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The Wicked + The Divine

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Eight + Nine

These last two volumes bring this series to a close! Read on to find out if I found the entire run wicked or divine!

Volume Eight: Old Is The New New

This volume proved to be very atypical…it doesn’t continue with the big reveals from the previous volume…instead it is an interlude of historical specials that had been released at different times during the five year run of the series.

455 AD- You think you know how Rome fell to the German Vandals? Think again! Artist André Araújo drew great historical backgrounds but was not as precise with his humans.  Color by Dee Cunniffe and Matthew Wilson.

1373 AD- Lucifer and Ananke have a battle of wits, as Ananke reveals she has brought the plague to Europe and beyond which resulted in the Black Death. There are religious overtones to this story as Lucifer is a mix of demon and nun. Art by Ryan Kelly and colors by Dee Cunniffe and Matthew Wilson.

1831 AD- Love this one- it features the Gods as Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelly and Claire Claremont during their famous retreat in Geneva in which the novel Frankenstein (for a beautiful retelling of the real Mary Shelly’s life read Mary’s Monster) was started. The art by Stephanie Hans was dark, lovely and appropriately Gothic looking.

1923 AD- This story read more like an Agatha Christie novella for it was very text-heavy with limited illustrations. Previous visits to the past cycles were but vignettes, but this story was very fleshed out and had direct connections to the modern-day cycle. By the time you read this story, you can catch Ananke’s manipulations that will crop up again. The Art Deco type illustrations by Aud Koch were outstanding and really added to the story.

We then have the uneven Christmas Special that included some vignettes of the Gods before they were chosen and some afterward- let’s just say there was a lot of sexy time. Then there are the Funnies- that included other artists making fun of the series with the Scooby-Doo parody being my favorite.

Volume Nine: Okay

This is it! Can Gillen and McKelvie bring this series to a satisfying close? Since Volume Eight was basically an interlude (although two of the previous historical stories will tie-in to this one), we basically are picking up from Volume Seven’s action.

Woden, Minerva and Baal are planning a concert to suck the energy of the Gods and concert-goers to supposedly prevent The Great Darkness, although Baal is but an unknowing pawn in the first two’s evil plan. Sadly, Baal’s justification for this mass-murder is due to Ananke’s previous manipulations of him.

Persephone has clued into Ananke’s manipulations and who she is masquerading as. She rallies the remaining Gods to stop the concert…but things don’t go as planned (of course). There are some more reveals, some deaths, some rebirths and a lot of fighting and chaos that occurs as the remaining Gods group together for the final showdown. As I don’t want to spoil the ending or let on who survives and who doesn’t, all I can say the final confrontation is epic. Many puzzle pieces are finally joined together, with connections to the past, but ultimately it is our advanced, modern technological world that finally thwarts Ananke. An epilogue ends the series on a somber note, and its slower pace lets you reflect on the nature of how we perceive others and how we let other’s perceptions of us color ourselves. As Laura, formally Persephone, wisely states, “Dreams aren’t real”.

The art in this series was absolutely divine. For a huge cast of characters, each God was inked with attention to detail and was so incredibly distinctive. The colors added maximum visual impact -with certain hues matching each God’s personality. There were unique panel configurations and the story always flowed. McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles have a partnership that rivals any other artist teams out there, for their style, colors and lettering can’t be beat.

This contemporary fantasy skewered celebrity obsession and media culture in a truly thought-provoking way…and yet, it was so damn confusing at times! There were several times I almost gave up on this nine-volume series, yet I persevered because the unique narrative and outstanding art kept pulling me back in. Ultimately, this series proved to be more divine than wicked, and I’m glad I finished it.

-Nancy

Catch up on the previous volumes:  One, Two + Three, Four + Five and Six + Seven 

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Six + Seven

This series has been both fascinating and completely exasperating. It’s been a LONG time since I read volumes one-five but once I heard the volume nine would wrap up the series, I figured I might as well finish it, as I was already halfway in. Is that a ringing endorsement or what?

Volume Six: Imperial Phase Part 2

An opening page gives you a quick summary and a who is who of all the Pantheon, as Gods cycle through the ages in a perplexing manner every ninety years. Some of the Gods are trying to understand the bigger picture around them, and are making alliances with their surviving brethren, while others give themselves to anarchy and extreme hedonism.

