“Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead….But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.” That’s the premise for The Wicked + The Divine which was recently nominated for three Eisner awards, in the categories of Best New Series, Best Cover Artist, and Best Coloring. The series explores a world where gods are treated as pop stars, mostly through the eyes of teenage megafan, Laura. As The Wicked + The Divine concludes its second arc, here are the five main reasons you should check it out!
It can be hard to find media that portrays a realistic teenage experience, and while the plot may not be exactly reflective of real life, the protagonist, Laura, is. Kieron Gillen showed us in Young Avengers that he can write teenagers well; he approaches them with a respect and understanding, never taking the common and easy route of patronizing or mocking them. Laura is reminiscent of any young woman you’d meet at a comic convention. She’s wide-eyed but not stupid, enamoured with the gods but eventually willing to challenge them. Her relationship with her parents feels especially familiar, and her idolisation of the gods turning to disillusionment feels like a good metaphor for growing up.
While religion is a strong theme in many incredible comics, Gillen and McKelvie’s depiction of multiple gods is an original take on the concept. The idea of gods as pop stars is novel, and yet totally plausible within the context of the book – in addition to being a clever social commentary, it’s really interesting. This is the kind of creativity that helps the comics industry thrive, and like other Image books, offers a good jumping on point for readers new to come in. It also feels quite meta as it deals with fandom and fan conventions.
The diverse cast of The Wicked + The Divine feels completely organic – there are characters of different races, genders, and sexualitites. It feels like an accurate reflection of the world we live in, rather than feeling like they diversified their cast for diversity’s sake. Although most publishers are now aiming to increase diversity in their comics, Image has been a great leader in doing so – partially because it is easier to do with new characters than with established ones, but also because they clearly prioritize sharing new and novel stories that often come in the form of people who previously were less represented. The Wicked + The Divine brings a rich and realistic cast together, without tokenizing anyone. The characters are well-written and interesting, with equally diverse, complex personalities. Each god copes with their impending doom differently and it’s a treat to watch it all unfold, as well as watching Laura go from awkward fangirl to member of the entourage.
4. The Art
Jamie McKelvie’s art is absolutely gorgeous, with clean lines and ridiculously attractive characters. The best part are the vibrant, intoxicating colours by Matt Wilson. His colouring, that earned him an Eisner nomination for best colours, is as exciting and enticing as the gods themselves. The two of them produce beautiful art together, including the striking portrait covers that they used for their first twelve issues (that also earned them an Eisner nomination for best covers).
It’s easy to see the real world inspiration in the character design on the gods, who resemble celebrities like David Bowie, Rihanna, Prince and Kanye West. This is, of course, a commentary on how our society treats celebrities like gods, but it’s also kind of fun and meta to see familiar faces as what almost feels like an alternate universe version of themselves. All the characters are distinct looking from one another and their styles express their personalities.
5. The Writing
Beyond any other reason (except maybe the great art), The Wicked + The Divine is worth reading because it’s well-written and exciting. The pacing is good, the characters are unique and intriguing, and the stories are fun. Kieron Gillen is great with a cliffhanger, including one at the end of the first volume that leaves you desperate for more. It is, at its core, an entertaining book that could only really be told in comic form. This is a great place for new fans to jump in as it’s a well-contained story that provides a good introduction to reading in the comics format. And while the story may focus on the quick-burning lives of the gods, it presents the reader with a sense of their own morality and urgency of life – a pretty heavy, but ultimately fascinating read.
If you’re interested in checking out The Wicked + The Divine, you can find it at your local comic shop, or pick up the first trade digitally on Comixology or Amazon. You can also check out the creators on Twitter at @kierongillen, @McKelvie, and @COLORnMATT, or follow the Tumblr.