The Wicked + The Divine Volume 6: Imperial Phase Part 2
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Colourist: Matt Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
A review by Mark Jones
Some comics make it easy to jump on board at any point. The Wicked + The Divine isn’t one of those comics. I mean, the subtitle of the latest volume ends with “Part 2”. I think it’s safe to assume this isn’t aimed at newcomers. However, this review will be spoiler-free for the whole series so if you think you might be interested you can still read on.
For the uninitiated, The Wicked + The Divine follows 12 gods who return to the modern world as young people. Their godly powers make people adore them and hate them and, in our world, that means they’re pop stars. We follow them as they attempt to come to terms with their godhood through the inevitable fan adulation, sex and death. Oh, and they’ll all be dead within 2 years of returning. Some sooner than others…
Compared to the bombast of the previous volume, Imperial Phase Part 2 starts with some quieter moments. The gods have broadly split into three approaches to their problems; attack the source directly, research everything or anarchy.
Issue 29 starts with the gods favouring direct attack or research working out how to deal with what the anarchists were up to last time. Matt Wilson’s colour work in this issue is worth highlighting. The colour work in the breakout panels is as good as ever but the subtle palette changes to signal time and setting changes are at least as important as their eye catching counterparts. The underworld scenes are full of uncomfortable, encroaching darkness without obscuring any expressions or details.
We return to the underworld for parts of the next issue which contains my favourite sequence of the whole arc. Interspersed with events happening above ground, we see Dionysus’ waiting for an audience with the three aspects of Morrigan. Each meeting uses the same panel structure to reinforce the similarities before the form is disrupted to highlight the differences. This use of form for storytelling shouldn’t be surprising. The concept is a staple of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s work together although often in new ways.
From here the arc of this volume begins to build. For spoiler-y reasons, the gods are building towards their biggest performance yet but while this is going on there is no shortage of interpersonal conflict. In earlier volumes the personas of the gods could occasionally feel like crude shorthands for individual character. Now that we’ve crossed halfway the balance between the god archetypes and the personalities of the people they were is becoming clearer.
Despite this there was one niggling doubt at the back of my mind throughout this volume. We keep being told about the fan worship of the gods but we rarely see evidence of it. Fans turn up in their droves for the performances but otherwise have little effect on the lives of the pantheon. Clearly the gods have higher priorities right now but the fans must surely be more fanatical than ever. Given Tara’s story in an earlier volume, it just feels a little too convenient for the fans to have faded into the background.
This is only a minor issue in the grand scheme of things and I’m sure you can tell by now that I really like this volume. The usual collection of variant covers and work-in-progress notes can be found at the end of the book. Jock’s cover for issue 29 and Meredith McClaren’s version of Baphomet for issue 30 are personal highlights but everyone will have their own favourites. The making of section emphasises the discussions that happen in transferring a script in to the final page. This brief glimpse provides a bit more flavour than simply showing script, pencils, inks that go into the final page but they are very brief.
Once again, we return.
So here we are, the end of my review of Imperial Phase Part 2. If you already love The Wicked + The Divine then rest assured that volume 6 contains more of the same. The characters you love (or love to hate) continue to grow and learn about each other while the twists manage to surprise without feeling cheap. The creative team maintain their high standards and the plot maintains that perfect flow of climax and release. That said, if you weren’t a fan before then there’s little new in this volume to win you over.
Buy It. If you’re already reading The Wicked + The Divine then you don’t need me to tell you to buy this. If you’re new then I would recommend at least going back to the previous volume but, honestly, you’d be better off starting at the very beginning. It’s worth it.