What if the pop stars that fans worship as gods— your Mick Jaggers, your Michael Jacksons, your Beyonces— were actual, literal gods? That’s the question that writer (and self-proclaimed pop music enthusiast) Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie ask with The Wicked + The Divine, the new fantasy series published by Image Comics. Is it good?
The Wicked + The Divine #1 (Image Comics)
I’m not overly familiar with Kieron Gillen’s work. I only read the first two or three issues of Young Avengers, and I only read a single issue of his other major collaboration with artist Jamie McKelvie, Phonogram. But I’m aware of Gillen’s reputation as a pop music fan, and the way that he incorporates pop music into his work.
I’ve been thinking a lot about pop music lately. Contradictory as it may seem, it’s not always hip to describe oneself as a fan of the genre. I’ll admit to a certain amount of elitism when it comes to pop music. It’s not that I necessarily dislike artists like Katie Perry or Rihanna, but when somebody tells me that they are a fan of those artists, I often assume that such a person is not serious about their musical intake, instead blindly (or deafly?) accepting whatever coldly calculated corporate sounds that FM radio chooses to turn into a hit.
But I don’t get that impression from Kieron Gillen. Perhaps it’s because the British define pop music differently. This isn’t based on any formal research, mind you, but it seems that while Americans define Pop music based on its sound (i.e, over 25 years of Madonna wannabes), the Brits seem to define pop as more of a musical sensibility— music that’s simple, approachable, and quite often danceable, but not without room for experimentation.
In that regard, Gillen found a perfect collaborator in Jamie McKelvie, whose visuals are pop art in every sense of the word. His lines are clean, yet highly detailed, richly inked with style and grace, complimented by Matthew Wilson’s bright and sugary colors. There’s a rhythm to his art, too, with the way that he plays with time and space. This is a comic that you could dance to, if such a thing is possible.
This first issue is a quick read, especially for a first issue. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it effectively gives readers a taste of what to expect for future issues, but some readers may find there to be a disappointing lack of story content. The beginning of the issue, a Jonathan Hickman-like ritual sequence replete with ominous dialogue and an infographic, probably won’t make much sense until at least the next issue, so it may seem like a waste of time and space for some readers, but like just about everything else in this comic, it effectively sets a tone.
Kieron Gillen knows that he’s working with a strong concept, and that confidence shines through his writing. Like any writer should when working with an artist as talented as Jame McKelvie, he also knows how to step back and let the visuals do the talking. But when he does use actual words, he’s wickedly (no pun intended) clever, especially when he’s writing Lucifer—Luci, that is.
Is It Good?
This is a solid start to what could likely become an innovative, stylish new series.