Tag Archives: the wicked + the divine

Godscast Issue 13 Meet Tara, Goddess of God-knows

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. This issue features art by Tula Lotay!

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 #13, there’s one god missing in our story. It’s time to finally meet Tara, Goddess of God-knows.

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 12 Commercial Suicide

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. This issue features art by Kate Brown!

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 #12, the aftershocks from the Fandemonium apocalypse are tearing the gods apart. The issue kicks off a new arc!

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 11 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 #11, the end of Fandemonium. The end of Ragnarock. The end of the arc. The start of something else. Everything’s going to be okay.

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 10 Are You Ready to Ragnarock!?

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 #10, Ragnarock is finally here. The show to end all shows promises to be a lovely experience for all the gods…wait. Oh noes! Jamie and Matt have drawn Baphomet drenched in blood on the cover. What a hilarious internal communication error.

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 9 A Private Audience with Anake

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 #9, it’s time for a private audience with Anake, she who has protected and judged the Pantheon for thousands of years. Yes, it’s time for an interview… with an umpire. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Also: Baphomet being all goth and having a nice little mope.

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.

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #43

Writer Kieron Gillen alluded to this on Twitter, but there is very much an Avengers Endgame feeling of one last adventure before calling an era of generation, or at least this reviewer, shaping storytelling quits to WicDiv #43. The remaining Pantheon members and a de-divinitied Laura confront Minerva/Ananke, and Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson lay out the real source of their powers and the origin of 12 teenagers in a more resonant flashback than anything in “Mothering Invention”. There are lots of big ideas on the board in this issue like mortality, belief, and storytelling, and belief leading to physical powers and general coolness gives this issue a real Grant Morrison vibe in a similar way to WicDiv #1 quoting Invisibles #1.

But, before characters get confessional about their status as gods in anti-Pantheon transformation sequence, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson whip together a big action scene. And Laura’s perceptive narration shows that it’s meant to illustrate the emptiness of such scenes and scuffles even though McKelvie and Wilson outdo themselves with giant Tara punching a Valkyrie and various streams of energy and poses. It’s a single page, gets the point across, and leads to another great Dionysus character beat as he uses his second chance at life for good and to free the fans/Valkyries from Minerva’s control. We get some infrared colors from Wilson and a burst of flame, and yeah, no one wants to have anything to do with mind control machine using, strangely young looking immortals.

WicDiv #43 is all about stripping down, breaking up, and breaking free, and none of these things in a romantic context. But, first, there must be a narrative or ritual to be liberated from like an underlying mechanism or a plot in a story to get meta. (And Gillen does.) We see the first “Kllk” as Ananke and her sister create fire, and then their powers get more complex with the creation of the ideas of godhood and its manifestations starting with green tendrils. Ananke plays on each Pantheon’s flaws and pride to end in their deaths and sacrifice as evidenced in the main series and the historical specials.

It’s primal storytelling from Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson with flat colors and fantastic character acting to go with the dark, tendril-y panel borders that represent the mind meld between Minerva and Persephone. The flashback (Which functions better than a wall of exposition)gives the characters of WicDiv a peek behind the curtain and their own powers. They have to interrogate why they want to be gods, and this is the powerful last act of the comic before a devilish cliffhanger.

And this interrogation leads to liberation beginning with the aforementioned Valkyrie/fan flight. Owing to their gentler, more symbiotic relationship, Gillen and McKelvie have Urdr wrap up her time with the other Norns with a kiss and a promise that they’ll live. These plot beats are a prelude to the Pantheon members following Laura’s lead in the previous issue and renouncing their godhood in rhythmic, almost liturgical six panel grids from McKelvie. They realize that they were pawns in a millennia long story and now seek to erase themselves from the narrative in a positive way.

