The concept of the recurrence, the reincarnation of 12 Gods every 90 years, means that The Wicked + The Divine has a rich history that it can tap into. Considering that the first issue began in 1923 it feels apt that the latest special takes us back to where the series began.
WicDiv has never been afraid to play around with its presentation, and 1923AD is no exception. Not content to bring in Aud Koch on art duties, the book uses a mix of comics and prose to tell its story, which strongly echoes Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. We are introduced to the entire 1923 pantheon as the book tracks how we ended up at the situation shown in the first panels of issue 1.
From the start the attention to detail and knowledge of 1920s modernism is impressive. In the same vein as WicDiv 1831AD, the pantheon are re-imagined versions of many famous faces from the 1920s. Some of these choices are truly inspired, especially Dionysus and The Morrigan. I won’t say any more as part of the joy is realizing just who the pantheon are. I especially like how the feel of the characters are different to those from the current pantheon: More focused on the future than the now and less openly hedonistic. I really appreciate how the story covers many elements of the 1920s as it touches on elitism, futurism, the changing form of art and the shadows of the past and future World Wars.
Considering that this is essentially a one shot with almost completely new characters it does a great job of establishing each characters identity and beliefs. It is those beliefs and the tensions between differing perspectives and opinions that drives the story forwards. I also like how the story touches on some of the story points that were brought up in the last issue of the main story, adding new light to some of those events and plot twists. Keiron Gillen deserves a lot of credit in this one for balancing the many challenges of telling an interesting, dramatic, educational, philosophical period story that doesn’t rely on established characters. The prose works very well, which is a good thing considering that this is the most text-heavy issue of WicDiv.
The presentation of the book is almost perfect in capturing the feel of the era. This starts from simple things like the art deco-style borders, page breaks and chapter titles that give the pages of prose that 1920s flavor. Aud Koch’s art, with its gorgeous use of gray and sepia washes, is a perfect fit. It makes the book feel like a 1920s film but also captures the drama and mood of the story. The backgrounds and the character work are great but the use of lighting and shadows deserves to be praised. The single page spreads that are used to set up new chapters, especially pages 20 and 26, are fantastic. The use of red as the one spot color works really well here and it really accentuates the story whenever it’s used. There are two incredibly clever scenes that Koch captures brilliantly and panels that feel like reels of film or title cards are both inspired and brilliantly executed.
I need to mention Clayton Cowles, as the lettering really does add to the feel of this book. It starts with the basic font having a lovely old fashioned style that feels perfectly at home with the setting. There are little touches like the speech being lower case, whereas the main story’s text is all upper case. The Norns’ style of speech fits with the current pantheon’s Norns while feeling distinct, but the true standout is how The Morrigan’s text truly captures the feel of a typewritten manuscript.
Is it Good?
1923AD is easily my favorite The Wicked + The Divine special. It balances so many different elements as it tells a brilliant Agatha Christie-inspired story that introduces new characters, captures the feel of the era and asks more questions about the main story. Gillen’s story and prose, Koch’s art and Cowles’ lettering all have a part to play in a magnificent one shot.