Tag Archives: Amaterasu

Seven Swords banner ad

Review: The Wicked + the Divine 1923 AD Special

WicDiv1923CoverAs The Wicked + the Divine starts to round its final bend, writer Kieron Gillen and guest artist Aud Koch (America) return to the literal beginning, namely, the Pantheon of 1923 that graced the first pages of WicDiv #1. In keeping with the modernist mood of the time period, Gillen and Koch experiment and tell a 56 page Agatha Christie (Ananke may or may not be a stand-in for her.) drawing room mystery featuring all of the Pantheon members, who have all stayed alive to this point. There’s also a lighthouse. Most of the comic book is Gillen’s prose, which is purple-y, atmospheric, and channels several of the great modern writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, possibly Langston Hughes, and T.S. Eliot, who is racist and pretentious as hell. Large sections of text are broken up by fantastic art from Koch showing the murders is  better than telling us about them and end in a fine, kinetic tribute to one of the first motion pictures.

The issue is a meditation on the conflict between regression and progression, so-called high art and low art (Poetry and film in this case, and possibly by extension, prose and comics.), and there is a driving angst about the possibility of yet another world rending war that isn’t helped by Nazi with a German Expressionist aesthetic, Woden’s pronouncements. And beneath the lofty themes, it’s one hell of a murder mystery. WicDiv #1923 AD is technically a standalone story, but Gillen and Koch make it into a period piece remake of “The Faust Act”  and potentially the whole series complete with a whodunit about the exploding head murder of Lucifer as well as a framing narrative leading directly into WicDiv. It’s a multi-layered showcase for the prose stylings of Gillen and Koch’s ability to tell a visually arresting story in a few powerful panels or pages.

The extended length of the book allows Gillen and Koch more than adequate time to explore the personalities and even some of the personal journeys of the different Pantheon members. Lucifer dies fairly early, and his living form only appears in the drawing of the dramatis personae on the first page, but he’s perfectly Fitzgerald/Gatsby. Lucifer is very new money trying to impress blue bloods like Baal, who’s an American trying too hard to be British like a certain limp wristed anti-Semitic bank clerk, and Set, who gets a sharp, sexy design similar to Desire from Sandman and the prose of Virginia Woolf. He tries to be profound, but is all fluff just like Fitzgerald’s novels. But there’s nothing wrong with having a little cotton candy, now and then.

lighthouse

My personal favorite member of the 1923 Pantheon is Morrigan, who is obviously James Joyce with his free indirect discourse, rapid shifts from omniscient narrator to third person limited, and affinity for Guinness. Gillen uses him as a kind of loner oracle that some Pantheon members find amusing, and most find annoying. But he speaks what’s on everyone’s mind and describes everything around him in great detail letting a little truth shine in the artifice of light dancing, purple prose, and Neptune’s speech, which is the opposite of purple prose. And Koch’s drawing of his death scene is the epitome of modern art with a bleak color palette He’s too much of a wild card like modern Morrigan so Ananke had to take him off the table. This is all in the service and to ensure events run on the smooth side rather than the artsy, mass murdering side because even if she’s less of a killer than modern Ananke, the immortal Agatha Christie will do whatever it takes for the next Recurrence to occur, the Great Darkness to be staved off, and for inspiration to continue. This involves tragic sacrifices, light shows, and silent film title cards because hey, this is the Roaring Twenties, and a little party never killed anybody.

The WicDiv 1923 Special, especially the parts where Set and Baal were extolling the supremacy of poetry (And, by extension, poetry by white people.) while blasting dance and silent film aficionadoes Susanoo and Amaterasu reminded me of my second year at university, circa 2013. That was the year I switched from writing mainly poetry to mainly pop culture and to be honest, mainly comics, criticism all thanks to a professor, who enjoyed ripping student poems to shreds and uncritically banned writing “genre fiction” in our short story unit. (I included as many references to Spawn and Nintendo 64 games in my story as possible to tick her off.) In WicDiv 1923, Set and Baal are angry that the “common people” have access to art via the new medium of film and want things to go back to the good ol’ days when books were chained to desks in monasteries. (They don’t mention monks and vows of silence, but it’s implied in other words.)

