The Wicked + the Divine #19 Written by Kieron Gillen …
If it wasn’t obvious before, the “Commercial Suicide” arc of WicDiv is about the personal tragedies of the Pantheon members. If the first half was about misogyny, it seems like the second half is about the personal choices of women. This becomes fairly obvious in the final issue of the arc, which is about Sakhmet.
With David taking his bow and using the last of his power from Britannia, Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #5 feels like more of an ending than anything else we’ve seen from the Phonogram series. As Emily and David’s story shifts more into the “present” of 2009-2010, we see the closest they might actually get to growing up. For David, it’s learning how to be a decent human being. For Emily, it’s accepting her death. Morbid as it can be, Team Phonogram creates a story in this issue that gives the characters room to do that without sacrificing who they are at their cores. With the groundwork laid and with Emily running out of time, the finale looks to be a heart-racer and a heart-wrencher.
While it may initially appear irrelevant to the rest of the plot, Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4 may be one of Gillen, McKelvie, Cowles, and Wilson’s finest hours as a creative team. By using the tropes and tics of a popular and defining work, they manage to tell a story that both plays with the central theme of the arc and the central theme of the work referenced in astoundingly creative ways. It’s fun, electric, and even just a bit precious.
While not as explosive and bombastic as previous issues in this arc, the penultimate issue in WicDiv’s “Commercial Suicide” arc succeeds perfectly at what it sets out to be: a tragic teenage goth love story. Between Gillen’s strong and melancholy writing and Del Duca and Lopes’ dark and expressive art, the story of how Marian and Cameron became The Morrigan and Baphomet is one that feels all too real in a surreal universe. Now the question is will Baph continue to run from death or will he let it be?
At New York Comic Con, I had the opportunity to chat with prolific colorist Matthew Wilson about his colors and process on The Wicked + the Divine and Phonogram, his relationships with various artists as well as get a sneak peek of the upcoming Black Widow series he is working on with writer Mark Waid (Archie) and artist Chris Samnee (Daredevil). Wilson first came to prominence with his colors on Phonogram: Singles Club with frequent collaborators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie and has colored a variety of Marvel books, like Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Wolverine, and Secret Avengers. He recently finished a run on Daredevil with Waid and Samnee and is currently taking a break from the Eisner nominated WicDiv as guest artists draw and color this arc. Matthew Wilson is also the colorist on Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl and Paper Girls from Image Comics and Deadpool vs. Thanos from Marvel as well as the upcoming Mighty Thor and Black Widow from Marvel.
Gillen has said many times the series is about problematic people doing problematic things, and WicDiv #15 is no exception. With Amaterasu trying so hard to make her last years on Earth count for something, it makes her blind to people she could be hurting unintentionally. Well, not completely since she does listen to Cassandra when she tells her forming a giant fireball over Hiroshima is a really terrible idea. Still, with her time running out and her friends dropping off, it becomes a part of her own personal tragedy, which is what makes her in this issue so compelling.
Laura’s been our naive and unreliable narrator this whole time. She’s been our witness and audience analog since the beginning. But as of issue #11, page 22, she’s dead. Except maybe she isn’t. We aren’t the first to put forth this possibility. The germ of this article came from reviews of issue #14, “The Re-Re-Remix,” that included something like, “a new Valkyrie who may or may not be Laura.” But the evidence pointing to Persephone’s return in the form of Woden’s mysterious new companion is, in our minds, nearly incontrovertible.
This year, I will be attending my first ever New York Comic Con with a press pass from Popoptiq.com. I am very excited and a little nervous about getting the chance to rub shoulders with 150,000+ comics, sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and video game fans. (Sorry if I forgot your specific niche.) This year, New York Comic Con is really bringing their A-game as far as panels, guests, and even afterparty opportunities. This year’s guests range from Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto to the casts and writers of upcoming genre TV shows like Sword of Shannara, Ash vs. the Evil Dead, and Legends of Tomorrow and of course, a stacked comics creator lineup from living legends like Chris Claremont and Brian K. Vaughan and relatively new stars like Batgirl artist Babs Tarr and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Jughead artist Erica Henderson.
Unless you’re a big fan of 1990s British pop punk and riot grrl music, the name Kenickie is just a character of Grease to you. (Only one of their songs is available to stream on Spotify, but some of their live performances and music videos are on YouTube.) However, the band plays a major role in the first issue of Phonogram: Rue Britannia as writer Kieron Gillen (making his comics debut) and artist/letterer Jamie McKelvie use them as a feminine alternative to the masculine power of the Brit Pop music that dominated the 90s and will play a major role in the series going forward. The first issue is about David Kohl, the series’ protagonist as he goes to Ladyfest in Bristol, England to leach off the magical energies of these “pop-feminist” artists, meet with a phonomancer named Lady Vox, and most importantly to him, pick up women. He is a toxic agent in a space meant to empower, and McKelvie dresses in him in all black with a dark grey Superman sigil or “pop icon” that Kohl wears for the masculine power of the superhero with none of his morality or hopefulness.
With its witty (and wee bit pretentious) conversations about musical trends, smart design and color choices from Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, and robust character work with Emily Aster, Phonogram #1 reads like if The Smiths weren’t utter drama queens and made another album after Strangeways, Here We Come. (The Smiths are my favorite band so this is a high compliment as far as music metaphors go.)
In The Wicked + the Divine #10, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie explore the fallout of Cassandra becoming the final Pantheon member while also giving readers their first glimpse of Ragnarock, which makes Coachella look like your set at the middle school talent show. Gillen, McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson lay on the tragedy while also looking into the lighter, more wondrous side of godhood. This issue is a big turning point in Laura’s personal arc as she gets to reflect and act upon the fact that she’s left out of the Pantheon, and McKelvie does little things with her facial expressions and character acting to show her feelings towards the various gods and fans. These all happen while Gillen starts to wrap up the first arc’s murder mystery, reflect on the twisted, yet beautiful nature of fandom, and continue to show Baphomet’s turn towards the dark side.
So, The Wicked + the Divine is a very strange series. It’s not one that’s easy to review as the series often eye drops information to the reader though off hand bits of dialogue. The story so far follows a pantheon of various deities all whom reincarnate every nine decades in the form of super inspirational icons. In the 21st century, the pantheon find themselves as pop stars bearing blatant parallels to the likes of Daft Punk, Kanye West, and Prince. All of this is perceived (mostly) from the view point of Laura, a super fan whom is out to solve the framing of Lucifer for murder.
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.