But WicDiv #43 isn’t the final or even the penultimate issue of the series so it’s not that easy, and the final page is dynamic and a reminder of with whom and why I fell in love with the series five years ago as I took a leap of faith and signed up for that John Milton elective class.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #42

The Wicked + the Divine #42

*This review contains spoilers for WicDiv #42*

The Wicked + the Divine #42 goes all out with great reveals and brilliant character moments as Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson craft a sweet sacrifice of a comic book. (This is a very poor choice of words.) And the book starts to take flight around page three with a moment that ties in the specials to the main series as Woden of 1831 is more alike to the “Woden” of 2015 than we think, and Gillen and McKelvie put their own unique mark on the Frankenstein mythos like they did on the Lucifer one. This is only the tip of the iceberg of a comic filled with pathos, action, beautiful and cunning speeches, and another heart getting ripped out ending that won’t be alluded to in this review because it’s that good.

Before getting into the squishy character/feels of it all, WicDiv #42 is another masterpiece in craft from Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson. The fragile status quo of the series is dismantled, but it all makes sense in the light of the 6,000 year game that Ananke has been playing. She has to get heads to keep her immortality, and there’s nothing like some unmentionable evil to freak out impressionable youngsters, get them to die, and ensure the next Recurrence happens.

In recent issues, Baal’s own proclivity for sacrifice has popped up ranging from children to a whole stadium, and it shows how much of a master manipulator Ananke is. She can get others (See Woden throughout the series.) to play a smaller version of her game and have them destroyed for it. Baal and Inanna reunite in this issue, but it’s one of the saddest pages of the series. McKelvie gives Inanna a sick, half-dead look on his face as he realizes that Valentine Campbell is the god of fire and child sacrifice, Baal Hammon. Wilson nails the idea of fiery vengeance in his colors on the last panel of that page as he just wants to take Ananke/Minerva/who gives a fuck out because she put his family at risk. His motivation have become very primal

Sacrifice and ritual has been a series throughline in WicDiv’s first scene and has been turned up to eleven in “Okay” beginning with Baal’s ill-fated O2 gig. We get a three dimensional view of the concept in WicDiv #42 as choices have consequences, unexpected heroes rise, and one pesky misogynist meets a gory, pop art inflected end with McKelvie’s smooth style taking a back seat to bludgeoning and ultraviolence. Woden’s last scene feels like the third act of an exploitation film where the women he thinks that are under his thrall kick the shit out of him. Death Proof has nothing on the Valkyries. But due to Ananke ordering the aforementioned kicking and more cool plot throwbacks from Gillen, this moment of catharsis spoils very quickly.

Another highlight of WicDiv #42 is the tension in Laura’s narration. Although she can’t scry like Urdr, she knows what’s going on most of the time, including dark secrets like Baal’s penchant for child sacrifice. Her experiences throughout the series have made her calm and collected, but she’s also freaking out inside and feels a little like Ananke with some knowledge (Like the child sacrifice.) being doled out on a need to know basis. You can definitely see a bit of the game player that has been squaring up against Ananke for millennia like in “Mothering Invention”, and this issue only raises my anticipation for their final duel. Plus there’s that whole layer of caring about fangirl-turned-goddess/destroyed-turned mortal, and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s wonderful character development and facial expression work makes the surprises and plot beats even more compelling.

WicDiv #42 made me yelp in an emotional manner. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson have turned in stunning bits of plot structure, character arcs, visuals, and palette (Baal vs the Valkyries is a true symphony of color.) in this comic.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.8 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.8  Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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

Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2018

Without further ado, these are my favorite comics of 2018. This was the year I fell back on series that I had been checking out for years and found some new faves in the worlds of newspaper comics, symbiotes, gamma irradiated beasts, and maybe even a choose your own adventure game. Marvel seriously did a 180 this year, and I went from picking zero of their comics on my last year end list to three so well done on their part, and Donny Cates and Al Ewing should receive hefty bonus checks. But, honestly, this list should show you that visual humor, character driven narratives, and weirdness are my things, and I can’t wait to read more comics in that vein in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Sex Death Revolution (Black Mask), Runaways (Marvel), Assassinistas (IDW/Black Crown), Punks Not Dead (IDW/Black Crown), That one really good issue of Peter Parker, Spider-Man that Chip Zdarsky wrote and drew (Marvel), Gideon Falls (Image)

10.Modern Fantasy  (Dark Horse)

Modern Fantasy is a miniseries about a data entry worker named Sage of the Riverlands, who secretly wants to epic hero or maybe just a curator at a cool museum, and has a penchant for smooching handsome elves. Did Rafer Roberts and Kristen Gudsnuk have access to my most secret thoughts while writing this book? In all seriousness, this comic marries millennial angst and struggles (Dead end jobs, mooching friends, annoying co-workers) with all kinds of fantasy tropes, including urban, high, and good ol’ Lovecraftian. Gudsnuk’s art is both humorous and touching and filled with background details and jokes that reward a close reading. But what makes Modern Fantasy a great comic is the awkward friend group dynamic that Roberts and Gudsnuk craft filled with drama, jokes, a touch of romance, and a final showdown with a fire demon.

