I feel like kicking off my participation with Digital Fiasco and the newly focused comics section with a bang and focusing on one of the most unique comics out there today: The Wicked + The Divine. For 27 issues (and a special here and here), creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have been bringing this tale of Gods returned to life to the pages of Image Comics. But it’s not your standard God-comes-to-Earth-and-shit-happens type of story. It’s more of a shitload-of-Gods-return-to-Earth-and-the-world-is-now-toast kind of story.
The book’s premise (right from the inside cover, so this really is what it is about):
“Every ninety years twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.”
The Wicked + The Divine (or WicDiv for short) is one of those ongoing titles that has a long-form story brewing, tempered with some fantastic single issues. This issue is one of the most enjoyable for the series that I have read in a long time, albeit at times confusing (I’ll get to that in a bit). Although it is a good single issue story, this issue is most definitely NOT a jumping on point for any new readers. The only good jumping on point for this title is Issue #1. This is like Chapter 27 in a novel… You wouldn’t jump forward to the middle of the book and start reading there (at least most people wouldn’t). This entire saga reads as one encapsulated story, with jumps around in time here and there (so you really have to pay attention as to what the dates are when shit happens) Even though the individual issues are enjoyable it’s only in context of the whole that that statement holds true. (If you want to read it all, go pick up the collected works of this series.)
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are no newcomers to comics. They both have a number of books under their belt, both as collaborators and working with other creators.
Kieron Gillen first came to my attention during his tenure at Marvel. He is a co-founder of the PC gaming site “Rock, Paper, Shotgun”, spending a lot of his time reviewing video games. (Sound like any site you know?) In collaboration with McKelvie, the duo published “Save Point”, a comic strip running in the UK Playstation Monthly magazine. It is this strip which bridged his comics work and video game journalism, leading to the first volume of Phonogram (also published by Image Comics and is a FANtastic read). This work gets him the attention of Marvel, and he begins to work on a number of their properties. It was when he takes on the reigns of Journey into Mystery that I really had a chance to take notice. He spends a significant number of issues making Loki (and the other Norse Gods – notice a pattern?) his central focus and builds out an extended cast that very rarely includes Marvel’s Thunder God. His ability to spin a tale that has an age-reduced Loki grow up as the series progresses sets him up to be a key writer for several other books dealing with the younger generation, including a spectacular run on Young Avengers. His collaboration with McKelvie on that book led up to the launch of The Wicked + The Divine with Image.
Jamie McKelvie, as mentioned ad nauseum in this post, is a long-time collaborator of Gillen. I find his art style somewhat unique in mainstream North American comics today, and I really like that. I remember the time of the 90s when every comic artist had to have a dark and gritty style, but McKelvie’s style is not that. Well, not always. It’s dark when it needs to be, it’s light when it needs to be. The style that McKelvie employs gives him some great flexibility in terms of how he can approach a story. The young characters look young, the adult characters look older. Too often in comics teen characters are portrayed as being visually more adult than they are, but McKelvie can make the visual distinction.
My only concern with this issue is a visual one, so I lump that as being associated with McKelvie (although in the book notes Gillen takes full responsibility). Many of the pages are 8 panels per page, and I never know if I am supposed to read all the way across the 2-page spread or simply read one page at a time vertically. Thankfully, it seemed to work either way I approached it, but it was a little weird.Told you I’d come back to my confusion.
The Rest of the Crew
And these guys don’t do it alone.
A comic is only as good as the entire team and with the support of Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, and Dee Cunniffe, you see the story visually come to life with colours, unique lettering as befits certain characters. Cowles does a fantastic job with the custom lettering, especially around the character of Woden as he has to manage different font sizes throughout his entire dialogue. The colouring and effects on the visuals continues to stun me, and showcases how the entire team on this book can create one of the most visibly stunning books being published monthly. Kudos also to Chrissy Williams, their editor, who makes sure these entire crew keeps on track to deliver this fantastic read.
Why Should You Care
So I spent a lot of time talking about the team and not the comic. The reason being that one should never give out too many spoilers, and I would rather elaborate on the pros and cons of the creative team rather than tell you word for word what happens in the book. Everyone reads a story and takes something different out of it. Instead of telling you how to interpret it, I would rather let you know what elements made up the stories I enjoy and let you make up your own mind.
I am a huge fan of finding creators who continually produce quality work and follow them from story to story, title to title. I generally find that once you find someone who does a good story on one title they will also deliver on other books. And this team does just that.
Comic pages in those post originated at Image Comics.