This is just like the poets and reviewers of poets I knew who, for all their attempts at populism, were just writing for a small, “elite” group of other poets. But, when I write about Star Wars or Superman or even WicDiv, more people can connect to the themes and ideas in what has unfairly been called “low culture” in the past. There’s nothing wrong with making art that actually reaches people and connects to them. That’s truly how you connect and inspire people just like Amaterasu’s dancing and film, which were inspired by style and film icon, Louise Brooks. (No brooks, no bob hairstyle.)  She has a selfless, democratic approach to art while Baal and Set want to keep theirs inaccessible like the top of the lighthouse, and this is where their connection to the totalitarian Woden comes in even though they sneer at his cheap monster movies, which were super influential on modern film. Who doesn’t love German expressionism? Especially the woodcuts of Frans Masereel, who could be considered as an early comic book creator with his 1919 work Passionate Journey. Nazis should all be punched though.  This is all serves to show that art is subjective and should be for everyone and not trapped in canons and hierarchies and all those stuffy, boring old things.

In WicDiv 1923 ADKieron Gillen and Aud Koch use the setting of the 1920s and the angst of modernism and the world between the World Wars to tell a riveting murder mystery, a wonderful homage to silent film, and a kind of ars poetica for WicDiv. Koch’s ability to shift from cubism to chiaroscuro-lit expressionism and even classic compositions are unprecedented, and all her pages from this comic deserve a MoMA exhibit and eventually a retrospective. All in all, this is a comic that everyone from wannabe flappers and pretentious poets to action junkies and mystery readers can enjoy and probably spend the rest of 2018 unpacking.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Aud Koch
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #31

The Wicked + the Divine #31 is the best the series has been in a long time as writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson hit a sorrowful groove as “Imperial Phase Part II” draws to a close. This is a memorable issue that will be dissected, oohed and aahed at, sobbed over, and yes, screamed at just like WicDiv #5, #8, #11, #13, and #18, which have been my favorite regular issues of the series to date. With these superlatives out of the way, WicDiv #31 features momentous events, like the Norns, Woden, and Dionysus finally turning on Ananke’s machine to the tune of a glorious Wilson color palette, Persephone coming clean, and some sort of real talk about Dio and Urdr’s feelings for each other. Plus a tragic twist.

I am really enjoying Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson’s focus on the character of Dionysus throughout “Imperial Phase Part II”, and WicDiv #31 is no exception. In his first appearance, McKelvie draws lines on Dio’s usual smooth face and gives his eyes a hazy spaced out look, which is to be expected after he spent all of the previous issue sitting in the dark and pleading with Baphomet to leave his abusive relationship with Morrigan. McKelvie depicts Dionysus as a husk of his rave inducing self with basically bad selfie lighting from Wilson, but his wholesome spirit hasn’t faded.

He has a conversation with Urdr, who is a little on edge about the turning on Ananke’s machine thing because Woden is sketchy and Dionysus is tired, plus there’s the whole crush thing. But, even though Urdr and Dionysus don’t directly talk about their feelings for each other, Dio kind of nails how relationships and friendships should work. He basically says that emotions, especially love are important, but they shouldn’t get in the way of caring and supporting a friendship. This is really freaking selfless and par for the course for a man, who admits that his key motivation in life is making other people happy. Dionysus’ smiling face or crowd surfing body should definitely be in the dictionary next to mudita, a kind of happiness that comes from other people’s happiness. However, this ends up being his downfall as Woden uses his abilities in a more toxic way turning a happy party into a hive mind, worship into a cult. But, before everything gets fuzzy, Gillen and McKelvie give us a character defining moment of Urdr looking up and perhaps for the first time, realizing the effect the Pantheon has on other people and admiring those Eisner winning Matthew Wilson colors.

But Woden’s hijacking of Dio’s power isn’t just a simple “Dionysus is a cinnamon roll too good for this world” plot point, it actually takes WicDiv #31 back into the musical realm. Woden and Dionysus’ actions at Valhalla support my theory that, in the end, there are two kinds of dance floors: one filled with light, energy, fantastic music, and camaraderie and another one that is crowded, filled with groping straight men, and plays the Chainsmokers. Dionysus represents the first as evidenced by the immortal WicDiv #8, and Woden represents the second with misogyny, objectification of women, and general fuckboy attitude and spinelessness. Dionysus is about people having a good time and forgetting their troubles for a night and maybe having fond memories of waving their arms and dancing to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with gods while sitting in their poorly lit cubicles. Woden is all about metaphorically (and probably) getting off the power of the patriarchy to rob women (And people in general in this issue) of their agency. It’s selfishness versus selflessness, and unfortunately, it looks like selfishness has the upper hand in 2017. But Dionysus’ nice little grape Pantheon icon isn’t a skull just yet so there might still be some hope for this beautiful, emotionally honest, and soulful man. I’m probably the naive one in this case.

