'Young Avengers' Comic Book Team to Debut 'The Wicked + The Divine' (Exclusive Preview)

The Wicked + The Divine Comic Cover - P 2014
<p>The Wicked + The Divine Comic Cover - P 2014</p>   |   Courtesy of Image Comics
"This is a book about pop stars as gods," says Kieron Gillen about the new fantasy series he created with artist Jamie McKelvie.

Gods as pop stars, pop stars as gods.

That is just one of the ideas that's explored in The Wicked + The Divine, a buzz-heavy new comic from Image shaping up to be one of the big books of the summer.

It hails from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie, a British comics team who are fan favorites for their critically acclaimed Young Avengers Marvel comic.

Gillen has done plenty of Marvel work (and still does: Wolverine: Origin II is in the middle of its run) but Wicked + Divine brings him back to his indie roots with the same artist that created Phonogram, a cult comic that explored magic and music.

This time, Gillen and McKelvie go deeper into pop culture exploration with the concept of 12 gods who, every 90 years, incarnate pop figures -- artists, singers, innovators -- of their day. In the 21st century, they happen to be pop stars of the David Bowie, Lady Gaga and Adele variety. Then, after two years, they die.

"Young Avengers was as 2013 a book as we could make within the confines of Marvel. Whatever we did next had to be as 2014 a book as we could manage with no limits whatsoever," Gillen tells The Hollywood Reporter.

"That's always the big thrill of doing your own stuff. Start with the blank page, and see what you have to say. The Wicked + The Divine is sort of designed to be the distillation of everything I've learned about pop culture and art and life across all my years on the planet. It's about everything, and it being your own book is the only way to make that work," Gillen explains.

"The core concept of the story came to me in the depressing week after I was told my dad's cancer was terminal. 'Gods as pop stars, reincarnating every 90 years, dying within two.' Death sits at the heart of the book. It's a pop song of a book, but it's got that deep dark heart to it," the writer says.

And while the idea of deities in the modern age isn't exactly new (Neil Gaiman, for example, explored it in his novel American Gods), Gillen points out that the book is not that simple.

"The dual nature is key," he notes. "This isn't just a book about gods as pop stars. This is a book about pop stars as gods. We're interested in both sets of archetypes."

The comic is due in stores on July 18, and buzz is pretty incredible for a comic that is not coming from Marvel or DC. With that buzz comes a set of high expectations, something that Gillen is not unaware of.

But he pulls a British pop star attitude in dealing with the pressure of the limelight.

"I didn't get into this job to be crap. Life is short, and you only have a limited time to be brilliant. In a typical 'us' way, the actual process of creating the book is going to be basically the plot of the book, y'know? The characters have two years to achieve everything they want to, and so do we," Gillen says.

And now, an exclusive six-page preview of The Wicked + The Divine: