Best Comics of 2014: The Wicked + The Divine

Best Comics of 2014: The Wicked + The Divine
So, then, to The Wicked + The Divine. Unquestionably one of the major success stories of comics in 2014... and something that, if we're honest, it's difficult for us to talk about in any kind of objective or rational way, because it's by our mates.

And yeah, that's a bit of a namedrop. But, come on - we've been waiting since around 2006 to be able to say "We were there first" when it comes to appreciating the work of Gillen and McKelvie, so now that everybody's appreciating the heck out of them everywhere you look we're entitled to feel a little bit smug.

Perhaps the thing that surprises me the most about WicDiv's success is the new audience it's attracted. I mean, in one sense, that's not really a surprise at all: it's the most unashamed reach for something more populist that this team have yet done (even more than the modern-urban-teen-fantasy that was McKelvie's solo Suburban Glamour, a series that now feels sadly like it's been consigned to one-and-done history given the amount of time this rather more successful effort is likely to demand from him). It's not really much of a shock that it would resonate with more people than a black-and-white allusive paean to Kenickie b-sides, or even than the continuing adventures of a mid-level teen superhero team.

But place it in the wider context of everything they've done so far (by which I really mean "set it after the two volumes of Phonogram"), and it feels like by merely starting with WicDiv, you're joining the movie late. All three volumes are (from at least one angle, I'm aware it's not the only one) about the relationships we have with artists and art. Rue Britannia cast our heroes as the devoted hardcore, the fanzine creators. In The Singles Club, they were beginning to step aside for younger devotees, realising that their own position as fan-creatives had started to bring them a little closer to stardom themselves. And with WicDiv, they are the stars. Because as much as they might be feeding their own experiences into Laura... it's hard to imagine they're not also doing the same with Luci, and Baal, and Inanna.

And yet, as tempting as it is to say that I'd still rather they be doing the "This is completely on my level" kind of stuff they were doing with Phonogram, you can't really argue with the results when the results are The Wicked + The Divine. This book is a hit because it's a startling, compelling examination of the star/fan dichotomy - but also because it's filled with strong characterisation (although I already like Inanna more than I like anyone who appeared in the preceding five issues), shocking plot twists, and by far the most accomplished comics storytelling yet by a writer, artist and colourist team who were already pretty bloody good beforehand.

WicDiv exudes confidence in a way that Phonogram, even at its best, never really could. It's got a sublime, moment-to-moment pacing and rhythm that just about every other comic could learn from. Each issue is a breathtakingly produced, physical package (it's one of only five comics that I still buy in print every issue, and the only one of the five that's for aesthetic reasons rather than because I started collecting before switching to digital) that showcases a full design and production team working in harmony to produce an object that demands your attention every time it appears. Hell, it produces monthly notes from its writer that are more entertaining than most comics.

And if it still doesn't quite make me feel the way Phonogram did, about the highest compliment I can pay it is that it's exactly the sort of thing that someone, somewhere will one day be inspired enough to make their own Phonogram about.