Dio, Urdr, Woden, Amaterasu, and Sakhmet play the “active” roles in WicDiv #31, but Gillen and McKelvie don’t neglect their heroine, Persephone, who finally kind of does the right thing by telling Baal and the Outsiders that Sakhmet is lurking at one of her favorite haunts: the Egyptian wing of the British Museum. When Sakhmet is out, Persephone starts by lounging in her deliciously foreshadow-y skull and rose pattern leggings with McKelvie nailing her apathy before swinging into a bit of anger when she talks to her ex Baal on the phone. Plotwise, Gillen has her as a wild card, but that’s likely to change after she learns Amaterasu’s fate. Annoying problematicness aside, an Amaterasu gig back in WicDiv #1 was Persephone’s entry to the world of the Pantheon so it should have a major effect on her demeanor going forward. This issue also shows that Persephone has a bit of a conscience and is starting to maybe realize that chaos wasn’t the best decision.

Yes, chaos ends up in death: the death of Amaterasu to be particular as she goes to the British Museum to soothe the sharp teeth and claw toes of Sakhmet with her abilities instead of calling Baal for some muscle like he provided against Luci in the first arc. Amaterasu has a “nice” personality, but is supremely self-absorbed, and her little monologue about the glories of the British Empire’s treasures in the British Museum and family causes her to drop her guard around Sakhmet. It’s also a final nod towards her cultural appropriation as she has turned the Japanese Shinto faith into her own white girl ShinTwo cult, and sad, if poetic that she dies destroying the artifacts that the U.K. took from their old colony of Egypt. McKelvie frames it like a slasher flick with plenty of gore and killer/victim juxtaposition shot although this death feels earned and is also a product of stupid decisions. One thing I love about WicDiv on a macro level is that characters who make not-the-smartest-decisions like going against a bloodthirsty murderer without backup or teaming up with Woden get consequences. It’s like the early seasons of Game of Thrones where behaving nobly, yet stupidly led to death or negative consequences versus the current one starring Jon Snow of House Plot Armor.

WicDiv #31 is a smorgasbord of visual storytelling delights, like Matthew Wilson’s color palette for Dionysus’ (hopefully not) final performance) and Amaterasu’s last foray as a superpower or the weathering on Dio’s face from Jamie McKelvie, and quotable insights about friendships and relationships and even asexuality and aromanticism from Kieron Gillen via Dionysus, but it’s a big downer moment for the series even if Urdr gets her most uplifting panel yet. After the conversations, arguments, and tiptoeing around, this is the plunge after the deep breath. WicDiv #31 is the guns a-blazing after the Mexican standoff or conversations about Bible passages and American hamburgers in Paris.

To not end this review on a glib Pulp Fiction reference, WicDiv #31 (Especially the Amaterasu scenes) pairs nicely with “Rabbit Heart” by Florence + the Machine , which is one of the first tracks on Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + the Divine playlist. It’ll break your ginger sun goddess loving heart.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

C2E2 2017: Kieron Gillen Talks High Fantasy, “Self-Hatred,” and Music Spoiling Comics

Through his creator owned comics Phonogram and The Wicked + the Divine with artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson, Kieron Gillen has masterfully melded the fantastic worlds of music and urban fantasy into an exciting read experience. He has also conquered the worlds of Marvel with the delightful Young Avengers and way too sad Loki solo series Journey into Mystery among others as well as comics set in a galaxy far far away, like Doctor Aphra and Darth Vader. He’s also one hell of a DJ and has quite the Twitter pun game.

At C2E2, I got the opportunity to chat with Kieron about being a fantasy writer, and how the characters of WicDiv have all become terrible people. We also preview the upcoming WicDiv 455 special set in ancient Rome and ponder the fate of Phonogram‘s David Kohl (and his fiction suit wearer Kieron Gillen) in 2017 as well as strain out some of that book’s autobiographical bits.

Graphic Policy: I guess you could classify WicDiv and Phonogram as urban fantasy. (And Journey into Mystery, now that I think of it.) What has drawn you to the fantasy genre over and over again, and do you have any particular books or fantasy films that have influenced you?

