I’ve attended more comic conventions and marts as an ordinary punter rather than a dealer or publisher in the last three months than I have for the last 35 years.The latest is the Glasgow Comic Con (GCC) which is a well established con having started in 2011 and seemingly growing every year.
I’ve discussed often on this blog the state of British conventions and how they split into two; the San Diego multimedia type and the one where comics are still the primary focus. GCC falls firmly in the latter type which is good as the former comes with issues which I’m not going to spend too much time on but the main one is that there doesn’t seem to be much love for the comics medium itself at these shows. This cannot be said of GCC where creators ranging from small press to established creators rub shoulders, and they do rub shoulders as the venue (Royal Concert Hall) is simply impractical as the convention has simply outgrown it.
Take the dealers room. Not a huge selection of dealers but getting through the aisles was a chore, especially if you’re disabled as I am or if you’re in a wheelchair. Now this wasn’t anything as bad as the Bristol Comics Expo in 2014 which was frankly, fucking recklessly planned on part of the organisers but put it like this; I had more people bump into me nearly knocking me over in a day than I did during the week I was at Glastonbury. Now I don’t know if they can find a hotel, and I don’t know what the place is like since the refurbishment, but the Central Hotel did us right when we organised Glasgow’s first comic convention 32 years ago. Whether it can be got for the right price is another matter but I can’t see the current venue being practical in the long term.
This aside, the convention is astonishingly professionally run. Far too many cons have staff who seem to have no skills in actually dealing with people, but this wasn’t the case here as a one-day con fairly rattled through a programme of talks featuring 2000AD creators such as Pat Mills and Fraser Irving, not to mention signings from John Wagner, Jamie McKelvie and Keiron Gillen.
The small press row/room endured the usual sub-superhero nonsense or elves (bloody elves!) I’ve been seeing in small press rooms going back decades but there was enough originality not to mention talent on display to suggest some of the folk there have a career in an industry which is utterly unforgiving and brutal. Look though to Gillen and McKelvie. I remember the Bristol con in the early 2000’s where they launched Phonogram as a sharp injection of thrilling originality from two talents who were ahead of the game. it was a breath of fresh air to see creators try hard to make something new and that for me is your gold standard if you’re an aspiring creator in the 21st century. Superheroes and fantasy are genres where you wade through them but if you do use those genres make it personal and most of all, good!
Highlight of the day was former UKCAC organiser Frank Plowright interviewing Pat Mills about all the things Pat likes talking about, though I must say Pat was very chilled when mid-90’s 2000AD was brought up.
Overall this is a nice medium sized one-day event that’s grown out of the venue and the one day and we need comics conventions that are still about comics, rather than media or cosplay. Let the megacons soak up that market and it’s nice to know all these years after a load of us kicked off Glasgow’s comic marts/cons in the 80’s that they’re still going strong today.
This one-off issue is another break from the regular storyline that takes us from the 21st century back to 455AD when the Vandal army destroyed Rome, except all isn’t as we think and we see Julius Caesar go off to fight the Vandal army by himself.
Julius is in fact Lucifer and is essentially the last God standing.
Annake chides Lucifer for what he’s done, but he’s having none of it.
He also seems to have totally sussed Annake out for the manipulative God-killer she is.
However after declaring himself emperor and wishing Rome to be a better place, things don’t turn out as planned.
As Lucifer turns out to be quite, quite mad.
Things end up turning out as we know them too but this is a story to show just how far Annake will go to end the brief lives of the Gods and what happens when a God tries to live longer than their allotted lifespan. It’s a bleak, gory and depressing vision and one that is expertly written by Gillen and splendidly drawn by Andre Araujo. This is a nice compliment to the ongoing series but without the main series the story is weaker so don’t treat this as something you can dive into on it’s own.
We’re well into the new reality of the Wicked and the Divine, however last issue’s ending introduced us to The Great Darkness who as this issue starts is in a fight with Baal.
