Sunday, 22 June 2014

New Beginnings - The Wicked and The Divine #1

by Matt Puddy

On a reasonably regular occurrence the old adage of 'never judge a book by its cover' certainly comes into its own. For me, this week's review is one of those weeks.

The Wicked and The Divine gives absolutely nothing away with its cover. A female figure staring straight ahead with an almost Warhol-esque colouring to it. So far I’m drawing a blank on what it could be.

From the cover I can take some solace in that I know it’s a collaboration between Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. I’ve really liked Gillen’s work on Iron Man and how he built it up, so there’s promise there. Equally McKelvie’s artwork is akin to the styles I prefer to see, so all looking positive.

So what’s it all about? Opening at the close of 1923, a shadowy gathering of individuals and skulls are preparing to part ways. For one of them the road continues, but for everyone else their fate is sealed in a large explosion. Resuming at the dawn of 2014 we are given a hint at what this could all be about with the name dropping of another Shinto godess, Amaterasu, and shortly after Luci(fer). This is all about gods and goddesses walking amongst us.

Taking the form of teenagers, we meet several deities from different cultures all interacting with human society. They’re very restrained though and miracles are kept to a minimum, but because of this there has bred a large degree of scepticism. It’s only the pivotal moment of the scene that changes this and sets up what I believe to be a central moment for the series. When two snipers try to kill the occupants of the room they are in, Lucifer - with the snap of her fingers - makes their heads explode.

This leads to a court case that  creates a surreal situation. The court is asked to find Luci guilty, but with no weapon and only the snap of her fingers presumed as the cause, what could really be done? It’s only when the judge's head somehow also spreads itself all over the courtroom that things go awry for a multitude of reasons. The obvious one is that Luci says she didn’t do it, but it does point an exceedingly large amount of guilt on her. The bigger question is if it wasn’t her, then who did it? There is dissent amongst the godly ranks.

I want to say that this is a completely original idea, but regardless of how impressed with the story I was, I always had a nagging memory of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in my head which has a similar 'they walk among us' theme. That said this is still a great idea - although we are not alone they aren’t omnipotent and fall foul of human emotions, as well as the restrictions inherent in possessing a human body, for though they are immortal, they are not invincible. They are also fallible giving a different side to them as well. Even the personalities of the individual gods, born from their respective mythologies, come through to add to their appearance and demeanour, which I liked.

The artwork plays a large part in expressing these characters. This isn’t a cluttered or heavy comic to read, thanks to McKelvie’s strong, clean pencils. I did have to chuckle when Sakhmet, a highly animalistic and sexual god from Egyptian mythology, looked a lot like Rihanna...

Matt Wilsons' colouring is light meaning although it has a simplistic look to it the comic is actually full of information for the reader to absorb.

On the whole I found this a very interesting little comic to add to the Image stable and one I would be interested to see where it goes and how it develops as it runs the risk of slipping into precarious territory. I feel there is a lot more to see and have develop and if Gillen’s current run is anything to go by there will be good things to come.

Matt Puddy is a rock and roll legend in these parts.

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