Comic Book Review – The Wicked + The Divine: 1923 (Image Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

It has been nearly 4 years since The Wicked + The Divine started (I reviewed it way back then too!), and in that time the incredibly inventive series from Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie has seen 33 issues and a handful of one shots. This week saw the release of another of these additional stories, with The Wicked + The Divine: 1923. Gillen continues writing duties, with art by Aud Koch and lettering from Clayton Cowles.

Cover art by Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson

With the conclusion of Imperial Phase Part II, the series takes the opportunity to again visit a previous pantheon of doomed gods, this time in 1923. Steeped in post-war modernism, this crop of gods resemble try-hard artists more than the aggressively hip stars of the main series. As the gods reach their two year expiry date, they congregate on an island for a party. But the party soon turns into a murder mystery, and while some of the players in the mystery may be more obvious if you are up to date with the series, there is a complex interplay between the suspects, informed by both the era and the natures of the gods in question.

The Wicked + The Divine has always been wildly experimental in its storytelling, both in the prose and in the art. This issue is no exception, and is laid out as a multi-chaptered short story punctuated by bursts of art for the key moments. Gillen’s script is complicated, almost to the point of convolution, but with a lack of hand-holding that continues WicDev’s heady and complete plotting. The murder mystery aspect works well, and the extended prose allows the characters to be fleshed out clearly to a degree that would usually not be achieved in a one shot. And the synergy of the closing pages with the main series is frankly deeply satisfying.

Art by Aud Koch

While the bulk of the issue is prose, the art form Koch is truly stunning. Almost black and white, except for all the blood, is is expressionism in its weirdness, with a bleak loneliness that punctuates the quiet moments and heightens the small amounts of action and the larger group shots and vistas.

These one shots for The Wicked + The Divine continue to impress, and 1923 may be the strongest yet. With a strong cast of characters, links to the main series and gorgeous art (not that McKelvie’s work on the main series isn’t equally gorgeous. This is different-gorgeous), it is well worth your time and as a short story, stands alone fairly well too. Check this out at your LCS now!

Score: 8.5 Zeitgeists out of 10

Comic Review – Godzilla: Cataclysm #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

This week was expensive. Urgh. So I decided to review the first issue of the new Godzilla: Cataclysm series, written by Cullen Bunn, art from Dave Wachter and letters by Chris Mowry, published by IDW. This being the King of the Monsters 60th anniversary, and what with a fairly successful film out this year from Legendary (we reviewed it a couple of months ago, relatively spoiler free, in this episode of the Weekly Rapture podcast), it seemed worthwhile picking up, especially as I already enjoy Bunn’s writing anyway. I’ve always been particularly interested in Godzilla and kaiju films in general. They manage to be big, exciting and (on the surface) dumb while often having an intelligent underlying theme. Unfortunately, the last two outings for Godzilla on the big screen have been somewhat lacking. The 1998 film is pretty terrible, completely missing anything that made the films great (though I seem to remember really liking it at the time. I was 10. Plus that Jamiroquai track was great. You know it was. Don’t lie), and this year’s was only great for about 10 minutes total, the rest was fairly average if not dull.

Cataclysm picks up nearly twenty years after the destruction of ‘the world that was’, where human civilisation has been all but extinguished by the dozens of kaiju appearing all over the world, both through collateral damage as a part of their own fighting, or through directly being targeted by these ferocious leviathans. Humanity was brought to  the brink in this age of monsters, but then almost as soon as they turned up they disappeared again. We are shown this in the form of an old man’s dream, remembering the events that led to the world being as it is now: crumbling overgrown cities, shanty towns full of the survivors and hunter-gatherer groups heading into the city ruins for supply runs. No one has seen a kaiju for decades, to the extent that there are those that no longer believe them. It is reflected that they have been allowed to become myth and legend. Gods and devils as part of a new mythology. But this old man (I don’t think he is given a name…) knows better, because he is one of the few still around that actually remembers it all happening, and he is convinced that the monsters will return. His grandson Arata isn’t convinced, and he heads out with his friend Shiori (and a bunch of nameless other characters destined to die) into the city to look for supplies for their village. Things go sideways pretty quickly, as you would expect, and by the end of the issue we see that Arata’s grandfather was right. For whatever reason, the kaiju are coming back. And the titular character is one of them.

