You will be loved. You will be hated. And in two years you will be dead.
An accurate metaphor for the rise and fall of the current stars of popular culture, Gillen and McKelvie manage to take it to a more literal level in their cult hit The Wicked and The Divine; a tale of the Pantheon and the twelve rock and roll Gods it follows to the grave.
These twelve Gods, mortals bestowed with the power of Godhood by their ‘wrangler’ Akane, are tasked with providing the light in the fight against the darkness, instantly becoming pop culture icons. However, their gifts come with a heavy price … they only have two years to live.
As The Faust Act opens, we follow the tale of Laura, the mortal placeholder for the reader who is enthralled by all things ‘God culture’ and Lucifer, a slick rebel in a white suit. Did I also mention Lucifer is a woman?
The Wicked and The Divine isn’t about Laura earning the prestigious title of groupie to the Gods when quickly Lucifer becomes caught up in a murder trial with Laura desperately trying to prove her idols innocence.
The tragic thing about The Wicked and The Divine is how quickly you become endeared to all its main cast and supporting. With the exceptions of Laura and the snarky sceptical journalist Cassandra, the simple fact is that most of the cast will die by the end of the series.
From the slick and condescending Lucifer to the dark and brooding couple Morrigan and Baphomet, to the egotistical and Kayne inspired Baal, all these characters that you endear yourself to so quickly will be dead in two years. Everyone in this novel has a ticking time bomb over their heads which is very easy to forget when you become engrossed in the story, meaning that every death, whilst it should be expected, wounds you even deeper than it should.
Except Woden. God, I can’t wait until Woden gets his just desserts. (Now I’ve said this I’m waiting for him to get a tragic backstory to endear me to him.)
The relationship between characters is also central to the book’s success, as whilst the murder mystery plot is gripping, it is very much a book where the relationships between characters attach you to it.
One relationship, in particular, is Laura and Lucifer; the almost romantic tension between the pair that Lucifer brushes off as nothing. But as you reach the end of The Faust Act you find yourself rooting for them. You want them to succeed in this dark background of death and deception, and if anything makes it to the end of the series you want it to be them because you want to see how their relationship can evolve. You want them to win and get the happy ending you know they aren’t going to have.
McKelvie’s illustrations and Wilson’s colouring also really capture the moments so well, from the bright lights of someone’s head blowing off their shoulders to the darkness of Baphomet and Morrigan’s underground lair, lit only by an almost electric current of fire. The colours pop in a way other comics don’t explore enough and attract your attention to the panels that really matter, to the point where half of the panels in The Faust Act are images I would use for a background for my phone.
The material is also resilient, with the alternative covers from the likes of illustrator Kevin Wada and Scott Pilgrim’s Bryan Lee O’Malley showing that it can’t be conformed to one art style. Kevin Wada’s alternative cover for Issue 4 is something to definitely talk about, with the unique watercolour style standing against the more block colour of the actual book, with the image presenting Morrigan and Baphomet as what they truly are; a gothic power couple.
Overall, the book is a fantastic read and is a great place to start if you are looking for somewhere to break into comic books, but don’t fancy figuring out which issues of Batman are essential for you to understand the stories of everyone in the DC Universe. The art is fantastic, and from the get-go, you can tell your getting into a ride with so many twists and turns you’re going to feel like the lazy river just chewed you up and spat you out.
But remember, just because you’re immortal doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.