Despite what people think, comic books consist of more than just superheroes. The innumerable amount of graphic novels, independent comics and offshoots of the big two publishers (DC and Marvel) proves it.
One of my personal favorite comics is the indie title “The Wicked + The Divine.” An ongoing series that started in 2014 and published by Image comics, it combines mythology, the notion of fame and a dark murder mystery into one thrilling package. With stunning art that seems to jump off the page by Jamie McKelvie and a brilliant plot with twists that never fail to shock by Kieron Gillen, this comic is a must-read.
With most of us growing up reading the “percy Jackson” series and watching Disney’s “Hercules,” the idea of a new comic inspired by mythology may seem fairly unexciting — especially if you know that “Wonder Woman” has been running for over 75 years. However, “The Wicked + The Divine” takes what you’d expect out of a mythology comic and turns it on its head.
Sure, there’s still the gods and they’re overly dramatic and petty with each other. But they’re also taken out of mythologies from all over the world. Oh, and they range in age from 12 to roughly 25, so the melodrama and petty rivalries are heightened.
The premise is that every 90 years some of the gods return to Earth, reincarnated in the bodies of humans, and once they realize their true identity they have two years to be worshipped before they die. The latest incarnation of the Pantheon is worshipped by taking on the role of pop stars, their fan bases becoming their followers and concerts their rituals.
The story follows Laura, a fangirl who befriends Luci (Lucifer) only for things to immediately go south. Luci is accused of murder and before she can profess her innocence, she is killed as well. Laura gets swept up in the infighting — and in-flirting — of the Pantheon as she tries to find Luci’s killer, who can only be another one of the gods.
Even after the original mystery is solved, the plot only continues to build and twist, with shocks that even the best at identifying foreshadowing couldn’t call. If the thrilling plot, intriguing concept and gorgeous art weren’t enough, the wide cast of characters features some of the best representation in any media.
The gods might all live in London, at least in this incarnation, but they’re all different races and sexualities. The main character, Laura, is multiracial and bisexual, seen throughout the series dating both men and women. Another main character, the skeptic reporter Cassandra, is a transwoman. The god Dionysus is openly asexual, one of two well-known ace characters in comics with the other being Jughead Jones from Archie Comics. Finally, of the 12 gods, half are people of color with major roles throughout the series.
The main series, consisting of six volumes, publishes new issues monthly and offers digital downloads. Additionally, there are three special standalone issues featuring other points in history where the gods have existed, as well as other gods who we don’t see in the regular series — not to mention the annual Christmas special that features the main cast in scenes before the series or are otherwise not part of the main action.
As someone who grew up loving mythology, I think that the twists that the authors and artists put on myths in this comic are amazing. It has just the right balance of angsty and romantic subplots mixed with a truly smart and creative story. “The Wicked + The Divine” is truly a must-read for urban fantasy lovers, whether you think you’re into comics or not.