Review: The Wicked + The Divine #3

The third issue of The Wicked + The Divine marks the issue where I’m willing to start calling it a beautiful, frustrating exercise instead of a comic that is fun to read. In this issue, we pick up with Baphomet and the gang in the sewer with a fake Morrigan head that he uses to spout nonsensical things about how great he is. Eventually Badb, who looks like a redheaded version of the Morrigan, but is not the Morrigan, pops up and talks about her cavernous vagina (not making that up), and then the Morrigan herself shows up. There’s some tomfoolery, our protagonist (is she though?) gets grounded, and then she still ends up visiting the world’s most aggressive journalist. Things remain unresolved and thoroughly confusing.

McKelvie and Wilson’s art, again, is worth the price of admission on this book. They render each god as a consummate bad motherfucker, and they are the champions in the industry at conveying gesture and emotion through facial expression. The entire sewer sequence is a shining example of a team at the height of their abilities, and the second half of the issue shows them making compelling comics out of two women sitting in different rooms not talking to each other. Know that the positive score I’m giving this issue is all for you guys, McKelvie and Wilson.

Wicked+Divine03_CoverAI get that its early days for WicDiv. I don’t want to pass judgment on a series that’s only three issues old, especially when I find the core conceit of reincarnated popstar gods so fascinating. Plus, any comic book that can send me to Wikipedia to find out what something is usually gets my attention; god knows I loved looking up obscure gods and concepts from Sandman, and I wasn’t displeased that I got to peruse the Wiki page for the Morrigan and Badb (who is apparently her sister, and they are both war gods, in case you were wondering). My issue is that Gillen is working on a strict structure that doesn’t make a whole lot of dramatic sense. This issue in particular is super front-loaded with lots of action and cryptic god-dialogue and insults. Our main character Laura is lost at sea in the face of these reincarnated poseurs, and it translates that displacement to us, the reader. What it doesn’t do is really tell us anything after the work of parsing it out is through. We just get an intermission of sorts and then a long scene of Laura and the journalist naming off gods who could have framed Lucifer.

What frustrates me to no end with Gillen’s comic book writing is what makes him an excellent reviewer of pop culture. He latches on to an idea and he dissects it into its component parts; he takes those parts and he dissects those; then, at the end of it all, he ties it together so that you realize how something incredibly specific becomes universal. I’m just not sure that it really works in his comics. In The Singles Club, he was intentionally working with discrete blocks of personal interactions and putting them together in a mosaic that told the story of everyone in this club, where this club is a perfect metaphor for the planet. With books like The Wicked + The Divine, he tries to follow one character but gets so scattered trying to talk about all the characters that there’s nowhere to place focus. Such is life in this version of northern England, full of gods and lowly mortals.

I’m going to keep reading this book. I want to see what the full pantheon Gillen and McKelvie are going to reveal looks like, and I want to see where it’s going. And since it’s an Image book, I can assume they’ll wrap things up to some extent in the next two or three issues for the trade. But I’m really hoping it manages to buckle down and focus, rather than trying to Twin Peaks its way out of answering its own central question.

Score: 3/5

Writer: Kieron Gillen Artist: Jamie McKelvie Colorist: Matthew Wilson Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 8/20/14 Format: Print/Digtial