Review by Tony Keen
This volume is a welcome opportunity to have in a nice hardcover collection one of the best comics of 2014-2015, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s wildly successful The Wicked + The Divine.
Every ninety years there is the Recurrence. Twelve young people are incarnated as ancient gods from across different pantheons. Two years further on they will all be dead. The latest Recurrence takes place in 2014, and the old gods become new gods – pop stars soaking up fame and adulation. And that is the basis of The Wicked + The Divine. This hardcover volume collects the first year of the series, previously to be found in The Faust Act and Fandemonium, progressing from an enigmatic opening to the shocking conclusion of the second storyline.
This is a brilliant piece of work. It is an interrogation of fame, and the destructive attraction of it for the followers and the followed. It celebrates being young at the same time as confronting mortality head-on. It reflects the diversity of modern London – there are black gods, female gods, bisexual gods, trans gods. They are pop stars, but they are also superhuman – in other words, amongst the many other things this series is, it is also a superhero comic, albeit a leftfield one the likes of which you’ve probably not seen before.
Gillen writes superbly, providing sparkling dialogue that is replete with cultural references. McKelvie’s artwork is beautiful to look at, and enhanced by the colours of Matthew Wilson and letters of Clayton Cowles. The series echoes the best work of the likes of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, as well as drawing on Gillen and McKelvie’s own previous work in Phonogram and Young Avengers.
As well as the comics, this volume includes all bonus material from the two softcover collections, including all the variant covers to the original comics, and showing how pages were put together. Unfortunately absent are a couple of essays Gillen wrote for the monthly issues, which are illuminating about how the series came to be. But the reader does get Gillen’s ‘Writer’s Notes’, which he released online shortly after each original issue went out. They’re not essential to understanding the story, but if you’re interested in how comics stories are created, they’re a fascinating read.