(Spoiler Alert: Even when the gods come, we’ll still be listening to pop music.)
It was a couple months ago when I first read about Kieron Gillen’s new project, The Wicked + The Divine over on his Tumblr feed. I had read most of his Young Avengers run and figured I’d give any of his independent creations a try. Therefore I was especially excited once I read about the concept of his and artist Jamie Mckelvie’s (his Phonogram’s collaborator) new series, involving a group of gods incarnating once a century in the bodies of teens to inspire/rule the world before dying in two years. The series seems as if it will follow some of these gods in the contemporary world although this issue starts in the 1920’s before switching over to 2014, and Gillen promises in his afterword that we’ll get to see their Renaissance era counterparts. So far though, Gillen and McKelvie already seem to have another geek meme-ready series on their hands that’s sure to produce legions of Amaterasu cosplayers.
Our present day story follows Laura, our audience surrogate, South Londoner and self-proclaimed biggest fan of Amaterasu (one of the newly incarnated gods who takes on the role of a pop star), as she shows us how Amaterasu and the other gods have already won over teens despite only incarnating within the past few weeks. Luckily for Laura, Luci aka Morningstar aka Lightbringer aka Lucifer ask her among the many fans who passed out during Amaterasu’s performance to join the concert’s after party where the Shinto goddess is being verbally attacked by a jorno before the Egyptian feline goddess Sakhmet tackles her in pursuit of a red dot. Stuff ensues that results with Luci on the witness stand and a couple heads explore before the issue ends with the proceeding arc potentially revolving around an unknown group of people who believe that even two years is too long for these gods of as yet indiscernible power to stick around.
As is the case with some first issues, there’s not yet a clear idea as to what the stakes of this comic are going to be. So far we only know about mortal Laura’s desire to be like on of the gods despite how they’re often dismissed by everyone but their teen fans. And although Laura’s story does reflect how many teens envy their idols, not enough is done yet to show why Laura adores Amaterasu, perhaps other than Laura’s description of Amaterasu’s performance as what mass and orgasms both aspire to be. We are neither provided with a reason to sympathize with these newly awakened gods since they seem mainly concerned with reveling in their own status although I’m very interested in getting more inside their heads once Laura gets to know them better.
Despite the lack of insight into the gods’ motivations, Gillen and McKelvie do a great job to imbue them all with individual personalities that reflect their mythic backgrounds as well as their former mortal lives. McKelvie’s character and clothing designs should be especially commended for giving the gods a look that combines elements of pop star glam and eerie otherworldliness, Luci possessing one of the coolest outfits in an all white suit and blonde hair with just a strand a strand of black. Simple, but revealing of hir deceptive nature. Even with the eyes, we’re reminded of their power as McKelvie draws Amaterasu’s as though they were eclipses happening within each and Luci’s eyes transition immediately from gentle blues to raging red once attacked. Matthew Wilson’s colors while standard affair for the most part, really do a bulk of the work during Amaterasu’s concert in persuading readers that Amaterasu may not just be another pop star with reds and yellows seemingly radiating from her.
The Wicked + The Divine possesses a strong concept that will explore how the worlds of celebrity, faith and myth connect and this team’s track record gives me little pause in picking up next month’s issue. Read this if you dug Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Even if you don’t pick this up though, read American Gods or Ian Stansel’s Pen/Faulkner shortlisted debut short story collection Everybody’s Irish, which I wrote about early in the blog’s short history here.