Review: The Wicked + The Divine #1
Posted by Seb Patrick at 22:46 on 17 Jun 2014
Certainly, this is a comic that gives off the impression of confidence like almost no other out there at the moment (perhaps only Sex Criminals is as openly assured of itself). Don't mistake this for arrogance, though - it's the sort of confidence that drives creativity. That sees a team of writer and artist and colourist and everybody else involved knowing that they're coming together at what might just be the height of their powers, and they'd damned well better make sure they produce something that reflects that just in case they never hit it again. It's not the freewheeling lunacy of young comics creators throwing invention at the wall - but carefully crafted pop excellence.
Early issues of Phonogram, in both its volumes, tended to only hint at what the series might become, rather than laying cards on the table from the beginning. Initially, WicDiv feels similar, with a cautious exploration of its high concept of "gods as pop stars and pop stars as gods" - although with much left deliberately oblique at this stage. Partway through the issue, however, comes a rug pull of a sort not usually associated with this team - the sort of moment that could be considered comparable to a Saga last page or a Chew opening page. It's led into by an exquisite moment of tension, told via the sort of on-the-page pacing that ninety-odd percent of comics storytellers wouldn't even think to play with - and it blows the conceit of the series wide open. Gillen has joked in interviews that actually having a plot in issue one is a novelty for him - but it serves as the strongest indication that this is not simply going to be a retread of this team's earlier work.
It does, of course, look immaculate - in a way that it's almost possible to take for granted. But it shouldn't be, so let's just reiterate that McKelvie isn't just great at drawing pretty people in amazing costumes and making them look good (although that is, of course, a core part of WicDiv's superficial appeal) - but that his use of panel-to-panel storytelling is becoming as deft as anyone currently working in comics. And no disrespect to anyone else who's ever coloured his work, but by now it's simply impossible to imagine anyone but Matthew Wilson ever doing him full justice.
As a Phonogram fan, there remains the slight twinge of disappointment that these astonishing creative powers aren't currently being turned towards giving us that series' third volume. Phonogram is a remarkably important comic to me and my life, and as good as The Wicked + The Divine is clearly going to turn out to be, I'm not yet convinced that its story and themes and characters will matter to me in anything like the same way. But what is clear is that it's exactly the kind of comic that is going to matter to plenty of people. It's a comic that will make pop stars of its creators; if it delivers fully on their potential, it might yet make them gods.