When I was a kid, I never really understood or appreciated comic books. I loved comic-based animated television shows and movies, but in my small town we didn’t have a comic book shop. As such, I have a lot to catch up on and ground to cover when reading and enjoying comic book stories. Back in the 80s, when I grew up, comic books were still seen as something very gender specific. I’d like to think we’ve changed, and more females or gender nonconforming individuals feel compelled to read comics, because the medium truly is fantastic.
I knew, immediately, that I would want to check out The Wicked + The Divine. The comic, created by the team behind Young Avengers, (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson) and released by Image Comics, puts a new spin on the idea of the Gods and Goddesses of polytheistic pantheons. I’m all about that! I have a slight obsession with the Greek pantheon, but I’m pretty much up for stories of any type of polytheistic-based religions and the Gods worshipped within them. This particular comic mixes the Gods/Goddesses of Egypt, Greece, the Celts/Ireland, and other polytheistic realms, with the monotheistic deities and demons such as Lucifer and Baal.
The Wicked + The Divine follows “The Pantheon” a group of 12 reincarnated Gods and Goddesses, who appear every 90 years. They have super human abilities, can perform miracles, and will die within two years of learning about their powers. In this reincarnation, the Pantheon has returned as those most revered by 21st century society…pop stars and rock legends. Of course, they aren’t taken seriously, and many try to discredit them, though the young people of the day, much like in our society, worship them.
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1 offers the first five comics released. It completes the first arc of the comic, “The Faust Act.” It is only fitting that the first arc, one named for Faust, deals with the devil herself. Lucifer or Luci, as she likes to be called by her friends, is a cocky, yet beautiful Goddess, who ends up breaking one of the cardinal rules the pantheon has. They don’t have many rules, but one of them is not to use their powers against humans…at least not in front of other humans. The arc, which spans five issues, addresses how Luci is dealt with, due to her insubordination.
I have to admit, it took me a little bit of time to get into the comic. I was extremely confused by what was going on in the majority of the first issue. The comic jumps right into the action, with the protagonist, a young college student named Laura, going to one of the Goddesses concerts. She is infatuated with them, and it is orgasmic for any human who attends. The story follows Laura, as she bears witness to the events that unfold proceeding the concert, and her budding relationship with the pantheon. The comic’s chaotic beginning made me question whether I could get into the story, but I stuck with it, and it was well worth it.
This is one of the greatest comics I’ve read, recently. The story is as addicting as the Gods and Goddesses within it. The characters are well thought out, and made this reader want to know more. I read this comic in one sitting, simply because I could not put it down. Once I got into it, I was hooked! I, honestly, cannot wait for the second arc to begin, though I fear it may be difficult for me to handle having to read this series as a single issue comic. I’d happily devour each arc from beginning to end, though I doubt I’ll be able to resist not purchasing the next single issue release.
One thing I absolutely loved about this series was how diverse the characters are. All of the stereotypes about gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity have been thrown out the window. Laura, the protagonist, is a multi-racial woman. She is smart, if not a bit impulsive, but is a person you want to root for, the keystone of a great protagonist. The supporting characters, the Gods and Goddesses, are so appealing, and they ooze sensuality, as well as sex appeal.
Beyond Laura, there are other characters that are non-white, particularly some of the pantheon. There also is a surprise transgender character, which is absolutely fantastic. As someone in the trans community, it is always great to see representations of trans identity in any media. We are largely absent from most mediums, and when we are, the portrayals are often negative or inaccurate. The Gods and Goddesses in this series do not conform to typical standards of gender conformity, and it isn’t a big deal. In fact, it is seen as one of their most appealing characteristics.
The sexuality of the characters is both ambiguous and in your face, depending on the character. For example, it is clear Laura is attracted to the pantheon, but her actual sexuality is never discussed. Luci, by contrast, makes clear references to lesbianism, and is not afraid to hide the fact she’s had and enjoys relationships with females. There is also discussion on male-male relationships that is pertinent to the Gods. All aspects of queerness in this series are handled with ease and finesse. This is the comic many of us fighting for equality and diversity in media have been waiting to see produced.
While Kieron Gillen’s writing is fantastic, Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson should be lauded for their artwork. It is absolutely stunning!!! This comic is as gorgeous as the characters within it. It tells its own story and really compliments Gillen’s work. This trio is definitely a group to watch, because their comics definitely seem to keep me coming back for more. I would read another series, simply by knowing they were the creators, which says a lot about their work.
I cannot praise The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1 enough! Go pick a copy of this up right now!! Also, don’t forget to check out the upcoming release of the next single-issue comic in this series, The Wicked + The Divine #6, which will be released on December 17, 2014, and begins the second arc of the comic, entitled “Fandemonium.” It should be available at all the major retailers that carry comics, and through Image Comics.