Warning: This article contain spoilers for The Wicked + the Divine up to Issue #17.
The Wicked + the Divine is about to drop the mic.
The captivating, addictive, and diverse comic series from longtime collaborators Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matt Wilson first launched in June 2014 to critical acclaim. Nearly two years later, there’s no signs of stopping as they prepare to launch the comic’s fourth arc, which is available in comic book stores today. WicDiv, as it’s known by fans, follows 17-year-old Laura as she finds herself immersed in the world of the Pantheon and the 12 demigods who are reincarnated once every 90 years. The young adults-turned-gods have powers they never could’ve imagined and an audience that’s hooked on every beat of their music—but in return they’ll be dead in two years.
But divinity, even in its temporary form, isn’t always as glamorous as it seems—even without the swirling mystery of who’s killing the gods before their time. These gods often feel very real, whether it’s because they remind us of a particular musician or call strongly to a particular genre. (For instance, Sakhmet has shades of Rihanna in her.)
“There’s an art and a science to it, shall we say,” Gillen told the Daily Dot in an email. “Sometimes we had the idea for the god we wanted to use first, and then worked out what pop star archetype to link it to. Sometimes we had the idea for the pop star archetype to use, and then it was a case of casting the god. Sometimes—very rarely—both arrived simultaneously. Baal would be an example of the former. Inanna would be an example of the second case. Lucifer would be an example of a third.”
Lucifer’s inspiration is clear: It’s David Bowie—or specifically his Thin White Duke. Gillen has spoken about how Bowie saved his life over the years, and he’s made his mark on WicDiv from the beginning.
In the end, we went with Luci. pic.twitter.com/RLwePCcHko
— Jamie McKelvie (@McKelvie) January 11, 2016
After Bowie’s death in January, Gillen wrote a short story about a meeting between Luci and Bowie that occurred shortly after she awakened. The story, which is included in The Wicked + the Divine Book One, managed to hit close to home for many of the fans who mourned him.
“I just woke up in a world that David Bowie was dead and had to write something. I’m far from alone in that one, I know,” he explained. “I thought using Lucifer as a way to talk about my feelings towards Bowie’s would be… appropriate? I don’t know if that’s the right word. ‘Necessary’ may be better. It also started focusing attention on what Bowie actually meant, at least in terms to where I am in my life now. It seems to have lit a fire under a lot of working creatives I know. The stakes have been raised.”
Book One, which includes the first 11 issues, variant art, behind-the-scenes looks at putting a comic as colorful and detailed as WicDiv, and approximately 36,000 words of commentary from Gillen, is like a giant backstage tour for fans. Pretty much anything the creative team had went in the books, and they quickly ran out of room for material
For new fans, it’s a one-stop way to catch up before heading to the third volume, Commercial Suicide, and for older fans it’s a plethora of new information beyond the story.
Even for fans who are caught up, there is still a lot to digest. Book One ends on a cliffhanger, and that’s also the case for Commercial Suicide. But the story’s third arc brought a different experience. McKelvie and Wilson had to leave to work on Phonogram, the other Image series the trio works on, so Gillen teamed up with guest artists like Tula Lotay, Stephanie Hans, and Leila Del Duca. They were able to experiment—at one point, Gillen incorporated an actual remix issue with Wōden, whose aesthetic is reminiscent of Daft Punk—and create issues unlike anything we’ve seen before.
“When we knew Jamie was going to be away doing Phonogram, we were planning the plot to match that,” Gillen said. “Jamie and Matt were gone in the real world. Laura was gone in the story. And now, everything takes these different shapes. It becomes about the absence. So we knew the issues would center around a god, building on them, with the artist chosen to match the character of the god in question.”
Those issues brought new perspectives that are both heartbreaking and eye-opening. That absence helped make Laura/Persephone a constant presence in the story without actually showing up, while the online abuse that appeared throughout Tara’s issue—which Gillen called “brutal to write”—may have felt all too familiar for some readers.
Outside the realm of comics, fans have plenty to explore and look forward to. As a fitting addition, Gillen created a Spotify playlist that’s 300 songs (and counting) that captures the essence of those issues.
And there is still the WicDiv TV show in the works, although there haven’t been any major developments since the initial announcement last year. Gillen noted, however, that “[w]e’re highly enjoying eating free lunches though.”
They still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. The “rock ‘n’ roll and pop album arc” starts with Issue #18, which also drops today, will start to deal with the return of Persephone, who “certainly appears to be a 13th god” and how the rest of the characters handle that revelation, You don’t have to be caught up to read it: The new issue will include a character profiles and a synopsis to get everyone on the same page. A series of specials in-between arcs that will explore past Pantheons are also in the works. Though we’re clearly in the thick of the series, the creators say they already have an idea of when WicDiv will end.