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

Ok, I lied. I couldn’t be bothered to go back to Roberts and SF when I had more Classics-themed stuff to get through (and more pretty pictures). That said, I sort of knew I shouldn’t touch this straight after Ody-C, because I knew from the first that it wasn’t going to compare, even if it were precisely as good as The Faust Act. But I did it anyway, because I am foolish and in a gleeful Classics mood right now.

But, in a startling twist, I think Fandemonium is better than The Faust Act. This is… unexpected. I think I could have done with reading it much earlier than I did, though. It’s been quite a while since The Faust Act, and I’m a bit fuzzy on the details (the problem with graphic novels being that I don’t ever really want to read them on my commute/at work because I get through them too quickly and they are of unwieldy size, so they only get read when I sit reach a break between books and am at home and want to read something all in one go… which isn’t that often) but not so fuzzy that I can’t compare. And I am pretty certain this one is all around just better.

I think part of that is because it could get straight down to things, without having to do any of the set up the previous book had to go through. While there’s a sort of… repeated theme of the brief explanation that is used as something of a motif throughout, Fandemonium didn’t have to go into the details and walk us through it. So we cut straight to actual story. And if anything, it was so light on explanation that I found it slightly puzzling in parts. It’s evidently a deliberate befuddlement, though, and I rather liked it – especially as it tails off towards the end and things start to make sense again. I suppose, for the first collection in a series, there is a necessity to make at least a modicum of sense, otherwise you risk losing your readers pretty much instantly, I imagine*. Whereas I’d have thought people buying the second book a) know vaguely what’s going on and b) are willing to persevere if things aren’t clear because they already have an investment in the series.

As well as this, another reason I prefer this one is Inanna. I think potentially he’s my favourite character, and I don’t even know why. Part of the problem I had with The Faust Act is that I didn’t really latch on to any of the characters and start to love them – Laura particularly gets on my nerves slightly – but Inanna fixes this a little for me. The only one I sort of liked in The Faust Act was Cassandra, and since she gets more of a role and more fun stuff in Fandemonium, this helps too. I think, like the plot, Cassandra needed some foundations being built before we could get to the cool stuff, and since that’s all been done, she really is quite awesome now.

That being said, I still don’t think the characters as a whole have sufficient emotional appeal to me that I can love the story completely. I have two characters I like now, and the rest feel a little blank and empty to me, even Baphomet, who feels like they’ve really tried to work on him and develop him. It’s improved between the two books, but it’s still not all there for me. I’m hoping it’ll continue to improve, because I so want to love it.

If I hadn’t just read Ody-C, I think I might have more drastically changed my opinions about the originality of WicDiv (I’m getting too lazy to type things out fully, sorry). That sense of meh that I got from TFA is definitely diminished, and I wonder if I’d think it completely absent… had I not just read something totally and wondrously original. As it stands, WicDiv doesn’t compare… it’s still constrained to a lot of what I think of as tropes of reworking mythology. It does cool stuff, and it definitely tries to stray from the known paths, but it doesn’t always succeed, and that’s holding it back too. I guess it’s more superficial in its attempts at originality than Ody-C was, because that just wiped the slate clean and started again – it managed to be cool and avoid being derivative while doing the Cyclops story. I mean, come on. Somehow, that rework of a specific story, and a fairly close rework too, feels more inspired to me than this does.

Sorry, I’m starting to sound really negative, aren’t I? I actually don’t mean to be. I’m just getting annoyed because I’m struggling to put my finger on what isn’t working for me here. It seems like it all should be great, but something isn’t quite right and I hate that I can’t figure out what.

But, as I said before, it’s got a lot better. I am so much closer to loving WicDiv than I was in the first book. The pacing is better, the story is more enthralling, the art remains beautiful, we’ve picked up new characters I’m interested to learn about, I care more about characters we already had, there has been drama, and sudden things happening unexpectedly. It’s great! I am very much looking forward to the third volume, where, if current trends continue, I should be in love (apparently due in February, so all to the good). I think I’ll reread this one again in a couple of weeks or so, maybe just before I buy volume 3, so I can get a sense of it away from Ody-C, see if I feel differently (I suspect I shall).

One favourable comparison I do have is that, while I really really love the art of Ody-C, I mean ridiculously love it, I’m finding the art of WicDiv more appealing to flick back through. The crispness of it and the bright colours, but without the trippy saturation, means that I can dip in and out much more easily, and just happily skim. I think it lends itself more to having little memorable images that I really like, rather than the glorious scenes of Ody-C. They’re both gorgeous, but a very different sort of gorgeous… and WicDiv‘s is possibly the more accessible of the two.

As a last bit of evidence that I am actually growing to like this a lot (and more than I thought I would in TFA), I’m beginning to ponder WicDiv cosplay. I’d like to go to a con this year (damnit, I should get on that…) and I’d like to have a go at cosplay, because I’ve not done it before… but I have never settled on something that I like in the right way to want to cosplay it. I’ll probably still default to Star Trek TOS ship’s historian (the ginger one) but I’m pondering… and that’s a pretty good indication of a fledgling adoration for the series, if ever there was one, right?

I’m not going to make a promise about what I’ll talk about next, but I am going to promise to try to be more coherent in whatever it is. I’ve not been very structured while ‘blogging about the graphic novels, so I need to make a bit more of an effort, I think.

 

* Though this can’t be universally true. I’ve read several things that made no sense at all at the start (or all the way through) and still seem to have done pretty well. Vellum strikes me as one example. Ok, that’s not entirely fair, but if you’ve read it you know what I mean. The lack of simply making sense immediately and without effort is what makes it so wonderful.

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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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