Monday, 5 January 2015

Worshipping The Wicked + The Divine #6

Or a look at possessions and characterization in WicDiv #6
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles; Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine is like a tour de force of finding innovative and effective ways to tell us about its characters. I've talked about how impressive and smart the character design is and I am also really intrigued by the way the god characters use allusion to myth and real life pop stars to imply character. But the thing that WicDiv #6 really cements for me is how clever the comic is in using setting and possessions as machines to further inform the audience about the characters in The Wicked + The Divine.

There will be *SPOILERS* for UP TO WicDiv #6 below.

In The Wicked + The Divine #6 we get an annotated glimpse in Laura's bedroom. We see her collection of god posters on the wall and get a sense through these decorations of how important these pop star deities are to her. But we get even more than that. We get an additional sense of how god obsessed Laura is by the fact she is drawing god fanart (P) (haha Sakhmet looks like Rihanna joke) and the fact Laura took the time to carefully rescue a beat up piece of Inanna memorabilia (K). We see that Laura is infatuated with Baal (N). We understand that maybe Laura isn't too concerned with following rules by her stolen Amaterasu poster (C). Through her small photo of friends, getting far less space than her pop idols, we see how disconnected Laura is from her previous life (G). And we see through the vacant spot on the wall how torn up Laura still is over Luci's death (B). We get a great picture into Laura's headspace just by viewing her room and belongings. It's great comics.

(The fact (L), the annotation for the hidden the magic cigarette and box is itself hidden is really clever. The fact that there is "No L" in an issue of comics that dropped in December is the kind of awful/amazing pun that I doubt is accidental. Well played Team WicDiv, well played on both accounts.)

I think it gets at a central truth about people that I don't see used very often in comics: you can learn a lot about someone by looking at their prominent decorations. Like, my living room, despite being fairly uncluttered and tidy (due to my clutter-averse spouse), still has an entire wall of bookshelves covered in my library of novels and comics. Bookshelves that have an accidentally giant canvas of a photo we took in Munich, Germany that has scaffolding all over one of the bell towers of the Faruenkirche, a sign of when we visited. There is my bachelor's degree diploma and the splatter painting from a coworkers' 27th art birthday party and a plant that started its life as garnish in a bouquet that my mother-in-law saved and gave to us. There is a handsaw that my grandfather confiscated from my dad when he destroyed a coffee table with it and later passed onto me near the tiny antique framed print of Lawren Harris' "Above Lake Superior" which belonged to my great grandmother (and which is maybe the most Canadianna thing I own). There is the cobblestone from the bricked over streetcar line that used to run by my apartment that I "acquired" when they lifted it to replace a water main. And there are a dozen other objects, souvenirs, gifts, keepsakes, and photos that tell a hundred stories about my wife and me on these bookshelves alone. I think you can learn a lot about my wife, me, and this little life we've built just by surveying an annotated photo of this wall. And I think The Wicked + The Divine #6 uses this phenomena really effectively.

And not just WicDiv #6, Team WicDiv have been doing this approach throughout the series.

Like, take this mural of Baal. While it is certainly a great riff on the intersection of religious worship and pop idolatry and a smart commentary on the ostentatiousness of certain pop-rappers, it is also really informative about Baal. This mural really showcases how confident Baal is and that he regards himself as a divine figure. It also displays that it is important to Baal that others see his status and acknowledge it. You don't have a mural of yourself painted if you weren't interested in showing off; it is the very definition of conspicuous consumption. It's also another example of a possession that provides key character information about its owner.

Another example of this is Woden. The summit of the gods in the first arch of WicDiv takes place in Valhalla, Woden's palace/fortress/sanctum/place, and from this we get a picture of Woden almost entirely defined by his belongings. We understand that he is a powerful and central figure to the pantheon as they meet in his magical, Daft-Tron location of his creation. We also learn that he has a cadre of women soldier/performers, the Valkyrie, who wear costumes that fit into his Daft-Tron motif. Significantly we see him clutch one of these women in a very possessive way, which seems to imply that he views the Valkyrie as another possession, another thing he has crafted. This suggests that maybe Woden is the kind of person who views others as things, which is a really nasty thing if its true. At the very least see that Woden lives in a world of things he owns, a world of his making where he is surrounded with beautiful women that he has some sort of seemingly problematic and unequal relationship with. Which I think tells us some unflattering things about Woden. (I mean, assuming that this impression is based on reliable information.)

What The Wicked + The Divine makes abundantly clear is that EVERYTHING in a comic can be used to teach us about the characters and story occurring within the panels. Which is the kind of great comics I'm proud to add to my own character defining possessions.

WicDiv #1 and popart head-splosions
WicDiv #2 and the use of black-space
WicDiv #3 and character design

WicDiv #4 and body language 

WicDiv#5 and facial acting

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