The Wicked + the Divine #19 Written by Kieron Gillen …
Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery #622-645 is really the closest Marvel has come to telling a long form urban fantasy story about stories like Vertigo’s Sandman , and it survived multiple art shifts and even an extended crossover with the Fear Itself event. The premise of the series is ingenious as in the aftermath of the Siege event (which involved the much maligned and overused by Brian Michael Bendis character, the Sentry, finally getting thrown into the sun by Thor.), Loki has been resurrected as a child and hopes to avoid his villainous destiny.
Like Darth Vader #16, this issue picks up on threads left over from “Vader Down”, helping make that crossover feel more like a part of the overall narrative and not just a one-off stunt. It also features Sana Starros, the character introduced as Han’s wife in the series’ second story arc, which also helps add to the impression that these issues are part of a larger whole, and not just a series of self-contained stories.
Continuing the “Vader Down” crossover, Darth Vader #14 continues the incremental pacing, but does manage to widen the scope of the story as the end draws near. Picking up where the previous highly entertaining chapter left off, with Luke rescued from Vader’s associates by Han, Chewbacca and Artoo while Leia finds herself face-to-face, alone, with Darth Vader, this issue manages to resolve the Leia cliffhanger in a mostly satisfying way, using that widening of the narrative to both resolve the immediate cliffhanger and provide an interesting look at Leia’s character.
Marvel’s Star Wars comic, featuring the continuing adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, etc. in the time following A New Hope and before The Empire Strikes Back, is clearly positioned as the flagship series of the company’s line of Star Wars ongoing, limited and one shot series. Yet for all the top-notch artists that have worked on the series and exciting moments that have unfolded in its pages, it has consistently played second fiddle in terms of pure quality to its sister series, Darth Vader. Comic books starring super-villains are routinely difficult to pull off, but in the fourteen issues released in 2015, Darth Vader has stood head and shoulders above the rest of the line. Here, then, are five reasons it is the best of Marvel’s Star Wars books.
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.
Star Wars Annual #1 takes the latter approach, showcasing the fight against the Empire in a completely different way, sidelining all of the regular characters (except Leia, who only appears via holographic communication) and plotlines but keeping with the overall tone of the series. The end result is a fun, somewhat slight, story that deepens the Star Wars comic book universe.
The second chapter of the “Vader Down” crossover between Marvel’s Darth Vader and Star Wars books, this issue makes it clear that this is going to be a narrowly-focused story – that is, chiefly concerned with one specific narrative rather than a story spanning multiple threads across multiple books. That said, regular series creators Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca turn in an exciting second chapter of the story, one which moves the overall narrative forward (however incrementally) but also puts the spotlight on the book’s regular supporting cast.
Even if Mike Deodato’s art doesn’t fit the space battle portion of the comic, Vader Down #1 is an explosive start to Marvel’s first Star Wars crossover and will give Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen the once in a lifetime opportunity to show what Darth Vader would do once the chips are down. It’s best read while playing “Imperial March” on an endless loop.
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.