So there was a much longer (1200 word +) version of this review, where I tried to explain why The Wicked + The Divine might be a genre defining comic book. I even used the big ‘S’ word and made a brief comparison to The Sandman. That’s probably a bunch of crap though.
So instead, let’s be efficient about this. Here’s a review where I explain why The Wicked + The Divine is good without alluding to books you haven’t read or the cloyingly adorable chemistry between Twitter sweethearts Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Also, no spoilers.
The plot is accessible but intriguing because it combines familiar story elements in an original way. A group of conspirators gather for a secret meeting in a classy mansion? Check. Teenagers sneaking out of the house to party? Check. A pale complexioned anti-hero/sympathetic villain who wears amazing clothes? Check. Sassy Gods living on Earth among mortals? Check.
The art is incredibly high quality. McKelvie’s lines feel very clean. With simple layouts this book will be easily readable on a computer screen, on a phone, or on paper. Mathew Wilson adds intensely saturated colors until the pages are just dripping sex. Clayton Cowles as the letterer brings style into every last detail of the panels. I've also been assured, by the Outhouse's own Christian Hoffer, that the book is printed on high quality paper and it feels really good to rub it against your skin.
Is there anything in this book that doesn’t work so far?
McKelvie has a definite style. Everything is a little too smooth, too solid, and too uniform. The character Laura looks like America Chavez, and I swear one of the kids in the background looked like Wiccan It almost makes me wonder if the detailed clothing and the intense colors aren’t there to help you tell the characters apart, like in anime where some of the characters have colored hair. Seriously though, the closest I can come to criticism is that McKelvie draws the world the way I wish it looked instead of the way it really is. Boo hoo.
I suppose there could be concerns that those elements of the story I described as familiar could pass into the realm of cliché or tired. I can assuage any fears by pointing to Gillen’s self awareness. Even within this first volume, a skeptical character calls out the impossibly cool Luci as a fraudster, with the particular observation that she’s “a wannabe who’s never got past the Bowie in her parents’ embarrassingly retro record collection.” I don't think that Gillen's going to let this story get away from him.
I'm especially impressed by how well The Wicked + The Divine works as a comic book, compared to, say, a television series. This is a story where characters hear music that sounds amazing, like climaxing for an hour straight. Therefore, the reader must have the freedom and luxury to create this music in his own head so that it sounds like his own orgasm. The story doesn’t work otherwise. The reader could become distracted or discouraged or offended if forced to hear real music chosen by someone else. I know that if I had to listen to music that sounded like Gillen’s orgasm… well then this would be an inconceivably different review.
Leaving the music to the imagination has another added benefit; the reader is also now an active participant in the story. Really the cover should say “Story by Gillen, Art by McKelvie, Colors by Wilson, Lettering by Cowles… and Music by YOU.”