It was a beautiful day back in February of 2012. No, nothing to do with Valentine’s though it did have a lot to do with love. A teaser was released by Image Comics containing three simple words in a green digital style font: ONE MORE TIME. Below it, GILLEN / MCKELVIE / WILSON 2012. They were going to do it (!!!), Kieron, Jamie and Matt were going to release a third volume of Phonogram. I could barely contain my excitement as Phonogram is unabashedly my favourite comic series, always the one I recommend for people who claim not to like comics (read: superheroes). I told everyone I possibly could about it (number of people who cared: Zero) and waited. Then waited some more. The trio were busy with work at Marvel – you have to pay the bills – and ended up putting out the fantastic Young Avengers series. This is excusable. In January of this year, there was a new announcement from Image: Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson are doing
Phonogram Volume 3 The Wicked + The Divine. Wait, what? Dork Shelf’s own Elena Lowe couldn’t even express my disappointment in .gif form. I couldn’t swear it off and checked out the first issue – always interested in checking out the single for a new album – and it was everything I could have wanted except the title wasn’t Phonogram. The Wicked + The Divine has it’s own vibe which is oh so groove-able.
Every 90 years, twelve gods are reincarnated. With gods typically being egotistical beings, they of course decide to be Pop Stars. In a new approach to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents style of story, they will all be dead within two years. This puts being immortal in a new perspective. The story follows Laura, a regular girl living a regular life in South London. With parents who don’t give her the push back her teenage angst requires, she does what any common person would do to escape their mundane life – dance, drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do. She becomes obsessed with these self-proclaimed gods, checking out all the shows, getting into the scene. After passing out in a state of bliss during an Amaterasu gig, she awakens to find Luci, an androgynous reincarnation of Satan with an apparent flair for David Bowie. Luci sees something special in Laura – or perhaps just wants to sleep with her – and invites her backstage to meet a few of the other gods. There we meet journalist Cassandra, who is cynically investigating these so-called gods. During the interview, there is an assassination attempt on the gods which Luci deals with using nothing more than a snap of her fingers. At the subsequent trial, something bizarre happens which neither the mortals nor the gods can explain. Laura and Cassandra team up to get to the bottom it all as everyone’s not-so-normal world begins to spin out of control.
I am a tad biased when it comes to McKelvie’s art – he is a personal favourite of mine. Here in The Wicked + The Divine, he is on his game and is just as enjoyable as when I first discovered him back in the first volume of Phonogram years ago. Not much has changed in his style over the years, but there is not a thing wrong with that. His minimalistic style, along with the way he sets up a panel, are perfectly matched with the Gillen scripts. This comes from working with the same person for years. His designs are inspired, borrowing from pop culture to bring the characters their own distinct personality. There are such subtle additions to panels that are nice nods to people in the know, such as the way Luci holds her cigarettes like David Bowie, or a Justine Frischmann style sneer. If you look hard enough, you will pick up on all his influence throughout the book and see exactly how brilliant McKelvie is.
Though I much prefer McKelvie’s art in black and white, Matt Wilson’s colours are the perfect accompaniment to the art. The palette he uses is rather primary, which works so well with McKelvie’s clean art style. Though it’s not just a matter of putting colour on the page as Wilson takes special care in accentuating the feel and flow of a scene, and adds the right amount of pizazz to a page when it calls for it. We have seen his work with McKelvie on the second volume of Phonogram, as well as in Young Avengers, and I really cannot imagine anyone else doing McKelvie’s pencils justice in the same capacity.
Two of my favourite things in the world are music and comics. It is fortunate that this also seems to be Gillen’s passions too. He infuses a visual medium like comics with music in that the flow of the story has its own soundtrack: though you cannot hear it, you can feel it. Although he uses gods I am personally not knowledgeable about, Gillen writes them in a way that you get what they are about, and if you’d like to, go on and give it a Wiki if you want more. Not to be outdone by McKelvie, the script is sprinkled with lifted lyrics from songs, some obvious, some requiring a bit of research, but they are there. Littering his work with pop culture references is when Gillen is at his best, because he does so as a nod to things he loves without being too heavy-handed or elitist about it all. It’s a pitch perfect style for everything that he writes and I wish him never to stop.
If my favourite band, The Manic Street Preachers, continued to put out albums like they did in the early 90s, they would still have that heavy Guns N’ Roses type sound mixed with Marxist lyrics, and would never have produced what they did later in their careers, which is toned down, but still impactful as they grow as artists. It’s different, but that does not make it any less awesome (though I still much prefer the Ritchie Edwards era). Sure, McKelvie, Gillen and Wilson could keep putting out Phonogram forever and I would still buy it, but now that we have The Wicked + The Divine, I have two things to continually look forward to.
The Wicked + The Divine: Volume 1 – The Faust Act is available in all reputable comic shops on November 12th (collecting issues 1 – 5), with the next single, Issue #6, dropping on December 17th, beginning the new arc, FANDEMONIUM.
You can find me on the Tweetie @ThisIsMyTruth and tell me what you think about Phonogram, Wic/Div or what your favourite Manics song is – “Yes” from The Holy Bible, 1994.