Kieron Gillen: Back when I was starting to write comics, I used to call myself a speculative fiction writer. The person I was seeing told me, “No, you’re not, Kieron.” She said, “You’re a fantasy writer. Making a world where music is magic isn’t speculative fiction.” Being a speculative fiction writer is much cooler because science fiction writers are genuinely cooler than fantasy writers in my opinion. It’s real work as opposed to fantasy, which is just making shit up.

It took me a long time to accept [being a fantasy writer]. I burnt out on a lot of fantasy as a teenager. I had a kind of “come to Jesus” moment where I was like “What on Earth is this shit?” A lot of fantasy is just shit like the travelogue school of fantasy where there’s a map, the heroes will go around the map, and the big mountain. At least, Tolkien had a degree of originality.

So, the idea of me identifying as a fantasy writer is anathema. But then there’s the whole idea of urban fantasy. I used to write essays about this when I was a music writer before I realized [urban fantasy] was what I wanted to write. It was the idea of the transformation of an environment. The magic in Phonogram is that we have a world, and then you add something over the world. Like augmented reality.

People tell me that Phonogram gives them permission to view listening to music and going to clubs as a magical space. It always makes me think about parkour. My favorite thing about parkour, at least when it started, was the idea that buildings are designed as prisons for people. But, in your imagination, it can turn into a playground. They’ve chosen to see the world differently, and there’s always things to traverse.

This is kind of what urban fantasy does. You have a world and overlay it. There’s magic here. It’s like when I was a kid and loved Transformers. That car [Outside the convention center] could be a fucking robot. It’s like the Kurt Busiek core idea about superheroes. We have this magical thing in the world, and the world doesn’t change. The point of Superman is that you can see him fly past you in the skyline. If you take superheroes too seriously, you become something alternate history like Uber or science fiction. Add a superhero, and the world changes enormously.

I’ve actually been digging into primary world fantasy, like Middle Earth, as opposed to Narnia, which is a secondary world. It’s something I want to do in the future.

GP: You doing high fantasy would be awesome.

KG: I’ve said in a few interviews that I’m working on my next big, spangly thing. It’s a very literary high fantasy. It’s very grown up. I say grown up as a very loaded term because high fantasy is trashy in many ways. But I want to dig into some bigger themes and see what I can do with the genre. That hate fuck, that passion I have for fantasy means something.

GP: One thing I really enjoyed about “Imperial Phase” was that you and Jamie [McKelvie] gave Minerva and Baal a lot of character development. Why did you leave them out of the last issue of the arc?

KG: I get asked questions like “You’re very efficient with your storytelling. You hit stuff very cleanly and elegantly.” A lot of that is necessity, which is a word that is very fucking loaded in the context of WicDiv.

GP: Oh yeah, good ol’ Ananke.

KG: I’ve got 14 primary characters across the series and quite a few smaller, supporting ones. I ask what we can fit in an issue. The previous issue where we did the “phased” bit was me responding to the fact that I had so much shit to do. How can I do it in an artful way that speaks to the theme of the book.

Baal and Minerva just weren’t in this issue. The thing about “Imperial Phase” is that there’s parts one and two. When I originally planned “Imperial Phase”, I was thinking that we don’t have a cliffhanger. What’s the most unexpected thing for a WicDiv end of arc to be? It just stops, and we continue it. But when I ended up plotting it, it had a climax, but just a different kind of climax.

There was no room for Baal. If you remove Baal, you remove Minerva as well. The reason that Baal wasn’t there was a soft story beat. “Oh poop, Baal isn’t coming” leads to Persephone’s “Why do we hurt people?” The reason that Baal wasn’t there was because Persephone was there. It’s that moment when you realize that someone’s not coming to a party because they don’t want to see you. Baal not being at the party is kind of the point.

Baal is a sensitive man, and I love the dichotomy between him and Minerva. In other words, there’s more from Baal and Minerva in “Imperial Phase Part Two”. At the end of the story, Baal will be one of people’s favorite characters. He and Minerva are some of the most interesting characters, and knowing the whole story means I put him low in the mix early and then bring him up later.

GP: Good metaphor!

