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Review: The Wicked + the Divine #41

The Wicked + the Divine #41

Beginning with Laura’s exciting escape from Baal’s attempted “sacrifice” at the O2 Arena and filled with rescues, big plans, and emotional reunions, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson construct The Wicked + the Divine #41 like both an exciting thriller and a love letter to the fans. And Gillen lines up so many great character development moments like a skilled pool player setting up his shots and then sinking them before concluding the game with a (freaky) eight ball of a final page.

Before digging into the big plot point, WicDiv #41 tonally is an exciting book. There are explosions gamely colored by Wilson to go with McKelvie’s big panel compositions and great sense of movement in the first five pages. Even though her Pantheon powers aren’t at 100%, Laura is straining herself to save the Norns and the talking heads and make sure Baal’s sacrifice and Minerva/Ananke’s master plan doesn’t come to fruition. She herself has a plan, it’s a little crazy, and honestly, she pulls it off for the most part in this issue.

Honestly, the highlight of WicDiv #41 is getting new Kieron Gillen penned dialogue for Luci, Inanna, and Tara in the present day. Luci’s first sentence is priceless, and Jamie McKelvie especially makes the Laura/Luci reunion memorable with a big time weak to go with Gillen’s caption box of guilt. Even though Luci was pretty messed up ethically, she, Inanna, and Tara were characters who died tragically, but represent a relatively more innocent time for WicDiv. For example, Inanna asks questions about Baal’s wellbeing because he is unaware he’s a masked murderer. Gillen has done a great job laying out the bread crumbs for these character’s return, and it pays off in this issue with the help of some great design choices from McKelvie and lyrical nine panel grids.

The nine panel grids in the Underground, which is where Laura, the Norns, and the heads of Mimir, Luci, Inanna, and Tara flee to are a wonderful visual representation of the conclusion to the romantic, doomed, and at times, abusive relationship between Baphomet and the late Morrigan. They allow for a bit of fearful symmetry when Baphomet makes his final goodbyes and also let the conversation between him and Laura about change and not being stuck in his past ways breathe a little bit.

Baphomet has grown as a person and character, and McKelvie has given him a wardrobe to match. He’s gone from douche Goth to pensive, perceptive Goth, or from young Nick Cave to slightly older Nick Cave as Gillen puts it in the backmatter. Baphomet doesn’t have to consumed by Morrigan making him a god, or sacrificing herself to resurrect him in the previous. He can move on and devote his energies to more productive things like rallying an army of talking heads to fight Minerva/Ananke.

WicDiv #41 is a sterling example of how pleasurable a story pay-off in the final arc of a comic can be. Forget guns, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson have put all kinds of kooky items on their proverbial story wall, and now they’re starting to go off. The machine plotline, the heads, and even Baphomet’s moping and conflicts with Morrigan in the previous all flow into the bigger picture and makes for rewarding reading. This is along with all the character reunions, Laura becoming a kind of hero, and Urdr being hopeful for once.

However, this hope could all die in a moment. But, at least, we got to hear from Luci and Inanna (And fucking Tara!) before the end so be sure to drop the needle or hit the play button on a Bowie or Prince album while reading this comic.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.3  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + The Divine #40

It’s crazy to think that we’ve almost reached the end of the saga of the ascended, then descended  and part of a millennia cycle of goddesses killing each other fangirl, but it’s true. And Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson are in beautiful form in The Wicked + the Divine #40 that centers around Baal’s final gig at the O2 Arena where he hopes to summon and defeat the Great Darkness with the help of some Dio-esque (RIP) hive mind shenanigans and human sacrifice. It’s a little complicated.

But WicDiv #40’s strength is that Gillen and McKelvie don’t get caught up in plot mechanics and use both the in-story and real world time gap between the rise of the Pantheon and their swan song to brilliant effect. With the exception of some diagram/specs pages, until the literally explosive end of issue climax, McKelvie and Wilson keep the visuals dialed down. The comic is presented like a handheld documentary film or more appropriately a YouTube vlog with close-up’s and awkward angles intermingled with moments of truth and self-awareness. The comic opens with fanboys, Tom and Nathan, doing an “unboxing video” for their Baal gig tickets, and you can almost hear the obnoxious tones of their voices in McKelvie’s loud facial expressions.

