The Wicked + The Divine Is The Best Comic You’re Not Reading

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There’s a new hit comic in town, and it’s wicked clever. If you haven’t started reading The Wicked + The Divine yet, you should get with the program — Universal just optioned the series for television, and by the time this hits screens, you’ll want to be among its growing Pantheon of fans.

What You Need To Know

The concept of the series is simple and ingenious: every ninety years, a Pantheon of twelve mythological figures are reincarnated as young people with godlike powers. They are loved; they are hated; they are all dead within two years. A seemingly ordinary British girl named Laura — hungry for a taste of divinity and fame — is invited backstage both literally and metaphorically by Lucifer (in this incarnation, an androgynous pop star who goes by Luci). When there’s a suspicious death within the Pantheon, Laura is thrust into their world of magic, murder, concerts, and parties — but she’s not quite prepared for all that she discovers.

Published monthly by Image Comics since June 2014 (that’s only eleven issues to catch up on!), The Wicked + The Divine is brilliantly written by Kieron Gillen and beautifully illustrated by Jamie McKelvie (the two are frequent collaborators and have previously worked together on Phonogram and Young Avengers). Critical praise has been loud and almost uniformly positive: the series won three Eisner Award nominations and Best Comic at the 2014 British Comic Awards. But appropriately for a series about fandom taken to extremes, fan reception has been even louder.

Why You Need To Read It

A major factor behind so much excitement for the series has been its commitment to diverse representation — readers of all races and sexualities can see themselves reflected in its pages, since for a series ostensibly about divinity, The Wicked + The Divine does an excellent job exploring all facets of humanity. Most of the characters are queer on some level (Baal has a boyfriend, Sakhmet is bisexual, intrepid journalist Cassandra is trans, and so on), and the Pantheon’s deities aren’t limited to those familiar from Western mythology.

Alongside Greek, Christian, Norse, Hebrew, and Celtic gods and goddesses; we meet figures from Japanese, Egyptian, Hindu, and Mesopotamian religions, too. Amusingly, the series even textually calls out one white character who claims to be the embodiment of a Japanese sun goddess. These kinds of respectful, nuanced treatments of varying mythologies are rare, and the series’ portrayals of powerful women and people of color (‘good’, ‘bad’, and every shade of morality in between) are thrilling — as is its willingness to kill any of them off at any time for the sake of the story.

The thematic concerns of the series are just as intriguing, and none more so than its critique of celebrity culture. There is already a certain amount of myth-making involved in the construction of a celebrity persona — even more so for those who die tragically young like Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, or Marilyn Monroe — and a story about rock stars who are literally gods is inherently exploring the idea that celebrities are every bit as influential as religion… and come with the same amount of inherent controversy (one issue features a Fox News debate).

As illustrated, many of the gods even look eerily similar to our own celebrities, from David Bowie to Rihanna, and it’s made clear that this translation of real world fame to divine immortality has been happening for quite some time: at one point, it’s implied that celebrity prototype Lord Byron was a previous incarnation of Lucifer. With a fictional fan convention called “the Fantheon”, integration of social media, and pop culture references ranging from Hamlet to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Wicked + The Divine isn’t afraid to play around with our conceptions of art and fandom, and have a whole lot of fun with it, too.

Are you all caught up on The Wicked + The Divine yet? Let us know your thoughts on the series in the comments!

Feature Image Credits: Image Comics

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