The Faust Act (The Wicked + The Divine) – K. Gillen, J. McKelvie, M. Wilson, C. Cowles

You know what I said about the Just City? How it was Classics thus there was no way I was going to resist buying it? Yeah that happened again. Only… kinda more so. If there’s one thing I’m even more a sucker for than plain old “oh my god it has Ancient Greeks in!”, it’s “OH MY GOD ANCIENT MYTHOLOGY”. I essentially just threw my wallet at Forbidden Planet, when I saw it. What can I say? I’m easily pleased.

That said, I think the jury’s still out on whether I like it. It pleases me that it exists, no doubt. The world needs more stuff that’s pretty and is going to quibble Baal Hammon vs. Baal Haddad. But… eh… I’m going to need to read more before I decide if I enjoy it as a thing. There’s a lot there that makes me want to love it, a heck of a lot… but there’s also… it’s hard to explain. On the face of it, it’s a really cool idea. There’s a lot of, at least superficially, new and exciting stuff going on. But somehow, completely illogically, it feels hackneyed. Something about… not the ideas but the characterisations, I think. The… arrogance and melodrama and self-importance that isn’t really thought about at all. And I suppose the imagery as well. I mean look, the front cover is a feather… on fire. It’s got Lucifer in it. HMMMMM…

Yeah, I know. I’m fussing about novelty in something that is using as its inspiration ancient mythology. It makes very little sense, but it’s the feeling I got when I finished it, so there you are. It’s my ‘blog and I don’t have to make sense if I don’t want to. Even so, I’m going to leave this train of thought here.

The art is really, really lovely. Especially the drawings of the gods themselves. Ignoring my illogical grumblings, it was really enjoyable to look at. One of the reasons I don’t buy graphic novels normally is that, for me, they don’t represent value for money. I read quickly. A shortish normal novel will take me a couple of hours on a good day… so two days of lunch-and-commute reading, if that. A graphic novel? We’re down to minutes. And at a tenner a go, there are way more cost-effective ways for me to get my media. I’m not complaining about the price (I do know that a heck of a lot of work goes into it and it’s entirely right we should be charged for it), but considering that I have a limited budget, I want to get the most out of it that I can. Same reason I’ll tend to prefer hefty novels, when all else is equal. But sometimes, sometimes, the graphic novel can be pretty enough that it’s worth it. If the art is really gorgeous, or intricate, or clever, it can be worth having it open and staring at the page, and finding new things in there. Sandman was like that (though I got that from the library, so cheating). TW+TD wasn’t quite up there. It’s not stellar and gorgeous and wonderful and ohmygodIloveitforever. But it is rather lovely, and whether tropey or not, it’s interpreting ancient gods in a modern setting, so yeah, I’m going to spend some time staring and thinking. In that respect, this may have been worth it, but even with the staring, the read time comes in well, well under an hour. But the drawings are lovely. They’re clear, colourful and bright… really pleasing on a cold evening when I’m considering a second pair of socks. There aren’t layers, but they tell the story crisply and cleanly, without dissembling and having to wonder “wait… who is that… what?”. There’s a lovely balance between big, stare-at-me-I’m-gorgeous panels and moving the plot along. It’s nice.

Plot-wise… well, it’s only the first volume, and not very thick. It’s a taster more than a complete story, and obviously that shows. But we get a nice section of story, with a nice… if not an ending then a stopping point, and it balances neatly. There’s a good consistency of pace that has definitely not been true in other graphic novels I’ve read. Like I said, I’m not forming a full opinion yet. Give me a couple more volumes (yes, I’m going to buy them) and then we’ll see.

I think, what I really need, before I make a real decision, is more feeling for the characters*. We’ve not seen enough of the gods for me to fall in love with any of them, and that’s what I really want. I think that’s what I’d need, to properly rate TW+TD. I need more… personality. We’ve had the superficial stuff, the “look at the obvious thing that links to this god’s mythology” stuff, but we need more of the stuff underneath… personalities and emotion – which is why the brevity is holding me back from passing too much judgement. There’s only so much you can fit into a volume thinner than my little finger, and it’d be way too demanding of me to expect everything in such a small space. If they push them past just the superficial associations – owls and valkyries and crows – I think there could be something really here to enjoy. But if not… it’ll be pretty and exciting, but without any real substance. Which, meh. Pretty is only worth so much.

So yeah, I’m reserving judgement for now, but I am cautiously optimistic that this could go to good places. Will buy the sequels and get back.

*SPOILER FOOTNOTE:
What I really mean is – if the character who gets nearly the most page space dies and I don’t really care one way or the other, you haven’t done enough character development for my liking. I am pretty sure I’m meant to have been sad when Luci died, but I wasn’t. I hadn’t had enough of a chance to get to know her. Or the last two books I’ve read have left me jaded and withered, because they were both so DAMN SAD that this couldn’t compare. Not ruling that out.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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