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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act

From the BLURB:

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

‘The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act’ is the first volume (issues 1-5) of the popular Image Comics series, written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Jamie McKelvie.

I am so late to this series – I’ve heard people raving about it from the moment Issue #1 came out in June 2014, but it was only the recent announcement of a television series adaptation that finally jolted me to read. So now that I’ve read this first volume, I’ve become one of those frustrating people who want to talk about how great a series is … oh, twelve months after everyone else has already had the conversation. Apologies!

But, seriously, this series is amazing.

At first it was hard to wrap my head around the storyline, which is based on pop-culture mythologising. The series is told from the perspective of teenage Laura, a young woman obsessed with The Pantheon – a group of twelve people who discover that they are reincarnated deities and consequently live like supernatural rock-stars and powerful celebrity wild-childs for the two years of life they are granted.

Laura – like so many – is a real groupie of The Pantheon, who choose to wield their powers in various ways. Sun Goddess Amaterasu, for instance, plays up a hippie/boho Stevie Nicks-esque pop queen persona. Sakhmet is a spitting image of Rihanna (and if she’s not invited to play her in the TV series, I think fans will revolt) and has fun with her literal sex-kitten celebrity. Baal is a playboy with a mega-ego to rival Kanye’s, and a few others of the Pantheon like Baphomet and The Morrigan are cashing in on the mystery of their Gods and deities by spreading not-so-far-fetched rumours about their power and ire.

But Laura befriends one in particular called Luci – and does so just as shit hits the fan, and a murderer seems hell-bent on framing this Morning Star with the power of her own mind.

See why I struggled initially with the basics of this story? There’s so much going on and quite an eccentric cast of characters – and actually having the story told by Laura (who is a long time groupie of The Pantheon) is great, because she knows everything there is to know about them, and offers internal asides to the audience to keep us at once informed, and guessing.

You know what this series actually reminds me of? Those classic 90s (soooooooo 90s) TV shows – ‘Hercules: The Legendary Journeys’ and ‘Xena: Warrior Princess’. Oh my gosh – I was obsessed with those shows as a kid, and ‘The Wicked + The Divine’ has a little touch of their mythology fun, bringing famous Gods and Goddesses to hilarious life. Of course ‘The Wicked + The Divine’ does a lot more of mixing darkness with that flamboyance of god-like celebrity. I’m talking detailed illustrations of exploded-heads and deity smack-downs.

This series is also refreshingly diverse – with a multiracial cast, LGBTQ+ relationships teased and hinted at, and even a transgender character.  Yet another reason to be excited about this series coming to our TV landscape! There’s one potential coupling in particular that I found myself really rooting for (because their chemistry is a little electric) … but now that I’ve read Volume Two I can only warn you that ‘The Wicked + The Divine’ is like ‘The Walking Dead’ for stomping on fan’s hearts with who they take away. It certainly keeps things feeling thriller, when you never know who’s going to stick around from page-to-page, panel-to-panel.

This series is at once a delicious slice of jaded celebrity observation, with snarking Gods and witty back-and-forth banter, but it’s also got a lot of heart … when you think that these twelve young temporary deities only have two years of this immortal life – it’s no wonder they burn so brightly (even burning those around them) when they’re destined burn out so suddenly.


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