The Short Version: Every 90 years, the gods return and take over the lives of ordinary people. And for two years, they will be heroes, celebrities, rock stars – and then they die. But not everybody loves having the gods among us…
The Review: The opening pages of the first issue of The Wicked + the Divine is one of the coolest, most up-my-alley hooks I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the 1920s, a house somewhere, and there are some… interesting characters sitting around a table. They speak to an old woman rather indecipherably and then they snap their fingers and THE FREAKING HOUSE EXPLODES.
Flash forward to the present-ish. The instability caused by that beginning and the ensuing introductions via our main character, Laura, keep you on yours toes for the whole of this book and, honestly, it’s hard to tell exactly what the hell is going on half of the time. There is a headlong recklessness that serves to excite but could get frustrating if the reader can’t eventually get some measure of solid ground under their feet. And it should be noted: that doesn’t happen until really the end of this volume and, even then, it’s a relatively tiny plot of land – but it’s something, for sure. But hold on, dear reader. Let the blistering pace and the absolute insanity into which you are dropped with little ceremony carry you along.
Visually, the book is just a joy to look at (even when it is gory – and, please note, it does get gory). The gods are rock (or pop or R&B or just generally music) stars and their visual inspirations are obvious if you’re a music person: Thin White Duke-era Bowie, Sgt. Peppers-era Beatles, the Daft Punk robots, Florence Welch, Rihanna, Drake, and so on. And it’s just cool as all get out. Amaterasu (sun goddess, Japan/pan-asiatic traditions) is the first god we’re introduced to in the present tense and she’s the Florence-esque one and you can see it from the second she’s introduced. And it gives us an interesting handle on how to understand a god. We know musicians, you know? God-like as they might be, they speak to us so intimately that we call them by first names or nicknames and pretend that we ‘know’ them in the way that we actually know our friends. Whereas deities, traditionally, aren’t exactly understandable – and so when Luci (Lucifer, female and pulling off a great Bowie) brings Laura backstage… that parting of the curtain works on so many various levels that I had to stop and the English major in me grinned at symbolism working really damn well.
But the thing that stops me from giving this book full marks is that it reallllly feels like an introduction – like we haven’t even really gotten things going yet, although several plotlines are introduced and a whole lot of stuff does in fact happen. But Gillen and McKelvie have something exceptionally large going on here and I think we’re going to be thankful for the time spent introducing everything. Still, the loss at the end of the volume didn’t hit me quite so hard as it could’ve because I barely knew the character.
Although that’s also not entirely true: because the character is instantly awesome and I’m sad that they’re gone… and while the emotional potency could’ve been stronger if they’d been around longer, it’s like killing Drew Barrymore in the first five minutes of Scream: we immediately know that nobody is safe. Not even the gods.
Rating: 4 out of 5. When the initial rush of the coolness of reading this volume wears off, you’re left wondering what the hell just happened. That’s not a bad thing, of course – but you know how you can kinda wait for the next issue of Saga or Sex Criminals or whatever? Not so much with this: I want the next collected volume YESTERDAY. Both because I have so many questions – but also because this volume really only feels like the basic introduction to this world of gods and music and magic. Things are just getting going – who wants to kill them? who recurs and why? and what’s Laura’s deal? – when the back cover closes. Still, the imagination of this story is right up my alley and I’m hooked. Rock’n’roll, gods, and snappy writing? Sign me up.