9.The Wicked + the Divine (Image)

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson’s story of young gods and fandom hit some dark bits in 2018 and had plenty of surprises to go with the formalism and “glimpse behind the curtain” of the “Mothering Invention” arc. However, at its best, WicDiv is the story of the girl, who thought she wanted something, and then painfully realized that she didn’t really want it. That girl, of course, is Persephone whose personal journey along with McKelvie’s amazing facial expressions, Gillen’s clever quips, and Wilson’s majestic color palette keeps me returning to this series as it is about to hit its fifth year. Also, the specials were spectacularly glorious in 2018 from the illustrated prose story/murder mystery in 1923 to 1373’s dark piety. Then, there was the absolute bonkers nature of The Funnies  where we find out the origin of Laura’s cracked phone and the Pantheon gets to solve a Scooby Doo mystery courtesy of Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris.

8.  Nancy (Go Comics)

I’ve been doing year end comics lists for five years, and this is the first time I’ve put a newspaper strip on one. However, Olivia Jaimes’ work on Nancy is one of the most hilarious things to come out of 2018. There are her “millennial” gags (Even though Nancy and Sluggo are definitely Generation Z.) about Nancy’s overuse of the Internet or swapping streaming service passwords with Sluggo, who is also “lit”. But she also has a firm grasp on meta-gags and the uniqueness of the comics medium like playing with panel layouts, lettering styles, reusing panels, and then having Nancy make a joke about it. Nancy is truly a ray of sunshine in a dark landscape while still being sarcastic and self-deprecating as hell and shows that even the proverbial old dog of the newspaper comic can learn some new tricks.

7.  “Milk Wars” (DC Comics/Young Animal)

“Milk Wars” really brought the best of DC Rebirth and Young Animal together and was the only Big Two crossover I kept up with in 2018. The series brings together the Doom Patrol, Mother Panic, Shade the Changing Girl, and Cave Carson to fight warped versions of DC Comics heroes, who are under the control of the Retconn corporation. The story is a literal metaphor for how corporations sanitize characters and go for the retread instead of taking risks with iconic characters as Wonder Woman becomes a submissive housewife in her tie-in story from Cecil Castelluci and Mirka Andolfo. “Milk Wars” shows that it’s okay to be a little weird as milk goes bad if it’s left in the bridge past its expiration day. It also features some gorgeous layouts from Aco in the crossover’s first chapter, which was co-written by Gerard Way and Steve Orlando, and he and the artists did an excellent job of melding an indie and mainstream sensibility throughout “Milk Wars”. Also, the story had a real effect on Mother Panic, Cave Carson, and Shade in their solo titles and introduced Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew’s wonderful, yet depressed Eternity Girl character.

6.Venom (Marvel)

Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, and Iban Coello’s Venom ongoing series is filled with all the fun excesses of the 1990s (Especially in the Venom Annual where James Stokoe shows him going toe to toe with Juggernaut.) and none of its toxicity. The first arc of the series is about Eddie Brock and his symbiote going to war against Knull, god of the symbiotes and a symbiote dragon. This has a terrible effect on him, and Cates carefully uses the symbiote as a metaphor for PTSD while freeing Stegman to draw unhinged heavy metal battles. And this series wasn’t just a one arc wonder as Cates, Coello, and Stegman explore the after effects of the battle with Knull on Eddie’s symbiote and have him confront his father. Plus one of the most underrated Marvel villains, Ultimate Reed Richards aka the Maker pops up for a little bit. This series work because it explores the psychological effects of the symbiote as well as the oozy, shoot-y violent bits.

