Written by: Kieron Gillen
Art by: Stephanie Hans
Publisher: Image Comics
The Wicked and the Divine has been one of my favorite comics coming out for about a year now, and last’s months issue ended on quite the cliffhanger. As such, this 1831 AD special is something of a double edged sword. For as much as I enjoyed it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the main cast was getting up to. Sure, this does inform the main story in some ways, but I really just want to see that particular plot progress. The same goes for the character arcs. This is an unfair comparison to draw, of course, because I’ve been invested in their story for 20+ issues and this is a mere one shot.
For as much as I wanted to see where Laura and co wound up after the last issue, I couldn’t help but love this special. I mean, did I expect to enjoy it? Of course – Kieron Gillen is a writer that has yet to disappoint me, and that’s a statement that doesn’t apply solely to this particular book. By the end of this issue, I felt invested in this pantheon of gods. I was left wanting to know more of their story, rather than just seeing the end of it.
That is a testament to how well Gillen handles the characters. Certainly, it helps that there are some expectations, considering the main characters are incarnations of familiar gods. Actually, this is one of the most important elements of the book. It means that Gillen doesn’t need to explain the characters to the reader, because, to an extent, we’ve already met them. And despite the external factors that shape the characters in this universe, the parallels are incredibly clear.
Visually, this issue is certainly very different than the rest of The Wicked and the Divine. Stephanie Hans fills the role of artist on this issue, and her work here is reflective of the book’s tone. Considering this issue takes place at the end of the cycle, it is far darker than the modern day story. While the main plot of this book certainly has an edge to it, it always carries this air of positivity as well, in part because of Jamie McKelvie’s art.
Anyways, Hans’ work feels much heavier, as if the characters are bogged down by the weight of their impending end. This has a lot to do with the shadows Hans employs. There are almost no panels in which the characters or settings don’t feel shrouded in them. It certainly creates a neat juxtaposition between this and the modern day plot. The painterly style of the art really fits the story quite well, and that’s the most important thing art can do. I would also be lying if I said I didn’t love the character designs here. Certain visual cues tip off the reader as to who the characters are, but each of them has a different enough aesthetic than their modern counterparts to remain interesting.
Plot wise, there is a lot going on in this one shot. Gillen has a way of making it all flow quite nicely, but I get the feeling that there’s more impact to be had here. Who knows, perhaps we’ll return to these characters, and even these events, in the future. But for now, for as much as I enjoyed the issue, there are elements of it that felt a bit hollow. It’s not that the ideas are bad – hell, I don’t even think there’s anything substantial wrong with the execution. But perhaps something on a smaller scale would have served this story better.
Even my complaints about this issue feel kind of minute, in all honesty. This issue is, after all, a mere glimpse into a different time period, with a different pantheon. It’s not designed to be a treatise on the characters of that era, but to give a taste of it. In doing that, The Wicked and the Divine: 1831 AD is a success. Do I wish there was more time to be spent with these characters? Yes. Do I wish there had been more time to flesh out the plot? Sure. But there’s so much else to love here that getting caught up on smaller intricacies seems like a bit of a waste.