Character Reference is a new weekly spot where I provide a letter of recommendation for a series you should try, kicking off with a selection of comics! Every Thursday will have an overview of a fantastic comic book series that you might otherwise have missed, covering a range of genres, styles and characters. Enjoy!
The Wicked and the Divine is a good starting point for people who want to try comics but don’t want to delve straight into the continuity-heavy world of superheroes. (If you enjoy Gillen and McKelvie’s style in this, you can then transition comfortably to some of their Marvel input to ease your way into that universe; I recommend their wonderful Young Avengers run.)
The core concept behind The Wicked and the Divine is as follows: ‘Every ninety years twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.’ The Pantheon are the ultimate celebrities; a combination of gods and pop stars that have fan girl Laura dreaming of being a part of that world, until she meets some of her heroes in the flesh and a terrible crime is committed. Feeling sympathy for the devil herself, Laura befriends the sexy, bad-ass genderbent Luci(fer), believing her to be innocent of the crime. So begins Laura’s descent into the dark world of the Pantheon, along with cynical journalist Cassandra.
Exploring the cult of celebrity, the addictive yet destructive nature of fame with a solid murder mystery at the centre of it all, The Wicked and the Divine is a smart piece of narrative and world building, but where it really shines is in its compelling and gorgeously drawn cast of characters. All of the gods clearly have a basis in real world stars. Luci is heavily inspired by David Bowie, Amaterasu has overtones Florence Welch, Sakhmet is clearly based on Rihanna and the helmeted Woden’s look may remind you of Daft Punk. McKelvie’s art with its clean, bold lines and strong colours makes the entire cast enviably beautiful. The guest artist issues are no less stunning, often taking risks and experimenting with the form. With such a large cast of characters, there is never a danger that you’ll forget who anyone is; every single character is a meticulously crafted and drawn individual. Prince-inspired Inanna is a particular stand out, not only for their stunning outfits, but also just for being an absolute babe. The representation in this comic is stunning, with a largely queer cast whose dramas (mostly) have nothing to do with their LGBTQ identities.
I cannot emphasise enough that you must start at Issue 1, Volume 1 and read chronologically, avoiding spoilers. The pun-tastic titles of the trade volumes are, in order, The Faust Act, Fandemonium and Commercial Suicide, with the next volume Rising Action having just been released this month. If you catch up quickly you’ll be able to start reading the individual issues of the next arc, The Imperial Phase, as they are released. Prepare to have your heart broken.
Title: The Wicked and the Divine
Genre: Modern Fantasy/Murder Mystery
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson + guest artists
Best for: Music fans, mythology fans, those interested in fan culture, bonus points if you would describe your style as None-More-Goth
Words: Heidi Teague
Tweet Heid @TeagueHeidi