KG: I’m always a DJ. And since I know the whole thing, I want to build him up at different times. Dionysus is stepping forward and is one of the key players in the next arc. He’s got a scene in issue 30 with the Morrigan, which is one of my favorite things to do with the character

GP: I am really looking forward to the WicDiv 455 Special. Why did you decide to set it at the end of the Roman Empire instead of the Augustan Age with Ovid and Virgil, or during the time of Nero?

KG: If you set it at the end, you can include anything earlier. Everyone at the end knows what happens to Nero, Sulla, and Caligula, and you can reference all those people. If you’re doing something about Rome, set it at the end, make it about the end of Rome. Of course, WicDiv is about endings and the death of an empire.

This is minor spoilers, but the basic plot of 455 is that 455’s Lucifer has decided to not be involved in the Ananke pact and says, ” We don’t need Lucifer, we need Julius Caesar (Who was a god.), I’m going to save the empire.” You imagine that goes well.

The way I researched this special as opposed to the Romantics’ one [WicDiv 1831 Special] was different because the Romantics were a small cast of people, I could go relatively deep. Rome is so big that I had to do a very broad sweep and look at the entire history of Rome, which interests me. There’s some stuff I wished I gotten into, like Tiberius, who did Goth parties where everyone was in black. The slaves are painted black, he’s wearing full black, and they spend the entire party talking about death. And he’s killed people so everyone expects to die. It’s the most Gothic thing I’ve ever heard. But we had to cut it from the story.

GP: Why was Andre Araujo the perfect artist for this story?

KG: The way to phrase it is that I had a core image based on a Roman triumph, and I needed an artist willing to draw a Roman triumph. A triumph is a blaze of color and shape. Andre and I were talking when his comic Man Plus was out, and he said that he was working on a creator owned Rome pitch. In my head, I thought he was a [Katsuhiro] Otomo-esque cyberpunk guy because of Avengers A.I. and Man Plus, which is basically Akira reimagined in Portugal.

He had fantasy, sci-fi, and medieval pitches. And I said, “You like historical stuff and like drawing enormous landscapes. We can use this.” I asked him, and he was working on Ales [Kot’s] new book Generation Gone. So, we’ve derailed the work on another Image book in WicDiv’s favor and are very grateful to Ales. Also, Matt Wilson is doing the colors, and it works very well in the issue.

GP: The first 12 issues of WicDiv seemed to be about the relationship between being a fan and a creator, especially through our main character, Laura. How does her turn to the “dark side” in the past arc fit in with that fan/creator dynamic?

KG: “Imperial Phase” has been solipsistic. It’s about the gods being quite navel gaze-y. You get bits of fan stuff, like Persephone having her own fans. And that’s fun. I love how creepy everyone wearing a Persephone skull is. That transition from being a fan to having fans, and the responsibilities and duties that lie on that access and how well you navigate it.

WicDiv is based on a format of four years. The first year is a fan trying to become great, the second is this weird thing and ends with you getting your big hit. The third is you’ve got your success, and now what the hell is it for? The third year is about many things, but mostly my ambivalent feelings about WicDiv‘s success. When you get to the end of WicDiv, you’ll get that. There’s spoilery stuff I don’t really want to talk about yet.

GP: It’s like your “Ashes to Ashes”.

KG: A little bit, yeah. To go with the Bowie, we start out with Ziggy Stardust with some Black Parade, then you’ve got the Berlin period for “Commercial Suicide”. Then, it’s Let’s Dance, and “Oh yeah, we’ve got an enormous hit.” We’ve done the “Bad Blood” Taylor Swift everything explodes thing, what now? The idea that you can remain successful and use your craft to do a trashy pop thing, and everyone will love it.

But how can you look in the mirror? It’s basically the stuff that killed Cobain. That’s kind of what “Imperial Phase” has been about. There’s lots of self-hatred. That’s what we do.

GP: I don’t really get a Nirvana vibe from WicDiv, but it makes sense now.

KG: Everything’s in there. I don’t want to do too much because the gods are disappearing down their own holes in their own different ways, which is kind of the point. They have their own hamartia. This collapse is how we delineate whether people are wrestling with their demons or not.

GP: Right now, Amaterasu is basically evil. When in the past issues of WicDiv did you start to seed in her heel turn and realize she would turn out this way?

KG: It’s like one of those questions, “How do you define evil?” Amaterasu is somebody who has been easy to forgive her foibles because she’s nice. She’s Cassandra’s opposite. Cassandra is easy to dislike, but is mainly right. She is very abrasive, and it’s the irony of “the Cassandra”. People aren’t listening to her because she’s annoying, but she’s mostly right.

