Why ‘The Wicked And The Divine’ is Worth Losing Your Head Over
Fandemonium, the second arc of The Wicked + The Divine, is the work of creators at the top of their games. Jamie McKelvie gets more room than ever to showcase costume designs that tell you everything you need to know about a character at a glance, and expressive facial acting that tells you everything else. Kieron Gillen writes dialogue packed with wordplay and puns – and if they don't make you groan, the plot's gut punches will. Clayton Cowles' letters grant each god a distinct visual voice to match the way they're written and drawn, and Matt Wilson's colors add unique pyrotechnics, at one point reinventing his style between pages to create a convincing drug trip.
The sheer talent on display in these pages is enough to make you jealous and, if you haven't read previous Gillen/McKelvie collaborations Phonogram and Young Avengers, you might wonder where this team got their powers. What makes The Wicked + The Divine especially interesting is that this is exactly what the comic is about.
Note: This article contains major spoilers for The Wicked + The Divine through issue #11.
The story centers on a pantheon of twelve gods who incarnate every century as the greatest artists of the age – which, in the early 21st Century, obviously means pop stars. Lucifer is a gender-flipped Bowie who prefers 'Luci'; Woden is an EDM producer in Daft Punk headgear; Inanna is so damn Prince that during his first appearance it literally rains purple.
Our hero, Laura, is very pointedly not one of this pantheon. Laura is a fan who, over the course of the first volume, gets to know many of the gods, until her guide, Luci, has her head unfortunately separated from her body. Just by being present at said decapitation, Laura picks up hints of her own potentially god-like powers, and a serious case of contact fame . And in Fandemonium, those two facts bring her fully into the world of the Pantheon.
It's probably not a coincidence that the front cover for the upcoming trade collection of Fandemonium (on sale soon) is illustrated with an all-access pass – that's exactly what we get in these issues, with gods who are much too willing to open up to Laura, often revealing that they used to be fans too. Inanna is a sexy M.F. now, but before ascending to godhood, he was a quiet enthusiast lurking at the back of convention halls. Superstar DJ Dionysus was part of the crowd at an earlier Morrigan gig. We even see resident skeptic Cassandra jump the fence from critic to creator, with her transformation into Urðr.
As I said, The Wicked + The Divine is a comic about marveling at the work of your favorite artist and wishing you could make something like it. Fandemonium show us that it's possible to make the leap from fan to creator, but also shows us the dark side of that desire with the introduction of the Prometheus gambit, and the revelation of the identity of Luci's would-be assassins from the very first issue.
Even more than that, it emphasizes the cost of giving your life to art. This comes through strongest in the last issue, probably the series' biggest talking point so far. If you've made it this far without having read Fandemonium, it's time to move along. We're deep into is spoiler country.
Because in the end, Laura gets exactly what she wants. She transcends fandom and sporadic fame and becomes a god all of her own. In one of the comic's most beautiful scenes, Laura sings for the first time. Tears roll down her cheeks, the background fades to flat color, lit by the power of her voice, and despite knowing she's going to die in less than two years she tells us, “This is worth it.”
And then the focus shifts to the left, and we realize it's going to be a whole lot less than two years. With a single 'KKLK', the comic reveals an almost Game of Thrones-level willingness to dispatch major characters, but there's a purpose to the brutality. It's a question Inanna asks outright: “Why do you want it?” Why the hell would anyone be willing to sacrifice themselves at this particular altar?
It's a totally fair question, and it's easy to shake your head. But then maybe you hear or read something magical, and suddenly find yourself willing to give it all up for a chance to create something so perfect. And that – whether we're talking music or comics or godhood – is the joy of being a fan.