Dive into a world where gods and pop stars are one in the same.
Prince is dead and I don’t feel so good myself. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been mourning multiple celebrities this year. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Lemmy, Prince, and the list goes on. Sometimes mourning means spinning Ziggy Stardust. Sometimes mourning means watching Galaxy Quest. Sometimes mourning means re-reading The Wicked + The Divine.
For those of you unfamiliar with TW+TD I assure you it is not some secret Prince album that has just gotten released after they drilled into his vault. TW+TD is a comic book series created by Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mckelvie that deals with the basic premise “what if the gods were real and they were pop stars?” In the world of TW+TD, the gods reincarnate every ninety years. When the gods do so, they possess/incarnate into teenagers. These young gods have amazing power and fame but with the cost that they will die in two years. Issue #1 premiered in June 2014 and started with a young woman naked Laura Wilkerson, a college student in London who is obsessed with the gods, on her way to a concert. By the end of the first issue, Laura has met multiple of the pantheon and started on the mystery of “who framed Lucifer for murder?”
Lucifer has serious influence from David Bowie during his Tall White Duke phase and her real name is Eleanor Rigby.
If you’re already gone because that last sentence made you click away to read all of TW+TD then I forgive you. If you’re not as much into pop music or indie comics then this comic still might be for you. While there are pop culture references in the comic, they take more the tone of Easter eggs rather than of necessary reading in order to understand the story. Unless you’ve been living in a Mennonite community your whole life you’ve probably noticed celebrity culture through some medium even if you don’t keep up with the Kardashians. TW+TD uses that cultural touchstone of celebrity culture but moves into a story that is both bigger by talking about what it means to be a creator and to struggle with mortality at the same time making it more personal as we see things through the eyes of Laura.
Laura Wilkerson is a hero for new comic generation. While many comics still default to white guys as protagonists, Laura is a mixed race woman with her own ideas. Race is not usually a theme of the comic as Laura’s mixed family is in the background not bringing race up but talking about the things any parent would like yelling at your daughter for being out late a concert where a murder happened.
Gillen’s scripting is as tight as it was for Phonogram and Journey Into Mystery but McKelvie’s art should not be short changed. McKelvie has always favored clean lines with realistic proportions that convey a groundedness along with a certain amount of iconic simplicity. Structure is where his real genius comes through with panels but also within panels whether he’s adding annotations, mixing images, or even repeating himself with a twist. Music may be central to this comic but it is still a comic that takes full advantage of everything that medium has to offer. If you’re the sort of reader who does a panel by panel view on your phone then make sure you take a step back and read on a full size screen or physical page because there is serious synthesis happening in the juxtaposition of panels.
Issue Nineteen of TW+TD came out May 4th, and normally in this review you should be asking whether or not the issue is a good jumping off point. Unfortunately I cannot recommend #19 as a jumping on point or really any issue other than #1 as a jumping on point. TW+TD is not some cyclical never ending story where at the end of an episode the toys are put back on the shelf and caped heroes aren’t really dead and we are ready for the next merry go-round of an episode. Go out now and get issue #1 or get the recently released Hardcover like I did…even though I have all the issues already.