The Wicked + The Divine #7 is technically the second issue of the second arc. That’s a functional description determined by a (highly successful) marketing strategy though. In truth, The Wicked + The Divine #7 is the beginning of the second act in the series. This is what comes after Laura has made a significant and story-altering decision in #6, and it begins the series in earnest. Although there are still some introductions left to be made (a notable one is revealed at the conclusion of #7), the central cast and premise of the series have been largely revealed. The Wicked + The Divine #7 is a turning point because it is the first issue where Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are telling a story that is not clearly part of a beginning.
This is also the issue where it becomes clear that the series has real legs. After meeting most of the gods and having the rules of this of this world explained, Gillen and McKelvie begin to work with all of these elements in tandem. It is a joy to watch them jive together in a bright, pop culture inspired world with enormous personalities that light up each page metaphorically and literally. This is what the series will look and read like as it progresses, and it will clearly be an enjoyable experience.
That isn’t to say that there is no sense of experimentation or play left. Gillen and McKelvie are a pair of collaborators that never let an opportunity slide when creating comics as shown in Phonogram and Young Avengers. Each issue is a new opportunity and the art team finds several in The Wicked + The Divine #7.
The issue takes place at a fan expo called Fantheon, and McKelvie details the event with a spread of the expo map. It is color coded, labeled, and even includes handwritten notes from Laura. Most comics conventions don’t provide maps that are this well produced. It feels like something real and simultaneously characterizes Laura and the culture surrounding these pop star gods.
The appearance of the fans at Fantheon provides an interesting commentary on Laura’s experience as well. The masses at panels and wandering the halls first appear to be rushed, before a three-panel sequence reveals their appearance to be purposeful. Fans appear as outlines of human beings with faces and bodies visible, but little discernible detail. Colorist Matthew Wilson provides the barest sense of shading in texture, patterning all of the fans in a spectrum of grays. They appear alien and that is the point. There is a barrier that separate the gods and those that know them from the fans (or fanatics) who have come to worship them. Once this barrier becomes clear, it adds an additional layer of commentary to the proceedings of the issue.
McKelvie also plays upon a similar trick from The Wicked + The Divine #2 in how he depicts a descent into the underground of this world with large swaths of black and the removal of gutters from the page. It’s a reminder of where Laura is heading and provides a nice moment of symmetry between the second issues of the first two arcs. Clayton Cowles lettering is key to the page’s effectiveness. It guides the eye back and forth, highlighting McKelvie’s progression along the page and defying the instinct to always read left-to-right.
The second act of The Wicked + The Divine begins here and it shows that the series has significant staying power. Reading about these characters interacting is every bit as fascinating as watching them be revealed. This is not just an interesting premise, but a story with real depth. The Wicked + The Divine #7 reads like a middle chapter without a clear arc of its own, but the experience is every bit as exciting as the very first issue. These gods may only live two years, but we can all hope that Gillen and McKelvie keep delivering issues for a long time to come.