The Wicked + The Divine is one of those books that I want to recommend to everyone within earshot but have a really hard time describing quite what it’s like. At first blush, I thought of nothing so much as Preacher, with the religious overtones and sometimes in-your-face crudeness and violence, but that comparison feels tenuous at best. There are notes of Grant Morrison, too, particularly The Invisibles, in that the book feels irremovable from London counterculture. Previous work from writer Kieron Gillen may make a better comparison, but I am sadly only personally familiar with his Marvel work, whether Young Avengers or Darth Vader – this is ignorance I should probably fix. The Wicked + The Divine is brilliantly of its time and, while recognizably an Image book in that way that Image books are, feels so oddly singular that I can’t readily remember reading anything quite like it for a while.
Maybe it would just be best for me to jump right in here: The Wicked + The Divine, written by Gillen, with art from Jamie McKelvie (The pair previously collaborated on Young Avengers for Marvel.), and colors – vibrant, surreal colors – by Matthew Wilson, is about pop stars who are, literally, gods. Every ninety years, a dozen gods from different cultures and different mythologies, manifest in a dozen young people. The catch is that they burn hot but fast; starting when they gain their powers, they have, at most, two years to live. In 2014, they become stars. Addictive. Fantasized about. Followed on social media. Whether they choose to host underground raves or pack arenas full of adoring fans who just want to feel touched by their music – or, more properly, their presence – they are the subject of much love – and, of course, much hate.
Laura is a superfan. She’s been in on the ground floor for many of the current Pantheon’s fandoms. So, when Lucifer takes a strange liking to her, Laura is thrilled beyond words. She has a brush with – what? Greatness, perhaps? Like getting picked out of the crowd to hang out with your favorite megastar and finding out they hang out with all your other favorites, too. Of course, things aren’t so simple. Lucifer finds herself in trouble. The world of mortals and the world of these immortals (who only have two years to live) clash. Laura gets caught in the middle. No one – probably including the members of the Pantheon – has all the answers for why and how they exist, much less how the world should respond.
The Wicked + The Divine is about fame, about fandom and fanaticism, about living, dying, and believing, and how we define ourselves. This hardcover includes the first 11 issues – the first two arcs of the series – plus a ton of bonus material, including extensive page-by-page notes from Gillen. I wish I could just keep reading until the end. It has one of the most intriguing premises of the last few years, and its creative team absolutely sticks the execution.