Page 45 Review by Stephen
Matt black hardcover with gold-foil design which reprints the first two WICKED + DIVINE softcovers with the following back-matter:
Two-page promo teaser comic
Gillen's photo-comic on pre-ordering comics
That Nathan Fairbairn fresco in full
Three early character descriptions with Jamie's design sketches
'Immortality, Of A Kind' poem by Gillen
All 11 issues' Writer's Notes.
We begin with Side A:
"Reach out and touch faith!"
Popstars on their pedestals: that's where we place them in order to worship, just as we used to old gods. Mass hysteria really is nothing new. Add in unhealthy hubris and the confluence of ideas here makes perfect sense.
There is little more likely to drive me to ecstasy than a gig.
"Her eyes scan the front row like the sun rising and setting. Oh god. Oh god.
"The girl to my left passes out, hyperventilating. The boy to my right falls to his knees, cum leaking from his crotch. She's not even looking at them. She's looking at me. I swear, she's looking at me."
I love Amaterasu there, her black eyes blazing with the corona of a solar eclipse.
Amaterasu is a relatively new pop goddess already catalysing the sort of tearful, screaming crowd hysteria formerly generated by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Duran Duran; commanding a Bowie-like level of devotion which inspires one to dress up and make up to match. Also: generating all the cynical, scornful nay resentful press coverage that can come with it. Paul Morley is a very clever man, but he can also be the world's most crashing bore.
The difference is that Amaterasu isn't just a pop goddess in Smash Hits terminology, she's a pop star who claims that she really is a goddess and she's not alone. There is a pantheon of them performing gigs separately, each with a shtick of their own - which is fabulous marketing.
And that's all today's interviewer sees: a sophisticated advertising campaign built around bullshit. Mythological claptrap. Pretention. Dissemblance. Malcolm McLaren. To Cassandra - a journalist with a Masters in Comparative Mythology - the very idea that Amaterasu is anything other than Hazel Greenaway from Exeter is preposterous. She did her thesis on The Recurrence and she's taking it all very personally.
The Recurrence is supposedly this: every ninety years twelve gods are born again, found within young, extant lives then activated by the pantheon's keeper, the ancient Ananke, a woman wizened with age, austere and unknowable. Throughout the flux - the rise and the fall - Ananke appears to be the one constant. And yes, there is a fall for in two years each god will be dead: immortality doesn't last forever. But for those two years the twelve gods will blaze as bright as the sun before burning out. Surely that price is worth paying.
Cassandra remains unconvinced and in is giving Amaterasu a hard time which really gets the most vocal of the pantheon's goat. That would be Lucifer, by the way, the devil herself.
"Please. The empress of stupid is annoying me."
"Do you know what I see? Kids posturing with a Wikipedia summary's understanding of myth. I see a wannabe who's never got past the Bowie in her parent's embarrrassingly retro record collection. I see a provincial girl who doesn't understand how cosplaying a Shinto god is problematic at best and offensive at worst. I see someone who's been convinced that acting like a fucking cat is a dignified way for a woman to behave!"
All of which is witnessed by seventeen-year-old Laura - last to pass out, the first to wake up - who has lucked into Lucifer's favour and been taken under her wing. Suddenly the ultimate fangirl finds herself very much on the inside. And so, shortly, will Luci
I love Luci: sexy, slinky, positively sybaritic. As styled by McKelvie she is the ultimate in androgyny, immaculately dressed in pressed white. As scripted by Gillen she is an arch, knowing merchant of mischief but beneath the velvet veneer there is something sharp and a little brittle waiting to break. Oh yes, it's called a temper.
From the creative crew behind PHONOGRAM and YOUNG AVENGERS and the writer of Ancient Greece drama THREE and cyberpunk MERCURY HEAT, the first issue moved startlingly fast in a flash. For a writer who relishes wit-riddled repartee - and provides plenty here packed with musical winks and nudges - this is quite the "fuck, no!" jaw/floor thrill, and you just wait for the final fifth chapter's wham/bam double punchline. I nearly wet myself.
Without giving the game away (which is what someone usually says when they are about to give the game away) McKelvie and Wilson have come up with multiple special effects involving dots, rays and flat, spot colour to make the more miraculous moments stand out a mile from the warmer, graded pages. Who decided what is always difficult to discern with Team Phonogram, but there is some gorgeous design work on display as well (hello, Hannah Donovan!) from the logo to the make-up and most especially the recurring round-table / constantly ticking clock of symbols, each denoting the twelve gods' current status. After each major act it's updated depending on whose hour has come round at last. Study it closely and infer what you will.
As ever with Gillen there's many a contempory pop culture reference - and I don't just mean music - like Twitter DMs and "snapchats" and the odd naughty crack in that febrile fourth wall as when Laura starts Googling the gods on her mobile. This is what pops up:
"SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
"Blah blah blah
"ANOTHER SITE WITH NO RELEVANCE
"Yet more blah
"AM I GOING TO HAVE TO
"GO ONTO THE SECOND
"PAGE OF SEARCH
"RESULTS? OH GOD. NO.
"This is turning into homework
Laura, by the way, is visually modelled on Gillen's good friend Leigh Alexander, one of games' most insightful journalists who campaigns eloquently and relentlessly for individuality, diversity and creativity in her chosen craft very much like Page 45 does for comics.
Meanwhile if I misread Baphomet and The Morrigan's subterranean tube-station appearances as The Sisters Of Mercy's Andrew von Eldritch and Patricia Morrison, well, there's none-more-goth than me.
What is any live performance, however, without an encore? I won't tell you why Lucifer is remanded into custody but it's that which propels this first epic act. Here she is at Her Majesty's Pleasure, being visited in Holloway Prison by Laura:
"Now I know you must feel terribly teased we didn't consummate our flirtation, but this screen makes it somewhat tricky. Intangible cunnilingus is beyond even my abilities. That said, I've never tried. They do say I've a wicked tongue
Do you have a cigarette? Or cocaine? Ideally cocaine?"
"Not even a little bit of cocaine?"
"What kind of teenager are you that you don't have Class A Drugs to hand? Hmm? Has The Daily Mail been lying to me?"
It's time to get recreational.
"You are of the Pantheon.
"You will be loved.
"You will be hated.
"You will be brilliant.
"Within two years you will be dead."
One of the most important lessons my maths teacher taught me had nothing to do with geometry.
"Always ask why," he said. Always ask why.
For more, please see my WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 2 review.