maxresdefault

It is early days for the story yet, and I’d like to see where it is going to go besides awesome giant monster throw downs and the potential clean up of the rest of humanity through the ancient art of stomps and nuclear breath, but this is a strong first issue. The dream/nightmare/memory sequence at the start is a nice exposition device to show us how we got to the world now. Bunn’s script is solid, with none of the dialogue seeming wasted, though the lack of names for ancillary characters basically made them red shirts in my eyes – doomed from the start. The musings about where our myths and religions come from at the start was especially interesting. The art is excellent. The bleak, ruined cityscape near the village looks chilling, with the overgrown metropolis the group walks through (complete with giant footprint they walk straight over) adding to the impending doom. The insect creatures Wachter draws look terrifying, with their dripping mandibles and sharp legs, and they are around just long enough to make the impact of something even worse killing them seem all the more scary. The best piece though is the image above, from the old man’s flashback dream at the start of the issue, with Godzilla, Anguirus, Mothra and King Ghidorah brawling in the middle of a city, and military jets pointlessly trying to have any impact on the fight.

A good start to what I hope will be an interesting story, and the art is particularly strong. I may be biased because I like this brand of fiction, but it is a bleak read that manages to be fun at the same time. Check it out at your local comic book shop, or on your digital media doohicky, before the cataclysm happens, destroying all the shops and probably the infrastructure for digital comics too.

Score: 8 Kaiju out of 10

Comic Review – The Wicked + The Divine #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I read The Wicked + The Divine #1 from Image Comics, written by Kieron Gillen and art from Jamie McKelvie, with colours by Matthew Wilson and letters from Clayton Cowles. I had seen a fair bit of promotion about this series, somehow managing to skip over what it is actually about but remaining interested in it.

The Wicked + The Divine kicks off with a cryptic prologue set in 1923, titled ‘Once Again’ – a mantra repeated a couple of times and the meaning of which becomes clearer later on, as does the random finger clicking. The time line moves on to present day London in the main story ‘1-2-3-4’ where we meet our main cast. The Wicked + The Divine centres on various young adults with apparently incredible powers. To most they appear to be a combination of rockstar and god, taking on names from a variety of different cultures including Japanese Shinto and Egyptian mythology. So far we have three women – Lucifer (or ‘Luci’), Sakhmet and Amaterasu (and Susanoo in 1923), but it is hinted that there are twelve ‘immortals’ in total. We see their world through the eyes of Laura attending one of Amaterasu’s gatherings, which is basically a concert that ends with everyone passing out (many with orgasms apparently) through sheer bliss. When Laura wakes up she meets Lucifer, who lets her come and listen while a reporter berates the group accusing them of being fakes. There is an insinuation here that this has all happened before, ‘The Recurrence’, and that they are reincarnations (or think themselves as such) of gods. Just as the reporter, Cassandra, disputes the veracity of the miracles they can perform, and why they don’t show them off if they can, masked men attempt an assassination. This ends extremely badly for the would-be assassins, and it turns out that finger clicking causes people’s heads to explode. There are consequences and complications to this, the resolution of which appears to be the direction the series will head.

The story is a difficult one to describe, as I have skillfully just displayed, but it really was interesting and unlike anything I’m reading at the moment. It has a glam-rock style and a set of characters that were intriguing. Gillen’s writing is great here, and we had the world fleshed out with background through the dialogue in a way that served the story perfectly, rather than feeling clunky and expositional. The art team really shone here too, the double page splash at the concert in particular looked gorgeous, and I don’t think I have ever seen such a vividly colourful and beautiful depiction of someone’s head exploding.

I need to pick up an issue of something I really dislike one of these weeks, because the number of new series that I am completely on board with is starting to hurt my wallet a lot. This was a really interesting read, check it out in your local comic book shop or online.

Score: 9 Finger Clicks out of 10