Redux Reviews: Graphic Novel, The Wicked + The Divine, The Faust Act (vol.1)
A dear friend recently gifted me the first volume of continuing graphic novel, ‘The Wicked + the Divine’ (written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jamie McKelvie), and I was knocked out of my chair by it. In fact, it has reinvigorated my verve for comic books as a medium.
A bit of exposition: I’ve been reading comics since I was a tot. My dad is a lifetime comic book enthusiast and I caught my passion for the medium from him. My first book was an X-Men comic called, ‘The Ties That Bind – The Wedding of Jean Grey and Scott Summers. It was a special edition book with a hologram card attached to the front cover and featured special appearances from what seemed then to be every character in the Marvel universe. The story was a big party and alluded to a full, rich history with all these heroes and their relationships, their foibles, their personal battles that looked like my own.
I was hooked. I don’t remember what I learned in school during those years, but I can recall clearly all the myriad stories I read secretly in class under a desk, under my covers with a flashlight, between after school activities. My dad had a treasure trove of old comics from his childhood: DC universe staples, Green Lantern, Batman, Flash, Superman, Marvel dark horses like Daredevil and Doctor Strangefate, and books with mysterious, ominous titles like ‘The Witching Hour,’ and ‘Swamp Thing.’ They all held mystical wisdom. Those stories have never left my brain, but serve as a mythology for me, even now, many thousands of days later.
I was aware once more of this personal history when I read ‘The Wicked + the Divine.’ I felt that same pull – the symbols, the rituals, the messages, all leading up to the same mythology – the same understanding of our place in the cosmos. It was the Jean Grey/Cyclops wedding party all over again, a rich world so detailed it became real for me.
The premise of TW+TD is clever. Every ninety years, twelve gods return as young people, who live in that time as pop stars. The catch: they die within two years. That’s one of my favorite messages in mythology – all this has happened before and will happen again. The story caught my interest for a number of other reasons as well, such as the notion that gods are pop stars are gods doomed to die young. The dialogue achieved almost Whedon levels of pop culture snark and style. The cast of characters is diverse, and feels reflective of the current world. Perhaps most of all – the women characters are exceptionally written. Any fangirl currently dissatisfied with the paucity of lady superheroes need look no further.
Speaking of the characters, the creators selected an eclectic mix of gods. From the notorious: Lucifer, known to most as Luci, to the obscure: Hebrew “god of lies,” Baal. Luci is a sharp-toothed rebel, a lady Bowie dripping with sarcasm, unleashing brutal truth on mortals –while also hitting on them, she’s a bit of a predator.
And my personal favorite, Irish mythological figure: The Morrigan, a god in three parts, who all three show up at one time or another, and are each weirder than the last. She appears most strikingly in the form of a young, dark -haired woman whose facial markings mimic the grease war paint, new action hero Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road wears. Her eyes shine pale through this painted mask. I should mention here that all the gods are portrayed with stunning style and detail by artist Jamie McKelvie and team. Each new portrait that I encountered in the book was evocative, engaging.
I haven’t even mentioned the main character: Laura is a fan. She’s seventeen and sneaks out of every night to see all the gods’ “gigs,” which are essentially like pop shows. When she attends a performance by Amaterasu, part of the Japanese myth cycle and also a deity of the Shinto religion, Laura stands out in the crowd, and Lucifer, or Luci, as she’s known, takes Laura on an adventure with the gods. The only thing Laura thinks she wants is to be a god, but she discovers their world is much darker than she imagined.
In addition to the narrative, there are lots of fun things to track, such as a mystery involving the identity of one of the gods, known only as “Tara,” thought to be a deity who was either Hindu, Buddhist, or Tara from Buffy. Also, key scenes feature special, stylized, full panels with dotted areas reminiscent of early four-color comic strips.
As you see, I loved this book. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of volume 2, set to debut in July.
Early in the comic, the god Amerasatu is giving an interview. When asked how she can be so calm, knowing that she’ll die in less than two years, she says:
“You spend all your life wishing you were special. And then you find out you are. Nothing is without a price.”