The storyline about Gods Morrigan and Baphomet, the underworld couple with an unhealthy dynamic broke my heart.   Morrigan, previously as a human and now as a God, excused Baphomet’s behavior in the name of love, but now has become abusive and controlling of him. These two can’t escape from another and bound together in agony. Persephone, aka The Destroyer, continues to be a confusing and complex character as she seems to want to fight for good yet gives into temptation over and over again. Several Gods are murdered, and while I won’t spoil who dies, I was glad to see that the God that I absolutely hated, die. A twist with Woden ties in with Ananke, as the concluding pages shows that Ananke (who we all thought was dead) is an even better manipulator than anyone guessed.

As always, the art is beautiful with swirling vivid colors by Matthew Wilson. Artist McKelvie managed to fit in his numbered panels again. Some interesting variant art covers by guest artists are featured in addition to some behind the scenes storyboards which shows how the story and art are carefully choreographed.

Picture from Gizmodo article that includes an interview with Gillen and McKelvie

Volume Seven: Mothering Invention

What the hell is going on? I’m beyond confused! Basically what it comes down to is that two sisters duel it out over the ages- and who are the two sisters? Why it’s Ananke and Persephone!

The dates have always been confusing to me, especially with my big gap between reading volumes, but now we have non-linear flashbacks dating back thousands of years to when this mess of 90-year cycle of Gods began.  I was fascinated with the pages that showed Ananke every 90 years in different parts of the world when she is shown hugging a God, destroying a God or being killed herself. While I had no clue what was going on, I loved looking at the panels, for the clothing of people through the ages in their region of the world was fascinating (but what was up with the clothing in 1738 North America?). I applaud the artists for all the research they did to reflect all the different cultures beautifully.

There was a heartbreaking conclusion to Morrigan and Baphomet’s relationship with absolutely outstanding visuals during their fight, and my favorite God Baal had a fall from grace that came out of nowhere.  The remaining Gods, who are pop-culture saturated enigmas, are in chaos as this story starts it’s wind-down.

I hope to get to volumes eight + nine soon and put a bow on this unique series!

-Nancy

Catch up on previous volumes: One, Two + Three, Four + Five

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Four + Five

The Wicked + The Divine has been a challenge for me to read for the series seems to have a fantastic idea, but an incomplete follow through. I was intrigued enough after Volume One to read Volumes Two + Three, but then I took a big break. A recent review by the site Catchy Title Goes Here put it back on my radar and I picked up the next two volumes to see what happened next.

Volume Four: Rising Action

Volume three utilized a gimmick of using other artists besides Jamie McKelvie to give their interpretations on the Gods, and I was very unhappy with it, as McKelvie’s art has been the one constant pulling me back into the often confusing story. Luckily the beautifully colored and vivid imagery is back in this volume.

An opening character list with a brief synopsis was very much appreciated, as not only is there a big cast but it has been months since I last read volume three. The Pantheon has always consisted of twelve Gods so Laura’s ascension to Persephone, the thirteenth God, has altered the status quo. Ananke, the God’s keeper, is thrown off kilter and struggles with what to do next. Woden assists her evil manipulations, and ties for the worst God along with self-indulgent Sakhmet. I’m confused as to what Ananke wants to do with Woden’s machine, and Persephone’s action at the end will be sure to throw everything into chaos.

 

Volume Five: Imperial Phase Part 1

This volume opens with mock magazine articles about a few of the Gods with The Morrigan,  Baal, Woden, deceased Lucifer, and Amaterasu getting shout-outs. Then the creators have a bit of fun with featuring IRL artists and writers in this fake magazine.

There is FINALLY way more character development with all the remaining Gods moving in and out of each others lives, and Baal stepping up to be a father figure to Minerva. Alliances are formed and then broken, as they prepare for “The Great Darkness” while their former mentor Ananke’s motives are still extremely suspect. Some of the Gods are trying to understand the bigger picture around them, while others give themselves to anarchy and extreme hedonism. The ending remains anyone’s guess. I’m still terribly confused as to what is going on, but I will be picking up Volume Six that just came out last week next time I make a graphic novel run.

As a coincidence, as I was driving home last night, I was listening to Muse when the song Undisclosed Desires played and I heard the lyrics “You trick your lovers, that you’re wicked and divine, you may be a sinner, but your innocence is mine”.  Has this favored song of mine, unconsciously influenced my decision to keep on with this series???

