Roman Rack and Ruin
♦Tripwire Contributing Writer OLLY MACNAMEE takes a look at Gillen and Araújo’s The Wicked + The Divine: 455 AD oneshot…
The Wicked + The Divine 455 AD
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Andre Araújo
Out last week, this one-shot takes us back to the end days of Roman Empire, 455 AD and all that, in which Lucifer – a paltry play actor – decides to take it upon himself to ignore the rules and defy the standard contract his brothers and sisters have more than happily adhered to. That is to say, that each and every 90 years they are resurrected as gods amongst mortals, but only for the duration of two years. What happens should any god defy this? Well, this comic shows you at least one such eventuality, at least.
A clearly well researched standalone issue, Keiron Gillen has done his homework to chose a very precise point in the history of Rome, and what could have been. In reading this issue you are reminded that history is written by the winners and upon this foundation the stuff of legends are often made.
Artist, Andre Araújo, brings the same eye for detail to this period piece as he does to all his work, which I seem to have had the privilege of reviewing more by happy coincident than by design over the past year or so. Whether it is the pastoral elegance of the Roman Empire or the technologically bloated world of ‘Man Plus’, Araújo’s Chris Burnham-like artwork pops off the page with its clean, crisp delicate lines that in no way diminish the foreground detail form the background as one might expect from such finery. The cool blue interiors of Roman life (provided adeptly by colourist, Matthew Wilson) are invaded by Lucifer’s – or, should that be Julius Caesar – fiery temper, at times, as we witness a god living in denial. And, I don’t mean Ancient Egypt. As I said, this is a story set in Ancient Rome. Lucifer seems to be a god out of control and in the flux of some kind of identity crisis, ignoring all warnings, even when he should know better. He wants to be a Julius Caesar, but is he more a Caligula, or even a Nero? Does absolute power corrupt absolutely even the most ‘divine’ or people?
I found this a worthy inclusion in the pantheon of The Wicked + The Divine, set as it is in an era, like the first special, as yet unexplored. While we read of the exploits of these immortals through a very modern filter in the ongoing series, issues like these – just like the one-off Orpheus issue from Gaiman’s Sandman run (Sandman Special: The Song of Orpheus) – can add more depth and detail to proceedings, and to characters without intruding too readily on the main events. As we haven’t really seen Luci since issue 23 – and then, only as a posthumous interview – it was a nice return for this much lamented character, maybe suggesting Gillen isn’t quite done with her/him yet? Time will tell. But, let’s hope not another 90 years, though.
The Wicked + The Divine One Shot from Image Comics is available now.