But the over-the-top Gen Z parody gets replaced with real emotion as the comic progresses, and you get to know them, especially Tom. He gets more self-aware and successfully reads a situation where his former crush is getting hit on by some strangers and also has a profound understanding on who Persephone/Laura is. Not a destroyer, but a human being. (And so are you.) This empathetic tone flows throughout WicDiv #40 (Except when scheming Minerva has her little long con asides while still playing the child victim.) from Baal struggling to balance the deaths of 20,000 people with the destruction of the entire universe, including his family, and inspiration in general to little fan vignettes of worshipers at Baal’s gig before they “go under”. These scenes return to WicDiv ‘s initial exploration of the relationship between fan and artist/performer although the critic (i.e. Urdr) is not present. The comic begins with the more materialistic side of fandom (expensive tickets, waiting in line) before turning to its inspirational side right before Gillen’s plot hits the big moments.

WicDiv #40 is also yet another opportunity for formal experimentation as Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson lay out the issue in the style of a confessional running the gamut from Shakespearean soliloquy (Baal before his performance) to vlog (The aforementioned Tom and Nathan show.) with reality show and person on the street thrown in for good measure. Even if all the gods, except for Baal and Minerva, are dead or appear on the margins of the story until the very end, McKelvie and Wilson’s visual adaptation of the confessional to the comic book medium allows for quick identification with characters and their emotions plus some honest and soul searching dialogue from Gillen, including a rare look at the interaction between male bisexuality and toxic masculinity. Ultra bi fanboy Tom has conversations about this topic and identity that I had five years ago, and it’s cool to see that reflected in fiction when male bisexual characters are either coded gay or straight except for a bit of innuendo, winking at another man, or a stray line of dialogue. (See most representations of John Constantine.)

Talking heads are usually the kiss of death in comics and are either a chance for the writer to go overboard with their dialogue skills or give an artist on a tight monthly schedule a breather. However, with Jamie McKelvie’s well-documented knack for facial acting and eye for interesting details like the ever shifting, cheap blue blanket that drapes Tom while he waits for the Baal show, they’re never dull. And as the story progresses to the actual Baal gig, Matthew Wilson plays with color strength and situation going from a complex palette when fans talk about their connection to members of the Pantheon to a flat one when the mind control takes hold. The light effect he gives the worshipers is quite “eerie” and spirals the narrative into hopelessness before it takes a turn for the unexpected. And Wilson also gets to play with bold, brash colors thanks to the central role that Baal takes in the narrative.

WicDiv #40 is part jaw dropping arena show and vulnerable singer song writer gig with Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson spending plenty of time developing and exploring the personalities of the fans of the Pantheon, and how the gods have an effect on their lives. With Minerva’s master plan subbing in for the murder mystery, it’s a throwback to the original arc where Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson slowly revealed the gods’ personalities and action through the POV of ultimate fangirl, Laura. There are murderous Minerva asides and heartfelt Baal self and family confessions, but WicDiv #40 gives a fresh non-insider perspective on the Pantheon before things get all opening sequence of recent Zack Snyder films. (This is not a complaint.)

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Clayton Cowles 

Story: 9.0 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Godscast Issue 8 The Dance Floor That Walks Like a Man


Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #8, now the eleventh god is here, it’s time to party. You’re invited. Everyone’s invited. We can sleep when we’re dead—but when you’ll be dead within two years, you may as well turn up in your pyjamas. After seven issues of egomaniacs, it’s time for an issue where the crowd is the star.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at “Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Godscast Issue 7 Two Gods To Go


Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #7, last year, before The Recurrence, fans gathered from their lonely worlds at Ragnarok to wonder whether the gods were really about to return or not. Now, as the next Ragnarok approaches, everyone knows things are different. What’s more, there are two gods still to emerge. Will anyone there get “lucky?” Look at us whistle, shuffle feet, and avoid eye contact.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 6 Welcome to Fandemonium

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #6, THE FAUST ACT is over Welcome to FANDEMONIUM. The second arc begins in its traditional manner (i.e. a ludicrous pun.) We’d say something like “nothing will ever be the same again” but if you think about it, you can say that about literally everything, ever. Er…also some comic story. Probably.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 5 The Faust Act

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + the Divine #5…. it’s showtime!

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Gamemasters Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans roll out all new series in DIE

Writer and co-creator of bestselling and Eisner Award-nominated The Wicked + The Divine, Kieron Gillen teams up with highly sought-after artist Stephanie Hans in an all-new, ongoing series titled DIE. The series will launch with an oversized debut issue from Image Comics this December.

DIE is a pitch-black fantasy where a group of adults have to deal with the returning unearthly horror they barely survived as teenage role-players.

Perfect for fans of The Wicked + The Divine’s urban fantasy, DIE can best be described as Jumanji with goth sensibilities.

DIE #1 Cover A by Hans (Diamond Code OCT180012) and DIE #1 Cover B by Jamie McKelvie (Diamond Code OCT180013) will be available on Wednesday, December 5th.

