Today in Relentless Positivity – The Wicked + The Divine is an ongoing Image Comics series by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.
Every ninety years, a pantheon of twelve gods are reincarnated into mortal bodies, returning wonder and inspiration to the world. They live gloriously for two years, adored and despised in equal measure by the humans around them. Then they die.
The ninety-ear cycle recurs in 2014, so naturally the pantheon return to the world as pop stars – picture Inanna as a glam, Baal as an egomaniacal hiphop legend, and Lucifer as a gender-swapped Thin White Duke-era Bowie.
(Before anyone brings it up, the pantheon are never all from the same pantheon, if you see what I mean. We got Greek gods and Norse gods and Sumerian, Egyptian, Celtic and so on. It’s a thing. I daresay it will be explained before the series is done).
On the surface, WicDiv is a dramatic romp about badly-behaved, utterly self-obsessed superstars with superpowers. Scratch that surface, and it’s about the destructive and interlinked natures of fame and fandom. It’s about ephemeral joy and the nihilism of the short-lived. And like all good stories about gods, it’s about rebellion against the heavenly order.
I’m a huge fan of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, especially in partnership. Their stint on Young Avengers was outstanding sexy teenage superheroic drama, and Phonogram, their ten+ year collaboration about the British music scene (and some deeply earnest and ridiculous magicians), is a hidden gem of modern fantasy.
The Wicked + The Divine is better than both. Dynamic, beautiful, melodramatic, violent, frequently hilarious and mesmerising when it decides to show its teeth.
Gillen is probably my favorite comics writer in this decade. McKelvie’s art is gloriously crisp and for me sits right next to the late Steve Dillon’s command of body language and facial expressions. Matthew Wilson’s colours on the book are gorgeous, especially the backgrounds. Even Clayton Cowles’ lettering is great, and I never notice the lettering.
Also worth noting are Gillen’s extensive commentary notes in each issue’s backmatter (and reprinted in his tumblr Another Way to Breathe), Gillen’s Spotify playlists to accompany the storyline, and McKelvie’s hilarious ongoing and utterly doomed struggle to stop Gillen from committing pun atrocities on Twitter.
Sold! Anything to do with gods and mythology and I’m in.
See, I told you I’d be positively relentless in my relentless positivity!
I hope you like it. I’m a bit of a sucker for the “gods in the modern world” subgenre as well (probably dating back to Douglas Adams and of course early Gaiman). What I love about WicDiv is how it’s taken an entirely familiar trope and used it to discuss something completely different to what has gone before.
And exploding heads. I should probably have put an exploding heads warning in there, because heads sure do explode.
Hmmm, can’t say I’m keen on exploding heads, but I can probably handle it in comic format.
My novel is about gods in the modern world, though the majority is set in Hades, but the underworld is not what it used to be.
I’ve been obsessed with mythology since I was a wee gal and may undertake a PhD in some aspect of myth and folklore at some point.