Deadshirt is Reading: The Wicked + The Divine and X-Men: Gold!

Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.

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David Uzumeri is reading…

The Wicked + The Divine: 455 AD

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by André Araújo
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Image Comics

“It seems those who are ethically warped are no more in tune than the ethically straight.”

This is the second interstitial Wicked + Divine one-shot, and it continues to be an interesting narrative experiment: while they fill the hole in the publication schedule while the next proper arc gets underway, they won’t be collected in publication order: instead, they’ll be compiled in a final volume at the end of the series, making these specials fascinating side-stories intended to tease and reflect the current narrative while also standing alone.

It’s also stronger than the first one, perhaps because it’s just so fucking bold, and perhaps because it manages to more interestingly reflect the ongoing narrative. As we’re midway through the Imperial Phase of the modern Pantheon—where they stop being artists and start being rulers—we see a flashback to a particularly disastrous iteration of this theme, where the Lucifer of the time basically ends Rome. An artist turned ruler himself, the Lucifer of 455 AD declares himself Julius (NOT Caesar) and everything, well, goes to Hell.

It’s a joy to see Gillen enveloping himself in his love of writing both riffs on ancient history and pissy primadonna artistes, concluding in the Grand Guignol of European civilization entering a lengthy coma. It wouldn’t work without Araujo, whose dirty, stark contrast with the pop-music-perfect figures of regular artist Jamie McKelvie goes a long way towards selling the issue.

Regular colorist Matthew Wilson switches up styles (AGAIN) to match, and the result seems almost Jordie Bellaire-esque, a totally different and more organic approach than his pop-perfect sheen approach to McKelvie, reflecting a different age’s concept of decadence: dirty and in the mud as opposed to a thick sheen of showered post-cocaine-binge cool. The themes, however, remain the same: the relationship between art and power, artist and patron, the young and the old.

And let’s be honest: there’s never been a better time for a story about an arrogant showbiz genius who thinks he can translate that experience to ruling a country and ends up burning civilization to the fucking ground.

Kayleigh Hearn is reading…

X-Men: Gold #4

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by R. B. Silva
Inked by Adrianno di Benedetto
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit

“Mr. LeBeau?” “In the flesh. Said amount of flesh is negotiable.”

X-Men: Gold is a back-to-basics take on the X-Men after the tepidly-received IVX era; the title itself sells the book as a new golden age of X-Men comics. Marc Guggenheim largely cuts away the fat accrued over the last couple years, re-establishing the Xavier Institute in New York City and running with a cast of classic X-Men: Kitty Pryde, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Rachel Grey, and Wolverine (the crotchety, wizened one from the future, at least). This run is sprinkled with nods to the past, whether it’s Nightcrawler sporting his original Giant-Size X-Men #1 costume again, or Guggenheim putting the “Evil” back in the “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.”

“Techno-Superior: Part One” is another serving of comic book comfort food, offering several familiar beats: Gambit charmingly pulls off a heist, the X-Men foil a troupe of Z-Lister villains (complete with white sacks stamped with dollar signs), and an old villain is given a new coat of paint. R. B. Silva is adept at drawing mutant mayhem and giant robots, and his art has a fun Stuart Immonen vibe. I can’t get enough scenes of Kitty striking a badass pose while bad guys crash through her–phased, yet totally unfazed.

The problem, however, with this “meat and potatoes” take on the X-Men is that none of it is very new or original. Partly this is bad timing; this issue features “mutated” Sentinels just a week after X-Men: Blue #3 dealt with (unrelated) mutant Sentinels led by Bastion. While I’m sure that the end results will be very different, the unfortunate coincidence makes the comic feel like it’s stepping on another book’s toes, and it sucks all the wind out of the issue’s climax. Four issues in, it feels like Guggenheim is more interested in mining the X-Men’s past than taking a bold step forward. There’s certainly an audience for this kind of solid, reliable storytelling, but there’s no glitter to this gold.

Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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