As opposed to Amaterasu, who’s very sweet, very kind, and a coward. And she looks great. She’s a pretty white girl, and people let them get away with things. If you look back at the first speech she gives [in WicDiv #1], it’s creepy as hell. Amaterasu is someone who knows stuff, but isn’t great at putting the them together. She’s got her practiced lines, but her interview [in the first issue] falls apart when she panics.

I’m always worried that I make her IQ drop too much. But she just doesn’t get it. One thing I love about Amaterasu is that apart from the loss of her parents, she’s had a nice life. She’s 17 and the second youngest of the Pantheon. She’s slightly younger than Persephone.

GP: I always forget she’s so young.

KG: It doesn’t make her behavior forgivable, but you understand it. If you reread WicDiv, you’ll go, “Oh yeah, that was kind of coming.” But I think might be easy to miss what we’re trying to do with Amaterasu until you got to her solo issue and that image of her immediate rage when someone tried to take a toy from her. That’s Amaterasu in two pages. This is mine, and fuck you if you try to take it.

The darker side of the characters has started to come out. And, in the last issue, she’s a fucking monster. There’s some stuff that she does that is amazing as in “Wow, you actually did that.”

GP: Like the whole “ShinTwo” thing.

KG: I always knew she was going to lean into that, but only got the pun while writing her first scenes. ShinTwo, oh no! That’s so bad, and it’s completely the right thing to do [for the character].

The thing about WicDiv is that it’s all very planned. I know the characters’ arcs. But the specific execution is what I keep free; otherwise it’s just typing for four years. It’s got to surprise and delight me, or it gets boring. And if gets boring for me, it’s even more boring for the readers. A bored writer is generally a shit writer.

GP: Moving onto the recently released Complete Phonogram, what is David Kohl up to in 2017?

KG: I imagine he’s being interviewed about his glorious career as a phonomancer. He’s settled into being a complete has-been, which is kind of the weird joy of it, I think. That final story I did with Tom Humberstone when we pull away the mask a bit and let Kohl become Kieron, and he’s like “Yeah, you got me”.

And the weird thing is you’ve got this push and pull between Kieron Gillen the writer and David Kohl the character. There are bits, like when Michael Jackson dies, and that segue between time and space. Those panels are very clearly about me, Kieron Gillen, as opposed to the panels that are about this fictional character, David Kohl, who is a critique of my own writing of a certain period. I think David Kohl is about me.

 

GP: Phonogram: Rue Britannia especially has that autobio comic vibe to it.

KG: I’ve learned to hide it better. When I was writing Rue Britannia, I was influenced by Joe Matt’s The Poor Bastard, Eddie Campbell, and of course, Grant Morrison with this quasi-fiction suit sort of thing. That’s what I wanted to do with Kohl.With Rue Britannia, I hid [the autobiographical elements] less expertly than I did later. Like I gave Britannia some of the same outfits as someone I dated. It’s kind of funny when people come up cosplaying as one of my ex-girlfriends.

I realized that in Singles Club, which is more autobiographical in a real way.There’s more facts in Rue Britannia and more emotional truth in Singles Club. By splitting the stories into the seven characters of Singles Club, I could hide it better, which is what WicDiv is doing as well.

GP: I have one last musical-based question. I’m a big fan of the WicDiv playlist, and it keeps me sane during work. I was wondering what albums or artists you were listening to while scripting “Imperial Phase Part 2”.

KG: The easiest way is to look at the playlist, but there are songs I want to add that aren’t on Spotify, like “Shocked” by Kylie Minogue. And then there’s others I can’t add because of spoilers. You need to be an obsessive WicDiv fan to see what I’m adding, but sometimes I have to wait until various [story] beats hit to drop it in. Like if there was a song called “Sakhmet’s Eating Some People,” I would add it to the playlist.

If you look at the more recent stuff on the playlist, there’s ANOHNI and her track “4 Degrees” that’s amazing apocalyptic awfulness. Blood Orange’s album Freetown Sound is on there and very Persephone in its sadness. Then, there’s Downtown Boys and their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” [by Bruce Springsteen]. I was obsessed with that track for a week and kept breaking into tears about why this record meant so much to me.

