The Wicked + the Divine #7 concluded with a Day-Glo full page splash of the newest god to join the Pantheon: Dionysus, everyone’s favorite deity dedicated to wine, merry-making, and with a dark side. (His followers literally ripped the best human singer to pieces.) Dionysus takes center stage in WicDiv #8, which is the first issue to take place almost entirely at one of the Pantheon’s “gigs”. With his mythological background in the chthonic (“underground”) rituals of Asia Minor and then becoming a subsequent part of the Olympians, Dionysus is the bridge for the “sky” gods, like Baal, Amaterasu, and Inanna and the underground gods Morrigan and Baphomet. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie write and draw this issue as one big party while adding some insights into each deity and Laura too. They closely work with colorist Matthew Wilson, or this issue’s true MVP, to make WicDiv #8 the most acid-dropping, bass popping closest thing a digital or physical comic has gotten to one of those illegal warehouse raves.
Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson truly get on the turntables for the stylish, yet structured WicDiv #8. The double issue format allows them to make the comic look and feel like the flashing lights of a rave or an EDM gig while also letting Laura interact with almost every major character who has shown up in the series so far. It’s a bit like Phonogram Singles Club with the action being centered around one big event with different characters giving their version of the events of the story so far while providing answers/more questions to the mystery plot.
However, Matthew Wilson truly does something unparalleled with his colors as they shift from his clear, textured main style with some dark frosting around the edges (to show the underground location of Dionysus’ dwelling) to the metamorphosis of palettes throughout the issue. Wilson mixes colors in a way that both please and assault the eyes depending on which character is being featured. He isn’t afraid to use the full electromagnetic spectrum either. McKelvie also continues to use thinner lines to depict happy ravers, who bliss out and play no role in the story, like he did for the con-goers in WicDiv #7. However, he occasionally does the same for the gods and even Laura.WicDiv #8 is worth picking up to see how McKelvie and Wilson play with layouts, figures, and colors.
Along with all its artistic experimentation and general hedonism, WicDiv #8 looks at a wide smorgasbord of character relationships ranging from the frenemy-ship of Cassandra and Laura to Woden’s reaction to last issue and even a little info about Laura’s parents. And there are even bigger twists or reveals beneath the flashing lights and four on the floor beat style panels. However, thanks to its kind, yet hard partying host, WicDiv #8 has a happier tone than previous issues and a frenetic energy enhanced again by Wilson’s colors. Characters’ dialogue is cut out by the “loudness” of the music, which gives the effect of a club where no one really hears what other people are saying. However, important things happen to be said, and Gillen brings out his usual bag of wit, puns, and pop/high culture references.
(If you haven’t read Gillen and McKelvie’s Phonogram, you won’t get this reference.) Kid with Knife would love this comic. From about the third page, WicDiv #8 feels like one of those big EDM shows in Florida or New York with the misogynistic DJs and obnoxious dudebros replaced with equally as problematic (but much more stylish) pop star gods and their biggest fan and critic. Even if some bits feel like the inevitable post-rave hangover, WicDiv #8 is a demonstration of how music and being active can uplift people and make them less morose for at least one night. For at least one issue, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson (with Clayton Cowles’ letters giving Dionysus an even more otherworldly quality like a member of the Endless from Sandman) let these characters have a good time before they’re faced with the consequences of their powers and choices. Finally, on a personal note, WicDiv #8 reminds me of the time in Bath when I had like 9 beers on pound a pint night and was grinding with a couple hot British bi dudes.