The ‘Transubstantiation of Lucifer’ was a dark dive into a period of European history that is characterized by death, sickness and the “WicDiv” universe’s own horrible patient zero. ‘Mothering Invention’ was a redefinition of everything we knew and answered the question, just how much more messed up can things get. How do Kieron, McKelvie, Wilson, and Cowles follow up on that for their final special? Well, by giving us an entire issue of jokes of course!
. . .I think all that historical research broke something in Kieron. Spoilers for the jokes ahead.
Written by Kieron Gillen, Lizz Lunney, Chip Zdarsky, Chrissy Williams, Romesh Ranganathan, Hamish Steele, Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageis, and Kate Leth
Illustrated by Erica Henderson, Lizz Lunney, Chip Zdarsky, Hamish Steele, Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageis, Margaux Saltel
Inked by Clayton Cowles, Julia Madrigal, Jamie McKelvie
Colored by Erica Henderson, Lizz Lunney, Chip Zdarsky, Dee Cunniffe, Hamish Steele, Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageis, Margaux Saltel, Matt Wilson
Flattened by Juan Castro, Becka Kinzie, Dee Cunniffe
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Every ninety years gods are reborn as dogs. They are good dogs. They are very good dogs. In two years, they may have learned how to sit, which is one of several (count ‘em!) stories in this special. As THE WICKED + THE DIVINE prepares for its final arc, we invite a bunch of friends over, pass out the fizzy pop and sherbet and have a lovely time. Join us!
Absolutely packed to the brim with creators and chuckles, “WicDiv: The Funnies” earns its place among the specials as being just that: special. It’s hard to make fun of yourself in earnest. It’s even harder to sit through a (good natured) roast of you and your work so to publish an entire issue dedicated to flipping the tone of the series from earnest to ironic is gutsy. Thankfully in the hands of these creators, the work is celebrated just as much as it’s quirks, and its creators, are roasted for the whole world to see.
In the spirit of “MAD” magazine, “The Funnies” gives us a variety of hilarious mash-ups and irreverent takes on the WicDiv cast and crew. More anthology than comic, some are stronger than others but they all will get a firm laugh. Starting at the top, Erica Henderson’s ‘The Wicked & the Canine’ utilizes the grim set up of the original to subvert expectations while also feeding us plenty of fantastic jokes about dogs. It’s always nice to see Henderson’s art in a different context from “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” and opening on her story was the right move. It sets the tone of the issue by twisting the familiar elements and motifs and transplanting it into the world of dogs and one cat, skirting the edge of the darker elements of the main series but keeping it playful.
Henderson’s artwork is fantastic as always too. You can feel the weariness of Ananke in her face thanks to Henderson’s terrific facial acting while her dogs are bursting with life and energy. Following this is Lizz Lunney’s ‘The Wicker & the Divine,’ which is much the same as Henderson’s in that the title is the inspiration for the humor. Her art style informs the humor in the same way, too, elevating the absurdity of the concept with her simple cartooning.
Zdarsky takes things in a different direction, blurring the lines between our reality and that of WicDiv’s. His more realistic style grounds the humanity of each of the characters and makes his depictions of Kieron, Jamie and Matt all the funnier. The idea that Kieron’s musical snobbery is the reason only certain genres appear in the main series and that Kieron is siccing Jamie on all those who don’t fit is brilliant. It wouldn’t have worked without Zdarsky’s art and scripting though. He’s a master of comedic timing and word play and he’s able to let loose, giving us something special along the way.
The back half of the comic is more hit or miss. ‘Gentle Annie vs The World’ is solid, showing off the other members of team WicDiv in roles they don’t usually play while poking fun at Irish slang, ‘Making a Difference’ has some great facial acting, the punchline is dark in all the right ways, and the idea that someone wants Baal to have a hype man in his rap video is hilarious. However, the rest of the art is a bit stiff and it drags on a bit too long. ‘5 Things Everyone Who’s Lived with Sakhmet will Understand’ piece is much like Mark Waid’s work on “Archie,” the perfect utilization of two panel set-ups and narrative captions to bridge between scenarios. Hamish Steele’s art is poppy and his ability to convey character in such brief moments, like Sakhmet tiptoeing across Persephone’s computer while Persephone has her 100% done face on, makes the comic linger and the jokes to land much harder.Continued below
The “WicDiv/”Scooby-Doo mash-up, “13 Go Mad in Wiltshire” is perhaps the weakest of the bunch. The artwork is lovingly drawn like an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon and so the stiltedness of the comic is intentional — each panel looks like a shot from an episode. The dialogue is balanced well between poking fun at “WicDiv,” poking fun at “Scooby-Doo” and embodying the mash-ups of the characters and their worlds.
However, the comic runs too long and the clash between the simplicity of the latter and the complexity of the former proves irritating rather than humorous. This is most apparent at the end with the unmasking of Woden as the Ghost Druid where the volume of information is overwhelming due to it essentially summarizing a major plot-point for the main series and is followed up by the oblivious inn-keeper cheering that “The inn is saved!” It’s a celebration of the insanity that is “WicDiv” but perhaps focused too much on parodying the big picture.
The final two pieces shift away from that larger parody, focusing once again on the characters, music, and Kieron Gillen’s insatiable desire for puns. ‘Guilty Pleasure Song’ is tightly written and manages to be funny and biting. Saltel’s borderless art is a joy to look at, with expressions pushed to their limits and, again, strong characterization with just one or two panels each. The final piece is an excuse by the main team to showcase some horrible puns but McKelvie’s art is always dynamic and Kieron’s dry snark is so baked into this series that to end without it in one of those iconic black panel/pages with Cowles’ white text would feel like a disservice. This ending text also plays with the biggest hallmark of “The Wicked and the Divine:” the deep-cut call-backs and plans that take 30 issues to come to fruition.
As a whole, “The Funnies” is a varied special that will give any fan of the series a good laugh. It does what any good anthology should, providing a unifying theme and allowing the varied styles of the creators to shine and, in the case of “WicDiv,” compliment the original work. It was different, it was fun, and in one month, it all begins to end.
Final Score: 8.7 – A comic that is greater than the sum of its parts that managed to remain true to the spirit of the series while taking the piss out of it the whole time. If I were a less fun person, I think I’d just call it ‘OKAY.’