Why The Wicked + The Divine #13 Is The Most Important Comic of 2015August 25, 2015
The Wicked + The Divine has been one of the big Image Comics success stories of the last couple of years, generating a huge, passionate following. It’s not difficult to see why, with fantastic writing and art throughout the book’s run thus far.
It’s also, perhaps most importantly, a comic with something to say. And that has never been clearer than in issue #13, published this month, which I think is the most important comic we will see this year.
The Wicked + The Divine revolves around a pantheon of gods. Every 90 years, a group of gods are essentially ‘reborn’. They get to live for two years, and then they will die. The latest incarnation have put their powers towards being idolised musicians.
One of the gods has been noticeably absent, physically at least, from the comics’ first 12 issues – Tara. However, she has been mentioned a fair bit and always in the same way: “F***ing Tara”.
It’s a clever bit of writing. Up to now it’s been a funny running gag, always raising a smile. But it’s also been an extremely effective way of planting a seed in the minds of the reader.
We already have this notion that Tara isn’t a god we should like, there is something distasteful about her. But no reader would actually be able to tell you why.
Finally, in issue 13, we meet Tara properly. We see her life, from being objectified as a youth, to being essentially used as a goddess, forced to conform to what the public expects from her.
And that phrase, “F***ing Tara”, is everywhere. It’s even a popular hashtag. Tara is a damaged young woman, on the receiving end of the most appalling abuse whether in person or online. It’s incredibly distressing.
There is a stunning double page spread of what Tara sees when she looks at Twitter. Sure, there are a couple of people that seem to like her and have nice things to say.
But they are lost in the morass of hateful, vile things written about her. Some of it is threatening. Some of it is sexually abusive. Some of it is just deeply unpleasant.
But it’s not the content of the tweets, so much as it is the sheer volume of them. It’s absolutely overwhelming.
The reason this comic is so powerful, the reason it’s so important, is that for all the wackiness of a book about gods-as-pop-stars, there is something awfully real about the treatment of Tara.
Writer Kieron Gillen is sometimes criticised as being something of a hipster, of writing for “the tumblr crowd” (whatever that is), but he is incredibly adept at touching on topical issues in his comics. And this latest issue of The Wicked + The Divine could not feel more ‘current’ to me.
In my day job, I’ve seen some dreadful things written about my colleagues and peers online, whether on social media or in the comments section underneath articles. This isn’t a gender specific thing – men and women get both barrels from the internet’s anonymous critics.
But I can hand on heart say that the things written about women are far more offensive, far more threatening and unsavoury than anything I’ve seen written about men.
Tara’s experiences aren’t just some dreadful fiction that Gillen came up with. It’s real life. And just as we see in this issue, it can lead to self-harm and even suicide.
In the early issues of the series, we heard constantly from super-fan Laura about how wonderful it must be to be a god. Being a part of the pantheon was something glorious, something to desire. The fame and the adoration.
This latest issue is a brutal, unsettling reminder of the downside.
Tara’s final words in the issue are simply: “Try to be kinder.” Nobody, whether male or female, famous or otherwise, should ever be subjected to the tirade of hate that Tara goes through.