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #39

I check my look in the mirror. I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face…”- Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing in the Dark”

I have a confession to make. I don’t really read The Wicked + the Divine for the cycle of birth and death, Ananke/Minerva/Persephone, Woden machine, talking heads, Great Darkness overarching plot; I read it for Laura Wilson/Persephone’s personal journey, and these feelings have definitely intensified in the “Mothering Invention” arc and reached a fever pitch in WicDiv #39. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson personify character development as Laura rejects godhood (Or does she??.) in a story that visually and content-wise goes back to the salad days of its first two arcs, “Faust Act” and “Fandemonium”, especially the breathtaking final page.

Free will and freedom of choice is the refrain that rings out, or mostly hums, in WicDiv #39. Gillen doesn’t frame these big ideas in philosophical discourse or even witty banter, but in action. Laura chooses to no longer be a god, and she chooses to have an abortion. After latching onto almost every WicDiv cast member, either platonically, sexually, or romantically, she takes ownership of herself even if that means sitting in the dark. She changes. McKelvie draws her in an vulnerable way with a plain, shorn hairstyle, face with just a touch of shadow to it that signifies her status as the Destroyer. There’s a real humanity in this simplicity, and the even palette that Wilson chooses for her panels compared to the ostentation, guns, crazy pink colors, and EDM womp womp of Woden’s new Valkyries aka Beth and her fan army. (Wow, fuck nerd culture.)  They represent the empty show and lights of the Pantheon’s displays earlier in the series (i.e. the fights in “Rising Action”) while Laura is feeling and truth cutting to the quick like the sharp internal monologue that Gillen writes for her.

But WicDiv #39 isn’t about all the big ideas, it’s rooted in some big character development for Laura – arguably the most significant bit of her personal arc since WicDiv #11 when she became Persephone and was “murdered” by Ananke. The girl who dressed up like the gods and desperately wanted to be one and even took on the moniker of “ascended fangirl” rejected her godhood and chose a simple, desperate existence like the rest of the world even if that meant dancing, er,  sitting in the dark. But she’s not like that any more and chooses to opt out of the 39 or so issues of drama that has been her life with breaks for flashbacks. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie also handle her abortion with sensitivity and even have one of the Valkyries empathize with her. It’s a choice that Laura made for herself, she’s not ready to be a mom, and that’s that. Like the Tara story in WicDiv #13 that dealt with online harassment of women, the plot point doesn’t feel like a PSA, but something that is part of her character and respected as such.

Sure, WicDiv might have millennia spanning long cons, magical contraptions, and flame sprouting finger snapping, but this is still a story about young adults and the choices they make. And Gillen and McKelvie explore these choices in a non-condescending way and even poke a little bit of meta-fun at poor writers in the first pages where Minerva tries to unpack the middle aged man, Woden, pretending to be a teenager for the most of the series. Woden has been one of the creepiest characters in the series, and Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson find new ways to make him even creepier as the series progresses while keeping him fairly pathetic and not up to Big Bad status.

Speaking of Big Bad, WicDiv #39 is also the final transformation of Minerva into an amazing long con baddie complete with furtive glances drawn by Jamie McKelvie and using Woden and the Valkyries as the ultimate cannon fodder. (Even though Woden just thinks the Valkyries are cannon fodder.) She still looks young, but there’s something ancient in the facial expressions that she pulls after putting up with Woden, or to herself in the mirror as she reminds herself of her big, bad plan to knock out the rest of the gods, collect the final head, and continue the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. And Gillen writes her as quite genre-savvy (Living for thousands years is definitely a perk on this front.) as she never underestimates Laura although Woden just wants to snuff her out or leave her alone thinking she’s an emo nobody. The stage is definitely set for an all out showdown between them in the final arc like a present day incarnation of the eternal battle between them shown in previous issues of the arc.

In The Wicked + the Divine #39, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson go for the pivotal character moment over mass character slaughter (There aren’t many left.) and deliver callback heavy payoff for fans who have followed Laura Wilson/Persephone’s journey over the past four years. The closing moments where Laura muses on her decision to no longer be a god have some of Gillen’s most insightful writing, have simple, yet elegant visuals from McKelvie and Wilson, and are a reminder of why character growth is one of the biggest assets of a serial medium like comics.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Godscast Issue 4 The One With Yeezus

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + the Divine #4, the mystery is solved. But does pop-god Lucifer like the answer? The answer is a word that rhymes with “Go”, “Blow” and “Pro”.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in The People’s History of the Marvel Universe for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 3 The One About the Goth

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + the Divine #3, Laura has no choice. She has to go underground to find the goth-goth-gothity-goth of the Morrigan. Is this the most illadvised underworld-related decision since Orpheus decided to see how Eurydice was doing in the back seat?

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at “Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

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