[Downtown Boys] are an X-Ray Spex-like bisexual punk band from New York, and their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” reframes the sheer anger of the lyric as a song about depression with dancing in it. You’ve got the beat and the line, “I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my faces”, and it’s like someone carving their face off. It feels very political.

And you can scan the playlist for more great stuff.


Kieron Gillen is currently writing “Modded” and Uber: Invasion for Avatar, Doctor Aphra for Marvel Comics, and of course, The Wicked + the Divine at Image Comics.

You can find him on Twitter and Tumblr.

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #28

To steal a phrase from the great Hunter S. Thompson, The Wicked + the Divine #28 (and the end of the “Imperial Phase” arc) is decadent and depraved. There’s cocaine, an orgy, and even some cannibalism in store as writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson show once and for all that the members of the Pantheon are terrible people for the most part. I’ll still vouch for Dionysus and Urdr, but I’m probably being naive. Also, Urdr is kind of an asshole in this issue. The comic is centered around a party once again as Amaterasu thinks she is the actual Shinto goddess Amaterasu even though she is a white girl from England and throws a soiree for her “worshipers”. She goes from a favorite to beyond problematic in just a couple painful pages. Choosing anarchy has taken a real toll on the Pantheon, and after an incident like what happens in this issue, they won’t be much of a match for the Great Darkness.

McKelvie and Wilson’s visual stylings for WicDiv #28 are EDM meets hot lava, especially when Amaterasu gets angry at the always skeptical  Urdr, and her usual kind mannerisms turns orange and rage filled. However, the plot and tone of the issue felt a lot like the end of Brit Pop in 1997 when Oasis was focusing on cocaine and hanging out on 10 Downing Street more than music and releasing nine minute long tracks with multiple key changes that really should have been a four minute pop rock song. Their key rival band Blur was more self-aware releasing tracks like “Death of a Party” and sounding like an American alternative band and later experimenting with hip hop and world music.

Amaterasu, Sakhmet, Woden, and to a certain extent, Persephone, are Oasis in this case and have given up on fighting the Great Darkness or being artists to basically party and use mortals to make themselves feel better instead of inspiring humanity like the Pantheons supposedly did in the past. Like Oasis, they are caught making the same album over and over again and coasting on the fact that they once played a gig to 250,000 people. (Thankfully, Liam Gallagher never ate anyone.) WicDiv #28 is self-indulgence at its peak giving readers a dose of the old sex, drugs, and ultraviolence, and there is going to be one hell of a hangover once “Imperial Phase Part II” kicks off. And this decadence extends to Jamie McKelvie’s clothing choices, especially Sakhmet’s drop dead gorgeous dress, which gets a full establishing panel and sets her up for a major role in the plot of this issue.

The cast of WicDiv has been pretty well-established, but a character, who has been on the margins, ends up kicking off WicDiv #28 with some real emotions. It’s David Blake, who is a scholar of the Pantheon and Recurrences, and is revealed to be Woden’s father. McKelvie draws him as tired, yet angry as he quickly snatches a family picture out of Urdr’s hands complete with a speed line. Gillen’s dialogue for David is full of regrets even as he openly admits being proud of his son, who is at a “finishing school”. With all the battles, motorcycle rides, and non-stop hivemind parties in “Imperial Phase”, it’s nice to have a reminder than the Pantheon members are human beings with parents and families beneath their divine trappings. Also, Woden has an Oedipus complex because the Valkyries remind him of his Asian mother. It’s pathetic, really, but Gillen and McKelvie don’t make a big deal about it and “reveal” it only in a background picture in David’s flat.

WicDiv #28 is so draining that an epilogue featuring an Ananke flashback actually comes as a comfort. She writes about how difficult this particular era is, and in an age of Trump, Brexit, missile strikes on Syria, concentration camps for gay men in Chechnya, and corporate airlines physically dragging paying customers off their flights, this rings true. 2017 is scary and difficult, and Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson reflect this in WicDiv through the metaphors of youth and divinity.

Everyone is just fucked up in WicDiv #28 as Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson show the unraveling of relationships as conversation turns to violent threats and actual violence in shades of red and black. These stylish characters have been stripped down to their ugly essences with Sakhmet’s bloodstained mouth representing most of the Pantheon, who have been utterly consumed by fame and power, that they are inspiring absolutely no one and could end up leading to the end of the world.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Fish Kill side ad