a colorful cast of 12 young gods, as well as their keeper Anake, the mortal Laura, and many others who find themselves wrapped up in the glamour and the trials of having immortals among the living. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s safe to say that with a 2-year lifespan rule, it may be dangerous to get too attached to any one character. The book does focus on themes of death and making the most of life before it’s over, but it’s cleverly wrapped in pop culture, musical allusions, wordplay, and a style of goth which is surpassed by none. None more goth.
Every issue has a standard McKelvie cover, colored by Matt Wilson, as well as a variant cover by a guest artist, some of whom have included Kevin Wada and Bryan Lee O’Malley. Which, of course, means you have two beautiful covers a week to choose from and if you’re like me, you end up justifying the purchase of both to yourself somehow… Somehow.
“Fandemonium” and Beyond
The book will resume with its second arc, “Fandemonium,” in December, giving you plenty of time to pick up the first trade and catch up on the story that grabs you by the hips, croons in your ear and dances with you a little, pushes you to the floor, and then picks you up asking for another dance. And you have no choice but to say yes, because with Gillen’s exciting writing and McKelvie’s absolutely incredible art style, you’ll be in it for the long haul. It’s alluring, sensual, sensational, dark, light, good, evil, adjectives, nouns, and even verbs. Nothing is sacred here.
I highly recommend this book for reminding us that life is a screaming underground music show performed by two pun-slinging underworld gods, and then you die.