Mark Allen reviews The Wicked + The Divine #23…
NEW STORY ARC: “IMPERIAL PHASE I,” Part One Welcome to the November 2014 issue of Pantheon Monthly. Exclusive interviews with all your favorite gods. Plus! The first photographs of the Morrigan ever!
The creative team behind The Wicked + The Divine are never ones to rest on their laurels. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have tended towards genre- and format-bending in their work together, from the hyper-kinetic Young Avengers to the “remixed” WicDiv #14. Issue #23 is a comic that sees the series heading into new, unfamiliar territory…and may not actually be considered a comic at all. They’re nothing if not audacious, this lot.
The first instalment of “Imperial Phase: Part 1” takes the form of a glossy, Pantheon-centric magazine featuring interviews with various gods, accompanied by stunning high fashion “photographs” by Kevin Wada. (Series artist McKelvie contributes this issue’s cover, a couple of high street adverts featuring Persephone and Baal and a few backmatter pieces, but it’s mostly Wada’s show.) The book has a sleek, minimal design that perfectly emulates the source material, and it’s a unique pleasure trying to recalibrate your brain to this word-heavy alternate format.
Committing to the alt-universe feel of Pantheon Monthly, Gillen takes on an editorial role and assigns interviews to a host of real-world journalists, political writers and cultural commentators: Laurie Penny, Mary HK Choi, Ezekiel Kweku, Dorian Lynskey and Leigh Alexander are all credited in this issue. It’s a weird high concept that works strangely well, marrying the fashion/cool appeal of gods-as-pop-stars with the burning need for information on celebrities many of us desire, no matter how seemingly insignificant (or fictional) that might be.
Though the interviews don’t propel things forward too much in terms of plotting, we’re given a strong sense of how the Pantheon is faring after the game-changing events of last issue. New hierarchies and relationships have formed and past friendships are revealed in an issue that’s more interested in the interior lives of these all-powerful young gods who are, after all, just as human as the rest of us. And since they’ve already faced and defeated their biggest challenge yet, what could possibly go wrong?