The Wicked and the Divine is the newest comic from superstar creative team Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. I say superstar as when it comes to their recent run on Young Avengers I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who didn’t love it. Although considered by some to be a spiritual spin-off of Phonogram, The Wicked and the Divine is a completely fresh series with all new continuity.
The issue opens with a teasingly mysterious start set in the 1920s. A group of distinctly unique people are sat around a table before seemingly blowing themselves to oblivion, then we go to modern day. That may sound laughably vague but honestly that opening is left almost entirely ambiguous at the time, however it’s ambiguous in the best way. I genuinely wanted to know what was going on and what it all meant right there.
The bulk of the story takes place in modern day and follows the protagonist, a 17 year old named Laura, as she attends a music concert given by a singer named Amaterasu. It’s implied Amaterasu has some sort of magical ability that she projects through her music. Said ability then causes Laura to collapse. The rest of the story remains from her point of view, but it becomes much more about the eccentric cast of characters who all seem to possess powers of their own. Strangely despite being introduced as the lead character (at least that was my perception) she takes quite a backseat role for the second half of the story. However that said, the dialogue is fun and the whole issue continues to weave in more hints at the wider plot while leaving us all hungry for the truth. It’s all fairly entertaining and it does a good job of keeping you hooked and looking for some elaboration.
The art by McKelvie is great, as you’d expect. Grounded and realistic, there’s a lot of charm to his clean detailed style. Even a location we only see for a brief couple of panels is carefully drawn out in striking detail, no shortcuts are taken. Most notable is how incredibly different every character looks, nobody looks remotely alike. I’ve always been a fan of his work but I’d say he’s doing his career best here. Matthew Wilson provides colours for the series and absolutely nails every scene. The barebones backstage looks cold and dull, while the concert preceding it is bright and almost ethereal. The colours swap out to match the mood of each location perfectly.
The real draw of the series is the subtext that it’s playing with. We live in a society where the closest thing we’ve got to super powered individuals is celebrities, and none more than the musician. The cult following that talented performers inspire is almost religious and this issue captures that sense of obsession and wonder that’s visible in fandom. Of course it takes it a step further by actually giving these individuals real powers, it’s certainly a very strong foundation for a story. If the cast were bland then a fantastic premise would mean nothing, but here the characters are genuinely interesting, I want to follow the series simply to see where they go.
This is the start of a new ongoing series and it certainly feels like an ambitious beginning to a much bigger story. It’s a strong start and there’s a lot of questions raised and very few answers given, for better or worse. I felt like I didn’t learn a whole lot but that feels like it’s kind of the point, this is an introduction to the world and its players. It’s certainly worth trying out and giving it a go.