There’s a question that’s been running through my mind as a quasi-professional critic as of late: where is the creativity coming from in the superhero/cape comic section of the industry? I’m not saying they’re not exciting, and I’m also not saying that the writers and artists aren’t trying new things, it’s just that some of those new things don’t feel like they came from the spark of one’s creative center. Rather they just feel like x writer threw out a crazy idea in a pitch and tried to make it work later on. What comes from that is a half-baked attempt at originality and creating a game-changing comic.
The Wicked + the Divine, in theory, is a simple but highly original concept for the world of comics. Gods get reincarnated as pop stars, but there’s a catch: they only have two years to live their life. Meaning they can use the abilities they have to set about some real societal changes, or they can choose the livelier option of partying until you’re passed out on the floor. In this comic, they tend to opt for the latter.
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s first issue was a smash success, both critically and in sales (for a semi-independently published comic), but what really counts with these sort of first-issue smash-hit series is the second issue. Think of the first as a TV pilot to sell you on the concept, and think of the second as well, the second episode setting up the larger stories for the long run, and progressing the character arcs ever so slightly. A lot of series will lose some of the audience they pulled with the second issue, and that would be a shame because this is one of the most solid second issues ever.
It doesn’t waste any time meandering about. The murder mystery set up last issue gets expanded on and we learn who some of the gods are. We also get major character building for Laura. Laura is one of the most genuinely interesting protagonists in recent comics’ history and I feel that she will go down as a fan-favorite for years to come. I would also like to add that as a music geek, I genuinely enjoy Gillen’s essay in the back of the issue, and I hope he does more of these like he did for the Phonogram series.
The real highlight of The Wicked + the Divine #2 is the artwork my McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson. It ranges from stuff like the eye-grabbing cover that just pops at you with its meticulous use of yellow to make the rest flourish, to the pages featuring the many heads of Ananke looking just like absolute fun. One of my favorite sections of the book is where Laura goes down to the subway station to find The Morrigan, primarily because it doesn’t actually feature a whole lot of art at all. It is white text over a black background with the occasional interlude of McKelvie/Wilson art, and it’s so effective because the art is so sparse and minimal that it creates the effective sense of the swallowing shadows and dangers of exploring an abandoned subway station. The minimal use of art and the dynamic paneling actually makes the artwork look even better. Typically, I’d see someone like McKelvie as someone who does colorful pop art, and for a good chunk of the issue that is the approach here, but occasionally he does something like this that really ups his game as an artist.
Basically, The Wicked + the Divine is the series to be looking out for. If you aren’t following it, go pick it up right now. This is already going on my year end best list, which is something I am extremely picky about. That’s as high of a recommendation as I can give.
My Score: 5/5