I tried to pick something other than The Wicked + The Divine as my favourite comic of the year. I was well aware that I’ve written enough about it over the past six months to last a lifetime, and that another thousand words on my love for it was probably the last thing the internet needed. But then, I’ve written all that for a reason. y’know?
So, a solution.
I’ll be getting TWATD again with Tim in the New Year, but for now we’ve initiated another member into our mini-pantheon, and asked friend of the blog Reece Lipman to tell us why The Wicked + The Divine was his favourite comic of the year, too.
The Wicked and the Cinematic
When Alex asked me to write something about The Wicked + The Divine, I didn’t really know where to start. In all honesty, I was a little bit nervous writing alongside people who know a heck of a lot more about comics and music than I ever could. [Pretty sure he’s confused me and Tim with someone else here – Self-deprecation ed] I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big ol’ comics nerd and I’m not adverse to dancing till 6am (I sit here writing this in a Spider-Man t-shirt belting out Blank Space as loud as my neighbors will allow) but I didn’t really know where to start.
Looking back over The Wicked + The Divine again though, something immediately struck me. There was something that I could talk about. Something that, as a filmmaker, I know quite a lot about. Cinema.
The skill of creating cinematic images isn’t one I often see in comic books. The artwork may be beautiful and I may spend hours pouring over the details but I don’t view a lot of comics books with the same eye I would view a film. I’m always reading the book, but I’m very rarely transported there.
That’s a good thing, of course. The two have cross-over points but they are inherently different, as they should be – most of the time. Yet occasionally the image in a comic can feel like it is moving, jumping out of the frame and making a break for the real world. It can become truly ‘cinematic’, that elusive mix of the real and the magical. An image which can both feel familiar and completely and utterly extraordinary.
The Wicked + The Divine is one of the few comics I’ve read this year that has achieved just that crossover.
Take the first couple of pages of issue #1. The striking full page image of a skull on the table adds mystery and intrigue like the very best of cinema. A few pages later, the browns, the greys, the blues of South London; we’re back in the real world, in utter normality. Six panels per page, nothing extraordinary. Life is just carrying on. Then, the sudden full-page burst of colour and light you’re hit with the moment Laura enters the concert.
You can hear the music. The light radiates from the page. There’s no doubt you’re in the presence of a god before anyone even properly mentions the Pantheon. In every image McKelvie and Wilson manage to imbue the page with motion, light, sound; everything you’d hope for in a cinematic experience.
The beginnings of this can be seen back in the last issue of Phonogram: The Singles Club. Kid-With-Knife’s trancelike state, driving him from fights to dancing to “bedroom dancing” is told wordlessly, but nonetheless we can hear every beat, every rhythm, every gasp. The interplay of light and colour are what drives the issue, and The Wicked + The Divine takes this to the next level, imbuing the story with more urgency and magic than anything I’ve read in a long time.
Any article about the cinematic nature of The Wicked + The Divine, though, would be empty without a nod to Lucy and the climactic fight of the first volume. I know this has been written about before on this blog but the sudden shift in tone, from random acts of violence to almost full-on war is something special. Baal’s entry to the fight bursts, quite literally, out of the confines of the comic. Debris is spread across panels, with no respect for the boundaries of the page. The image takes on a 3D quality throughout the fight, hitting the sort of Marvel-style climax that you can fully imagine seeing in a darkened room on with 7.1 surround.
For me at least, that’s what I love about comics and that’s what has made The Wicked + The Divine one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in years. The relationship between story and image is perfect. There is no spare frame, there’s no wasted space. When it’s needed, even the barrier between the panels is destroyed.
I can hear the music. I can feel every beat, every synth. It’s pure cinema captured on a page. I’m no longer reading it, I’m watching it.
As you can probably tell from the above, Reece Lipman makes films. Like, day in day out, for money. He’s single-handedly (not single-handedly) responsible for interviewing 1,000 Londoners, teasing out some of the subcultures of this weird city.
His ice bucket challenge video was the work of a dangerous mind left alone in a hotel room, but it was also a great homage to Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.