5.Crowded (Image)

Crowded is a wicked bit of satire with a side of mismatched buddy adventure from the beautiful minds of Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell. It is about an obnoxious woman named Charlie, who has a $2 million price on her head on an app called Reapr that is basically crowdfunded murder. Luckily, there’s an app called Defendr where Charlie hires a badass, meticulous, and noble woman named Vita to protect her. Stein and Brandt fill each page with oodles of panels, but you are able to follow every action scene, conversation, or Charlie ending up at the club or a bachelorette party even if she has a price on her head. The bounty hunting drives the plot while Sebela uses the quieter moments to develop the personality and relationships of Charlie and Vita as well as some of the “professionals” hunting them. Crowded is a thrill ride, but also looks at the dark, not so altruistic side of human nature through the Internet and constant connectivity.

4. You Are Deadpool (Marvel)

Al Ewing and Salva Espin’s You Are Deadpool was some of the most fun I had reading a comic book in 2018 beginning with Kieron Gillen showing up in the “tutorial” brandishing a sandwich as a weapon. It’s a combination spoof of different eras of Marvel Comics along with a pretty damn fun and addictive Choose Your Own Adventure Game. In some cases, you don’t even read the issues in order. Ewing and Espin also take cues from some not so table top RPGs and have the moral choices that Deadpool makes effect your reading and playing experience. Having Deadpool interact with both heroes and innocent passerbies during the Silver Age, horror/kung fu/blaxploitation, the edgy 80s, and of course, the good ol’ 90s is hilarious and shows Espin’s versatility as a cartoonist.

3. Archival Quality (Oni)

Archival Quality is a spooky graphic novel by Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz about a young woman named Cel, who gets a job as an archivist at a medical museum. The comic tenderly explores Cel’s anxiety and depression and unexpected connection with a woman named Celine, who was a patient at the sanatorium that preceded the museum. It isn’t caught up in a fast paced thriller plot, but slowly unveils the mystery while focusing on Cel’s interactions with her boss Abayomi, super rad co-worker Holly, and her declining relationship with her boyfriend Kyle. Archival Quality has real atmosphere, and Steenz creates some fantastic spaces as Cel begins to explore her workplace with its skulls and lack of cellphone service. It is a fantastic story about mental health and relationships through the mystery genre.

2. Giant Days (BOOM! Studios) 

Giant Days continues to be one of life’s true blessings thanks to John Allison, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Julia Madrigal, and Whitney Cogar. At this point, we know the characters and their quirks are on fully display, especially when Sarin draws the title because she is a real pro at expressive eyes and touches of surrealism to break up the slice of life. 2018 was full of drama to go with the Giant Days’ comedy as Daisy broke up with her a little too footloose and fancy free girlfriend Ingrid, and Esther missed her shot at being in a relationship with Ed when he begins a romance with Nina, a girl he met while recuperating from a pub related injury. Nina being Australian is the subject of this year holiday’s special, which was a special treat drawn and written by Allison as Ed fends for himself Down Under. Giant Days shows that it’s one of the pre-eminent slice of life comics as it enters its fourth year, and Esther, Daisy, and Susan’s relationships continue to ebb and flow.

1. Immortal Hulk  (Marvel)

I will preface this by saying that the Hulk is one of my least favorite Marvel characters because he’s often used as a simplistic Jekyll/Hyde metaphor. Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Lee Garbett, Martin Simmonds, and Paul Mounts blow that up in Immortal Hulk, which resembles an intelligent horror story rather than a superhero beat ’em up. It’s a road story with Bruce Banner on the run from the monster that comes out, wrecks, and kills when the sun goes down before morphing into a government conspiracy thriller and something more malevolent towards the end. Through cutting narration, Ewing reveals exactly what is going through Banner’s head while Bennett’s art shows the often gruesome effects of his rages. I also like how Ewing humanizes the supporting players from Walter Langkowski, who is struggling with his own monstrous nature to honest reporter Jackie McGee and even his opponent the Absorbing Man.

Immortal Hulk is the best comic of 2018 because it has a compelling plot, is a searing character study of an American pop culture icon, and is an homage to Jack Kirby and Bernie Wrightson while breaking new ground. (See issue 10’s final page.)

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

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