This issue is one of the issues we get a load of superheroic fight scenes.
Which is quite unusual for a comic so heavily built upon characterisation, but The Great Darkness has been built up as a baddie since nearly the start of the story three years ago.
After the action we find out just how bad The Great Darkness is, and it isn’t good at all.
Gillen and McKelvie make it clear the seriousness of the threat, though with the Pantheon being this dysfunctional family of geeks, arseholes and children the idea they’d do a grown-up mature decision when democracy was introduced into their group was a dream. By the end of this issue it starts to become clear why Annake was calling Laura ‘The Destroyer’ as well as how Laura isn’t a reliable, even trustworthy God.
All in all this is a nice issue that moves the plot and characters on in equal measure while the threat of The Great Darkness lurks in the foreground setting things up nicely for future issues.
2017 sees The Wicked and the Divine carry on its exploration of the post-Annake world and the place of the pantheon in it as Woden desperately tries to save his live against an angry Laura in full Destroyer mode.
Laura backs off from murdering Woden, but instead drags him into the Underworld to question him as she thinks he’s bluffing.
There’s clearly a darkening in Laura’s actions and attitudes (having your family murdered in front of you would do that) but she’s increasingly an unknowable risk to even people she considers friends.
Thanks to Woden’s now reformed character they focus on the ‘Great Darkness’ prophesied by Annake, what it is and why Baal especially takes it so seriously. Baal however is making use of his great powers.
We also get a glimpse of why Baal takes The Great Darkness seriously and just what the Pantheon have to face up to in future issues as Gillen and McKelvie step up another gear with this huge threat that’s been in the background all the time. Each issue in this arc is ramping things up slowly to, I assume, something huge and indeed, dark…
After last issues unconventional structure, Gillen and McKelvie go back to a more traditional comic strip format as we finally hit New Year’s Eve in 2014 in the continuity of the comic.
The situation is effectively summed up in one panel as to where the Pantheon now stand among humanity.
And there ends 2014, and the series moves onto 2015 on what is a optimistic note, but we the readers should know by know things are going to fuck up, and probably on a massive scale. Persephone’s hubris starts to be called into account, especially in the way she’s been treating Baal.
Persephone gets a much needed kick up the arse from Minerva, she makes it clear she’s out to bring Woden in to face justice, but he saves her the time and effort.
However, Woden being Woden, he has a plan to save his own arse.
That plan and Persephone’s reaction to that plan is by the looks of it what’s going to shape the direction of the series in the future, and as you’d expect, things are probably going to go very, very, very badly. Gillen and McKelvie are very much back on form with this issue after a bit of lull last issue, and I await the shit hitting the fan.
After the 1831 special, the series picks up after the shocking, bloody events of #22. Annake is dead, the old order is gone and now we’re to see what the Pantheon do now they don’t have Annake manipulating them.
Gillen chooses to do this not in conventional comic format, but as a fashion magazine, so what we have is essentially a pin-up issue with lots of text that explains how the world know that Annake was a manipulative murderer and that the remaining gods are now free to do their own individual plans.
We find out for example that Baal met with the UK government to give reassurances in order to help calm things down, and that we also find out Baal was the first to become a god which means out of the remaining gods he’ll be the first to die when his time is up.
There’s some good stuff in this issue. I especially licked Gillen’s tribute/satire of Laurie Penny’s writing style as well as the way important snippets of information sneak into the pages, but this is a quiet issue dealing with characters and how they’ve subtly changed in the time since we last saw them.
Overall this is a nice issue which sets up roughly what the new order is.
Yet for all its originality it’s a bit empty, like the gods themselves. Also by concentrating on a Guardian style of writing we only get the liberal to liberal-leftish reaction to the events, and it’d be nice to see how say, a right wing tabloid, or the left, deal with the pantheon as well as a metropolitan set of establishment voices that Gillen includes. That said, this is ultimately a linking and establishing issue; a sort of palate cleanser I imagine for what’s coming next.
