This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on July 15, 2014.
In his afterword to The Wicked + The Divine #2, Kieron Gillen references Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” saying, “It’s soThe Wicked + The Divine that I could give Hole a co-writing credit.” He’s not wrong. Listening to the song alone in a dark room, allowing yourself to twist and gyrate to Love’s siren call, you feel the song moving you. It’s full of raw attitude, but still manages to make you feel good. It’s smarter than it should be calling out to the nature of celebrity and pointing out the relationship between Hole and you as the listener, still gyrating and imagining yourself standing on stage just like them.
The Wicked + The Divine #2 makes you feel the same way. Oh man… This comic, just like this song, rocks really hard.
One of the really tough things about discussing early issues of ongoing series like this is that there’s a lot of feeling, fury, and passion, but the meaning isn’t necessarily clear yet. Themes are beginning to evolve, characters are taking shape, but the theme, the message, the grand idea of it all has yet to solidify. That leaves a couple of routes to take when discussing chapters of a growing story. You can note the craft and pick apart what makes each issue function or fail to, or… you can discuss the feeling of it. That second path is a lot more difficult to walk, at least for me, because describing how a comic makes you feel, how it moves you and relating that to the experience of a mass audience is tough. I couldn’t imagine being a music critic because music, at least for me (once again), is all about how it moves you and makes you feel. Writing about that kind of sensation is hard.
The Wicked + The Divine makes it easy.
This issue is a 7-inch single, packed with a few tracks ready to wear out the needle on your record player. It’s short, just a taste of the band’s overall repetoire, but what you get still reveals an incredible breadth of scope and ability that will have you set it on repeat and wait for more.
The issue kicks off by cleaning up where the last one left off, but the first track doesn’t really begin until after the second title card when Laura arrives at prison to visit Luci. Luci may not be the lead character (vocals) for this series, but she steals every sequence she is in. When McKelvie puts her in the panel, it’s like inviting David Bowie to guest on a track. He’ll make it better, but he’s also going to be the star. Her appearance is undoubtedly based on Bowie’s Thin White Duke, her attitude and mannerism the same. She enters the panel filled with confidence. Both Laura and the reader are lucky to be graced with her presence and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is the truth. When she smiles, it’s both terrifying and exhilarating. A simple conversation between her Laura is more than enough to thrill, but her origin implanted in the middle of the sequence is what really soars.
Horror and fantasy and power echo off of these pages. A face that actually manages to overpower Luci’s own visual presence fills the page. For all of the confidence present in Luci’s demeanor, this face dominates the scene and asserts an incredible sense of authority. It’s not the mystery of the story that elevates these pages, but the feeling of what it may mean.
The mid-point slows the beat and allows a sense of cleverness to release tension. Cassandra and Laura reflect the (often conflicting) roles of critic and fan, respectively. They weave words together to create a duet of verbal barbs and retorts. None of what they say is overly harsh, in a strange way they are friends working together. They are both intrigued by the power of the pop star gods of this world and can collaborate to gain a better understand what they’re observing. It’s a pause to the dynamism that comes before and after, inflected with body language and dialogue that keeps the established pace.
And then there’s that final track. That’s the one that people will be talking about. Darkness overwhelms these pages with only thin white script cutting a path through them. Laura’s journey is represented literally and metaphorically as she travels under the earth and deeper into mystery. The mood created here is palpable and the tension released mere pages before is built into a crescendo of light when the darkness is finally released. The final two pages are pure madness. The snapping and 1-2-3-4 beat created by corner panels help link it to the established world, but then the final page hits and it’s something new.
It’s ludicrous. It’s over the top. It’s perfect.
Music possesses a power that I cannot hope to capture with my words. You’ll never hear me bother to even attempt to review a concert or album. Because when music is good in a way that I don’t want to express in speech. It’s the kind of good that you want to express by moving, dancing, crying out, and banging your head. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie continually capture that feeling and passion in their comics. Together they’re making comics that make you want to move and shout.
They’re making you feel wicked and divine and it feels damn good.