Saturday, May 18, 2024

Approaching the boiling point in The Wicked + The Divine

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Never before have we started the approach to the climax of a WicDiv arc like we have on Imperial Phase (Part II). The sense of inevitability was there from the very moment we turned the first page. We couldn’t develop any sort of attachment to the characters and setting without first acknowledging the fact. Two years is an awfully short time, and that’s all the time they have. We’ve seen them engage in debauchery, intrigue, and vengeance, with thrills at every turn. But the end always stared at us every time we dared look at the context on a greater scope. However, the reveal about the Gods’ ultra-reduced lifespan in 445 AD showed an even bleaker truth than we knew. The end draws near, but it will come by the Gods’ own hands.

We have reached the zenith to the climb, and now we’ll be coming back down the other side. Quick and harrowing.

Issue #31
“That’s your problem.”

Persephone, aka Laura Wilson, has been deemed the Destroyer and she has chosen to flaunt the mantle in her mission to exact revenge upon Ananke for the murder of her family. Casting the final vote for anarchy on Issue #26, she virtually became the harbinger to the “Imperial Phase” proper. As if the Great Darkness wasn’t trouble enough. However, there have always been a bunch of small but meaningful moments that keep her from fully being the doombringer Ananke always accused her of being. This time, one such moment manifests in some inner turmoil from hiding Sakhmet in the Underground. Although the couple shares several traits, they’re definitely not the same in regards to a moral compass.

Meanwhile, in Valhalla, Dionysus appears to zone out a little in the midst of a briefing for the major gig coming. It looks like the lack of sleep is starting to catch up. This is not good news, as Dionysus’ hive mind powers will concentrate the Gods and the people’s collective energy into the machine. That should trigger whatever Ananke pursued by sacrificing Gods. Seeing Dio’s current state, Urdr opts to call it off, but the Wine and Partying God assures them he’s still on board. Exit Dio for a little break. And here’s the cue for a little character interaction, a brief light-hearted moment to nuance the ambiance and alleviate the load.

Through Woden’s hilarious waving expressions, Urdr realises why Dionysus is so adamant about staying on course: he fancies Urdr. The face upon realisation is priceless, which is followed by her frustration expression she’s so famous and beloved for. Urdr quickly catches up to Dionysus and approaches the matter awkwardly and indirectly. Dio is quick to pick up on the question, but also opts for a slightly indirect manner. Simply put, although he has feelings for her, he won’t try to pursue anything. Because above all, she is his friend, and he wouldn’t risk spoiling that relation because of his feelings. Else that would make him a bad friend, and a bad person. If only all who complain about the “friend-zone” saw things this way…

So, the gig is still on – really because Dionysus couldn’t stand the thought of anyone going home unhappy. What a guy.

Back to the Underground, Persephone’s conscience has won the day. She calls Baal and tells him Sakhmet has been with her these days. The panels only show Persephone’s side of the call, but we can assume Baal is giving her quite a scolding. Not that she doesn’t deserve it, but it’s no time to dwell on that. She ends up doing the right thing by facilitating some useful information to Team Action: Sakhmet’s location. Therefore, Operation Kitty Hunt is back on with a solid lead. Ace. Now, Jamie McKelvie has consistently proven to be uber-competent in his craft. His command of expression is amazing and will be the godfather to my children. Yet he, with Matt Wilson on colouring, can also do some amazing stuff with composition and sheer scenery porn. That’s a fancy way of saying, the gig at Valhalla is starting now.

Dionysus dives off the stage towards the enthusiastic crowd and literally surfs his hive mind party bliss into the 44,444 attending. The visual spectacle amazes even his fellow Gods. Holy fuck, even Woden – the shithead God – can see it. A dome of energy forms on the boundaries of Valhalla, siphoning everybody’s energy into the machine while they party. If you’re not listening to some kind of music, some Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim or whatever tickles your ear G-spot, then you’re doing this wrong and should feel ashamed of yourself. But I digress. Two other things are of particular note here. First, Urdr finally seems able to truly partake of the divine experience, which she couldn’t before. This conveys through a mixture of relief, triumph and even joy in her words. Her “It’s… working. We did it.”

Second, a brown note can be sold visually. It starts with Woden reaching for something behind the Norns’ backs. It’s a gun.

In the meantime, Baal, Amaterasu, and Owly arrive at the British Museum, with Minerva acting as their ‘Oracle.’ As a call back to Sakhmet’s childhood, this place looks to be the only actual emotional connection she harbours. A place of solitude for the cat to prowl about to be intruded upon. Baal thinks it’s best to approach quick and relentless to take her down. On the other hand, Amaterasu suggests a different approach. The Sun Goddess will try to calm her, like a lion tamer. If that doesn’t work, she can always just run away – which she now acknowledges as one of her skills. The problematic Goddess meets the troublesome one. What could go wrong?

Back in Valhalla, Woden uses his gun to overstimulate the Norns’ senses, thus rendering them unconscious. He then manipulates the ‘DJ Station’ to hijack Dionysus’ hive mind powers. In the process, Dio suffers a painful pang, falling to the ground, with heavy nosebleeding. We don’t get to know if he’s dead; his current state doesn’t speak promisingly, though. So, Woden has shown his true colours, or rather he shows he’s chosen to tone down on his already infamously villainous tendencies for a bit. Of all the powers that someone like Woden should never have, the ability to control the masses ranks high, if not the highest. It’s the timing what imbues this change of tune with impact, though his ability to assimilate and imitate other Gods’ powers functions as foreshadowing to this.

Meanwhile, in the British Museum, we find Sakhmet looking rather pensive. Such an expression is telling of the significance this place holds for her. Then, in floats shining Amaterasu. This means of entrance is a good idea, given how Sakhmet joyfully acknowledges as ‘the pretty red dot.’ Following in the cat-like mannerisms, she warily hisses at Amaterasu’s attempt to convince her to come along. In the end, she does, and everything’s fine. However, Amaterasu always finds a way to fuck shit up. The surroundings on the museum make her try and strike a friendly conversation with Sakhmet, who doesn’t seem all that interested. Who would, anyway? The Sun Goddess is sweetly abrasive.

Things take a turn for the ugly when Amaterasu starts talking about family, which is a sore topic for Sakhmet. This is driven further by the fact that the former’s relationship with her father is diametrically different from the latter’s. Of course, Amaterasu has no sense to shut up, so she goes on and on until Sakhmet loses her patience and swiftly slices her throat. Bleeding out, Amaterasu ‘optic blasts’ some considerable damage in the museum as she falls to the ground. Of all her flaws, it was her fatal one which literally took her life: her insensibility. Her little episode on Hiroshima, her ShinTwo bullshit club, and now the bloody ‘rising fun’ forming around her as she lays dying. She always finds a way to be mindlessly offensive.

Anyway, the hunt for Sakhmet is back on square one, with one less God to count on towards the effort. And that isn’t even the only problem at hand. Woden now has a mass of 44,444 people to obey his every whim, and there is no reason whatsoever to think optimistically about that. And that may also have taken the life of another God. Regardless of this harrowing dynamics, we still have to consider the menace of the Great Darkness. What little time the Gods still have is looking ominous. Stay tuned, lovelies. This is not going to be dull. Not a single bit.

The Wicked + The Divine Issue #34

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

All images are courtesy of Image Comics



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