Book Review: ‘The Wicked + The Divine’ by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

the wicked + the divine

A Graphic Novel Collection and Travel Don’t Mix:

I entered the world of graphic novels right around the time I started living abroad. A poor time to do so. The books are much heavier per page than paperbacks, a major problem when you have to pack all your belongings into a pair of suitcases every couple months and lug them from one side of the planet to another while avoiding excess baggage fees. And, unlike traditional books, graphic novels do not show up well on my black and white e-reader. As such, the only time I really get to enjoy forays into this medium is when I am back in the States sorting visas out.

This past Spring I found myself in such a situation, and seized the opportunity to get about half a dozen graphic novel reads in. The most eye-blindingly radiant of those were the first four volumes of The Wicked + The Divine, created by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

The Gist…

The idea is that every 90 years, twelve gods are reincarnated as humans. To quote the blurb, ‘they will be loved, they will be hated, within two years they will be dead.’ Something like that.

With their latest incarnations, they are pop stars, putting on euphoric, orgasmic shows around the world to the adulation of their fans. Far out. Oh, and they have some really creepy lady who acts as their chaperone…in a way.

All Around Tops:

I picked up Vol. 1 at The Last Bookstore in LA on a whim, and began a techno-spectral-psychedelic adventure accompanied by the likes of Amaterasu, Woden, and Ba’al. The story moves quickly and had enough turns to keep me interested well into the fourth volume, with my intent being to continue it when my budget allows.

Though the top layers are heavy with glitz and glamor, the ostensibly care-free events have an ominous undertone. As ecstatic as the performances of the gods might appear, there is a constant dread lurking, the countdown of two years until all of them will be dead.

Colors Galore:

The art was my favorite since the Descender series, with an extreme palette defying your eyes, beautiful contrasts and syntheses left and right. And the faces…compelling stuff. McKelvie renders expressions with bold, crisp lines; the characters’ emotions blare on the page, and leave you without any doubt as to what they are feeling (except for Woden, obviously).

Those Breaths Between the Jams:

Between blasts of color and thumping speakers and hedonistic revelries, there are quiet moments that reflect upon the cost and pitfalls of stardom: the isolation it can bring, the capricious vitriol of vexed fans, the parents who cash in on their child’s success, the hollow pursuit of adoration by strangers. The dying in two years’ time..

Overall…

With a great cast of relatable characters, a balanced tone, and penchant for full-page displays, The Wicked + The Divine is a graphic novel well worth picking up.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5