-Nancy

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Two + Three

The first volume of The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act, was an intriguing book with fantastic art but a confusing story. It captured my interest enough to give the next two volumes a go, although I was apprehensive.  It turns out for good reason.

Volume 2: Fandemonium

In the first volume, we met eight of the twelve gods, while two are referred to but not seen, and the other two are mysteries. In this volume Laura meets two more known gods, Inanna and Dionysus, and again she is privy to the behind the scenes chaos of the Pantheon as she still tries to investigate Lucifer’s death. The reporter from the first volume, and two of her camera crew, are transformed into the Three Norns, completing the empty spot in the circle of the Gods. This devastates Laura who had hoped that she would be the last chosen.

We learn a bit more about the 90 year cycle of recurrence from Ananke, the God’s ancient guide. A tiny bit of backstory is given to explain why the Gods cycle through the ages, but in truth, it was more perplexing than enlightening. And we also learn that she is the not the benevolent leader she wants everyone to believe she is.

Artist McKelvie is obviously a fan of maps and charts, along with numbered sequences. His 1,2,3,4’s got a bit overused. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see them.

The volume certainly ended with a bang…

 

Volume 3: Commercial Suicide

This volume gives guest illustrators a chance to interpret the Gods. I was not a fan of this, as one of the only reasons I have stuck with this series is because I love the art. Although Gillen was still penning all the stories, some didn’t coalesce for me.

One story stood out, and it was basically a stand alone. We finally meet Tara, the most beautiful of all the Gods, and her story is a perfect example of all that is wrong with social media.  People love to build up and then tear down people who don’t fit their preconceived notions of what that should be, and this scrutiny tore at Tara, as she already had issues of this sort when she was still a human. I wish there was more to Tara’s story- as it was one of the best chapters in the story thus far, and I feel the abrupt ending was not justified. This story was Issue #13 when released in comics, and was illustrated by Tula Lotay, an amazing artist.

We also get back stories on Gods Morrigan and Baphomet, the underworld couple with an unhealthy dynamic. It broke my heart to see how Morrigan, both as a human and a God, excused Baphomet’s behavior in the name of love. I have been blessed to have a stable no-drama relationship, so I just don’t get women who let their significant other abuse them emotionally. Baphomet was undeserving of all the second chances he was given.

The other stories didn’t push the narrative far, with some Gods getting a lion’s share of the attention, while others remain an enigma.

So three volumes in, and I am still on the fence about the series. My library owned the first volume, and I recently ordered the next four. That leaves volume four and five taunting me. Should I read them? (Months later, I did! Volume 4 +5)

-Nancy

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act

“Every ninety years twelve Gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.”

The book begins in London, with fan girl Laura attending a music concert of Amaterasu, one of the young Gods, and while there befriends Lucifer, another of the Gods. Lucifer seems to randomly pick Laura, and now Laura is privy to some of the secrets of the Pantheon. We meet several more of the Gods, who are pop-culture saturated enigmas. A murder occurs, but who did it and why? Laura is on the case, along with a reporter, trying to understand more about this generation’s newest Gods and the miracles and power that they wield.

I read a previous Marvel book from the same author/illustrator duo of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Young Avengers: Style>Substance, and liked many of the fresh illustrations but thought the title was apropos. This book too seems to have a fantastic idea, but an incomplete follow through. I needed a cheat sheet to keep track of who was who, and wish I had discovered the following graphic sooner. The world building was sketchy and character back stories were non-existent. There is the briefest mention that the Gods were originally regular teens, before the deities merged  with them, and this new fame and the knowledge they will be dead in two years corrupts many of them.

Thus, this first volume makes a huge gamble- it doesn’t give you all the information you need about who all the characters are- it deliberately leaves you in the dark on four of the twelve Gods. Will this confuse and piss you off or will you be intrigued and want to read further into the series to put it all together? In my case, it was both. My initial feeling was frustration and wondering why this book had good buzz. But a fantastic college student at my library (MD!) told me the second volume gets much better. The vivid and beautiful art work plus the promising premise of the story are worth the gamble and I have the next few volumes on hold. So…my final decision on whether the series is wicked or divine has not been made yet.

-Nancy

I pushed on and read Volumes 2 + 3! Then I read Volumes 4+ 5!

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