Monday, 18 May 2015

Worshipping The Wicked + The Divine #10

Or a look at colour tagging characters in WicDiv #10
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles; Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine continues to be a comic with some really fascinating character design work. Every character looks like a story, with garment choices that provide a huge amount of information about their personality and role in the story. It's masterful stuff. At the same time, these elaborate character designs are also brilliantly economical, with the complexity within a recognizable motif throttled to the story demands of every issue. With WicDiv #10, it's apparent that this attention to character design even extends to the powers of the various gods, which are each recognizable and informative about the personality of their wielder. 

There will be *SPOILERS* for WicDiv #10 below

I think this panel here is what really clued me into how smart the power design of WicDiv is. Here we have Inanna flying Laura to a gigantic concert in Hyde Park in a cloud of hot pink sparkles. There is just something so... care free, so Pete Pan about this image and the manifestation of Inanna's powers here that this moment feels somehow emblematic of the god.  Which I think is an effect of the pink sparkles, which have a harmless, fun, and decidedly fae aspect to them. It makes Inanna seem safe and friendly and fun and otherworldly all at once based only on the manifestation of his powers. Which is really smart comics.

This attention to power design is also really on display in the battle between Morrigan and Baphomet. Morgan's powers manifest as a murder of crows surround by an otherwordly green light. This gives her powers a goth-as-fuck quality with the scary black birds and their elegance and ornate feathers, but also, I think, something fragile and human about her living avatars. Morrigan might be dark, but she is also vulnerable. In contrast we have Baphomet whose powers manifest as fire and flaming bird skeletons. This, I think, gives us a pretty insightful look at Baphomet: fire is destructive and passionate, useful but liable to turn on those around it, it's chaotic. Baphomet's fire is also, given how it's used to repurpose Morrigan's crows, parasitic, flames need fuel and Bpahomet is clearly willing to burn down those around him to fuel his fire. Just by examining these god's powers you get clear visually distinguishable powers which makes for a cinematic fight and a glimpse into a fight between a powerful, but vulnerable woman and a destructive pyro-vampire that makes me genuinely worry for Morrigan's ability to survive this relationship. 

My favourite power/character interaction is definitely in the portrayal of Urdr's powers in her performance. Cassandra, the woman who became the god, was a journalist deeply invested in the truth, which seems to have carried over to her new role as the goddess Urdr. And I think this is reflected in her powers. For one, her performance exists in a state of black and white, colours that exist in a strict binary and carry with them a definitive weight. Cassandra/Urdr sees the world as being built of concrete facts, that reality is a metaphorically black and white construction and this is reflected in her powers. I also *love* the way lines are incorporated into the portrayal of Urdr's powers. Urdr, a goddess of fate, is tied up with the idea of measuring a person's life or future along a yarn-like strand. Also, Cassandra the human, as a journalist is dedicated to untangling facts and finding the connections between them to weave a story, so this motif also works quite well for the pre-Urdr human as well. So this motif of strands, of literally connecting people together in a web is perfect visual symbol for the goddess and a great glimpse into the way that Cassandra/Urdr hopes to use facts to connect people to a broader truth. Which is all just really deep comics.

Also, just as an aesthetic choice, the way the shadows around Urdr are constructed of crosshatched lines, is just too clever. The attention to detail in Wicdiv is endlessly fun.

Another great example of the way powers are used to inform characters is in WicDiv #7 when Woden tempts a former Valkyrie with a return to glory only to reveal that it is an illusion and that he is a jerk. What's significant about this scene is that there is a degree of pixelation in Woden's illusion as it breaks down, which plays into his Daft Tron motif. Which makes this manifestation of Woden's power instantly recognizable as belonging to him. This way his powers are portrayed also suggests a degree of robotic-ness to Woden, that he is unemotional or at least that he lacks a certain human empathy. Given his shitty behaviour in this scene, the pixelation here gives just that little bit extra insight into the fact that Woden is really not a very nice person.

The Wicked + The Divine might be one of the best examples of how excellent design choices can really play into the portrayal of characters to make for some really efficient and evocative comics. It's great stuff.

Also, I think I've developed a theory about how WicDiv might end. I'm not going to say what it is, mostly on the very off choice that I'm right and accidentally spoil something, but I do want to kind of put it in writing that I have an idea. 

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

WicDiv #6 and possessions as character
WicDiv #7 and the power of lettering
WicDiv #8 and the disorienting layout
WicDiv #9 and the economics of design

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