OPINION: The Wicked + The Divine - A Compelling Take On Modern Mythology
The Wicked + The Divine is truly something special. The incredible creative team of Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), and Hannah Donovan (designer) craft a modern tale of mythological Gods that feels so fresh and full of life. The premise is that every 90 years 12 Gods are reincarnated, they live for 2 years, and then they die. “Just because you're Immortal doesn’t mean you live forever” so goes the tagline. In The Wicked + The Divine (or WicDiv) these gods instantly become celebrities to the public which creates a very literal commentary about celebrity worship and their impact and purpose in our society, while also inciting much of the conflict that runs throughout the series.
Volume 1 of the series picks up some time after the first handful of Gods have reappeared and are under the public eye. The Gods perform shows/concerts that completely mesmerize everyone in attendance. The feeling of euphoria while listening to the Gods perform is described as something almost incomprehensible. This is just one of the things that leaves many people wondering if these people really are Gods, and if they are, what else is to be known about them? What all can they do? Why are they here? Can I be a God?
That last question is something that the main protagonist, Laura, wishes for more than anything. She’s been obsessively following the activity of all of the Gods since they appeared and has been to all of their shows. She manages to successfully insert herself into the middle of the Gods business and is our window into their lives. We live this story through her at first, but as the journey unfolds in later volumes we are not limited to her.
I want to try to talk about this book without giving too much away and getting super deep into spoilers, which is why I’ve only given vague details about volume 1, but wow is it a wondrous introduction to this tale. The first thing that sticks out about this book are the visuals. You’d be hard pressed to find a better looking book on shelves. From the super clean and modern drawing by Jamie McKelvie, to the popping and truly mesmerizing colors of Matthew Wilson, this book shines and is a wonder to look at. It’s full of jaw dropping images from start to finish and there really can’t be enough praise heaped onto the art team.
On the flip side of the art we have the narrative, and oh man is it an incredibly engaging and vexing mystery wrapped up in a compelling modern mythological bow. There is so much at play throughout the entire series and it’s all set up flawlessly right from the start. Everything is important and worth paying attention to, and re-reads will leave you wondering how you didn’t see some of the twists and turns coming. That’s another things this book excels at; it keeps you on your toes. So many times after a shocking twist I would think, “There’s no way they can surprise me again after that.” But trust me, they do.
There’s a plethora of twists and turns with just enough breadcrumbs provided throughout to keep you connecting the dots without being able to see the full picture, and given that the series isn’t over yet I still don’t see the full picture, but it’s definitely more clear than before (I think). The level of detail and forethought put into crafting this tale is something I can only sit and marvel at. There’s something set up in the opening pages of issue #1 that doesn’t pay off until the mid #30’s, and if that isn’t impressive I don’t know what is.
WicDiv also does a phenomenal job at mixing existing mythologies into a very modern setting. I keep using the word “modern” to describe this book but that’s just because it’s the word that always pops into my mind when thinking about WicDiv. It really just feels so modern and it works so well. These are Gods living in current times and some of the things they deal with make the book that much more relatable. Making Gods reincarnated into literal celebrities is nothing short of genius and offers up a great avenue of commentary about how we treat and react to celebrities in the real world.
On the subject of the Gods in this book, you’ll fall in love with some of them and love to hate others. Every God feels extremely individual and very much their own. From their looks to the way they carry themselves and how they talk. They’re each incredibly interesting and you always want to know more about them. You’ll obviously develop favorites even though it’s worrisome to get too attached because death is a very present and imminent threat.
In closing, The Wicked + The Divine is a book that I can’t recommend enough. I would gladly heap praise upon it and the outstanding creative team all day, especially if it meant another person would be picking it up. It’s something really special and I’m so glad I hopped on the train before the ride is over. It’s genuinely one of the best books I’ve ever read and it’s not even over. I can’t wait to see where it goes in it’s last year and look forward to the many re-reads this book deserves.