A few months back, I said that if you only read one comic book in your whole life, it should be the 11th issue of The Wicked + The Divine. I was wrong. It should be the 13th issue. As the second installment in the book’s Commercial Suicide arc (where each issue, a new guest artist steps in to help spotlight a single god), it reads like a one-shot, but it also perfectly encapsulates what writer Kieron Gillen is trying to do with the book.
Without letting her appear in person a single time before now, Gillen has painted Tara as the goddess everyone loves to hate. She was never just Tara, but F–king Tara with a derisive sneer, and this issue promised to show us exactly how she became so despised. Yet, as is so common with this story, Gillen thwarted those expectations and delivered arguably the book’s most tragic, sympathetic character to date.
The Amy Winehouse documentary Amy (which our own Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs reviewed beautifully) was both fascinating and disturbing because it made everyone who watched that singular artist slowly destroy herself over her brief, bright music career complicit in her downfall.
That is Tara’s story too, though not all of it. Like Winehouse in her later years, she is mercilessly ridiculed because she refuses to let herself be commodified in the way her audience expects. By setting up the character as unlikable, Gillen aligns readers with the characters in the book, making us equally guilty for judging Tara without really knowing anything about her or with any concern for her true self. In essence, he’s holding up a mirror to where we are as a culture–especially the double-edged sword that is social media’s unprecedented access–when it comes to the demands we place on our artists. And like Amy, the reflection (not including guest artist Tula Lotay’s rough, smudgy, excellent art) is almost too grotesque to look at.