Every ninety years twelve gods will take human form and live on Earth for no more than two years, an event called the Recurrance. What happens next is the story of my favorite Image Comics series- maybe by favorite comic book, period- in the past ten years- The Wicked + The Divine.
I may be exaggerating a bit in my headline. Well, definitely exaggerating. It’s a fantastic series, and plenty of people are talking about it. However, it’s eclipsed by a lot of the (well-deserved) love Saga gets. Personally, I enjoy W+D more though.
Before this series Kieron Gillen and Jaime McKelvie were a well known quantity together and seperately. Seperately, Gillen was making his mark on Marvel Comics with series such Thor, Journey Into Mystery, and Uncanny X-Men and several creator owned series, while McKelvie was doing stories in the X-Men family, Defenders and design work, including Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel costume, and his own original creations. Together, they were known for Phonogram and Young Avengers, my favorite Marvel Now series.
I went into W+D as a big fan of Kieron and Jamie. I had just finished reading Young Avengers, a genre bending take on Marvel’s young heroes that featured magic, alternate universes, hot Kree invaders who liked Earth’s music too much to destroy the planet, and the most kick-ass heroine in Marvel history- America Chavez. The concept interested me- 12 gods, 2 years, and superpowers/deity as celebrity.
The series opens with the end of the last Recurrence in December of 1923. Only four of the twelve remain, and they sit around a table with the skulls of their fallen pantheon. A mysterious woman addresses them all, tells them she loves them, then leaves them.
Then the young gods commit group suicide.
Watch for the snapping- it’s a recurring motif through the series. It’s usually how the gods perform miracles.
We then flash forward to New Year’s Day, 2014, and meet our protagonist, Laura. An ordinary girl from South London, she’s sneaking out to see Amaterasu, a pop star goddess.
Laura is a perfectly average 16 year-old girl from London. Her most remarkable trait is that she’s bi-racial, with a black father and white mother. However, she singles herself out during Amaterasu’s performance. While everyone else in the club is passing out in ecstasy, she doesn’t. She holds out. She makes contact. Then passes out.
She awakes to the voice of another of the Pantheon- Luci, the series’ breakout star. A mixture of David Bowie and Tilda Swinton, Luci is the reincarnation of Lucifer Morningstar, the devil of Christian mythology.
Here Lucifer is more the sexy temptress (without being a buxom bombshell) than she is ruler of Hell. You can see her as the serpent, the father of lies, and so on. She’s alluring, charming and instantly likeable.
In other words she’s the perfect devil.
As a side note: Gillen said in one of his essays about the series (which every single issue includes) that when they were planning for the series, they were more than halfway through before they found a deity that the archetype was definitely male. That’s actually one of my favorite things about the series- they’re not bound at all by the classic versions of these gods. Woden looks like the third member of Daft Punk. Luci is David Bowie. Sakhmet is half-Rhianna, and half-house cat.
As Luci takes Laura to meet Sakhmet and Amaterasu, a pair of assassins attempt to kill the three gods.
Luci makes quick work of them.
And that’s where the story really gets started.
The Wicked + The Divine is an urban fantasy completely unique in comics. It explores deity, fame, pop music, and fandom. Its characters come from all across the human experience. And at the heart of it all, there’s a completely engrossing mystery- something has changed in this Recurrence. Someone frames Luci for murder. Somehow Laura gains a small measure of her power. Something has changed.
And exactly what that is, and what it means is what has me hooked. I’ve only talked about the first issue, and hopefully that’s enough to interest you.
This series is highly recommended. Track it down. It’s only ten issues in, so it’s not hard to catch up.
“I want everything you have.”