After last issues Big Events, this is a palate cleanser or an annual to let the reader regain their breath before diving back into the main storyline which has taken a very interesting turn. 1831 is as you may expect, set in the year 1831 during a previous time when the pantheon walked the Earth. Rather than regular artist Jamie McKelvie, this issue is ably drawn by Stephanie Hans set by the shores of Lake Geneva which should perk up any fans of the book Frankenstein.
Here Annake is still scheming, still plotting while the individual Gods seem as vain and self-obsessed as the ones in the ongoing title, but it’s fun to see these 19th century versions of characters we’ve gotten to know over the last few years.
Here the Gods meet, drink, eat and tell each other tales to try to make each other’s blood turn cold.
What we find out is these are the last days of this particular Pantheon, and these are the last four gods remaining alive, yet this time’s Lucifer has a very familiar looking idea in the hope of returning their fallen comrades back to life in a magical way.
1831 is more than just a nice wee look into the past mythology of the Wicked and the Divine, it’s a crucial part of the plot that reveals background which is clearly going to be relevant in the future. I’d not pick this up if you’re thinking of diving into the story; this is for regular readers only and they definitely need to get this as it won’t be reprinted in any collected trade edition.
The huge fight that kicked off last issue escalates as more of the Panethon realise just how much of a baddy Annake actually is.
Which leads into the battle getting bigger, and indeed, allows Gillen and McKelvie the chance to rip the piss out of supervillian dialogue.
The last couple of issues has allowed the creative team to play with the superhero fight, which gives McKelvie the chance to draw these characters in superheroic poses ready for battle.
Eventually we get the Pantheon versus Annake fight that’s been getting teased for nearly a year now.
I was considering that after this there’d not be much left to do with this comic as after all, the pantheon would likely defeat Annake, save the day and we’d have an ending yet that sort of happens although there’s much, much more to come as the ending here leaves Gillen and McKelvie with much left to tell.
But we’ll have to wait a few months. Next month is a one-shot set in 1931 and the series itself returns in November, then we’ll see how our cast cope with their actions in this issue.
Last issue’s filling in of the narrative gaps left things set up for a huge fight, but this is The Wicked and the Divine, it doesn’t do huge superhero style fight scenes, or at least, it only does a few panels and this issue starts establishing a few things like the return of Minerva to Valhalla and Annake before Laura and her group turn up.
For 20 issues this comic has been something different. It’s held back doing the obvious where lesser creators would have pandered, so we’re due a Big Fight Issue and we’ve got it.
And this is a REALLY BIG FIGHT ISSUE.
In amongst the hitting, punching and brutal action there’s also lots of plot. Annake also reveals herself to be a total and complete villain who needs to be stopped but there’s a glorious cliffhanger as we’re left wondering how do our heroes get out of this one?
This is fantastic stuff. Sure all the previous issues have been marvellous and fight scenes do get boring but this isn’t anything like that. As said, we’ve worked to get to this point and next issue is the end of this arc so it has much to live up to after this extraordinary great issue.
With the head of steam well and truly built up after the last issue Gillen and McKelvie get down to explaining exactly how Laura survived her murder by Annake even though it looked pretty conclusive that she was dead. This means filling in the gaps from previous issues.
And looking back we see characters realise that Annake is setting them up and unusual alliances are made..
It’s here we get the flashback that tells us how Laura survived, and also, just how much of an enormously evil old bastard Annake is.
After the flashbacks it’s revealed Laura has a very simple and possibly effective plan..
There’s a real sense the creative team are tying up lose ends for the Big Fight which will probably end this splendid series. Me, I reckon the Pantheon don’t have a limited lifespan at all, but in fact Annake kills them to prolong her life and she’ll be found out leaving our cast (or whoever ends up surviving the next few issues) to pick up the pieces and carry on.
We’ll see soon enough….