Sunday, May 26, 2024

Bloody End to the War in The Wicked + The Divine

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There is little to say in the way of an introduction this time. Breaking inertia, depending on the instance, can be a powerfully effective narrative device or a cop out for a mediocre story. “The Battle of the Bastards” suffered little risks when all it had to do was open the floodgates, let the bodies pile up, then have the baddie get their comeuppance. This may not redeem the lack of quality of the product, as all the factors that constitute the season are misgivings and exemplars of piss-poor writing. But if you load a bunch of brown bullets, you may as well shoot with a vengeance. If we apply the same logic to better conceived and executed narratives, the piling of events and the tension generate an inertia that demands a resolution.

When we’re at the threshold of such resolution, the moment acquires an element of inevitability and even righteousness. It’s nemesis, as cruel old Brick Top so aptly said. And now, we return to the storming of the castle in The Wicked + The Divine. There is little else to do when the buildup demands naught but a final answer.

Issue #22
“What are we going to do?”

So, remember last issue when Ananke murdered Minerva’s parents? It’s not easy to forget, given how much of a character-defining moment that was. Not only for Ananke, but for Amaterasu, who fled before even thinking of getting Minerva out of there. Cowardly as that was, Amaterasu has not completely taken leave out of her senses. She flies into the Norns, who are on their way to Valhalla to defuse the situation, in order to tell them everything that’s transpired. It all amounts to the reveal that Ananke was a baddie. This is mostly information Urdr, Verdandi and Skuld already knew, but one thing is still a mystery. Why did Ami come to them? Because she’s the adult here. Cass has certainly come a long way for that status. And now, more than ever, she must play that role.

Amaterasu takes the Norns to the battleground. It’s Destroyer vs. Destroyer. Persephone and her tangle of tentacle-like vines vs. the giant Valkyrie remote-controlled by a mechanical golem. Of course Urdr is the mouthpiece to what we’re all thinking here. This very closely resembles one of those tentacle porn fantasies that has turned off so many of us from enjoying seafood ever again. Such is life for us and for Woden, whose internal monologue tells the audience how much he regrets it all. Alas, poor asshole, you were doomed from the start. What shit did Ananke have on you that you cannot switch sides or bite the hand, no matter how much you want to? Woden finds himself between a hard place and a hard place: his fear of Ananke and the fact that Minerva’s murder will weigh on his conscience.

So, he picks an option that gives him even less accountability. He fights on, deliberately setting himself on a trajectory with Dionysus’ attack. The God of Wine knocks Woden out and destroys the golem, thus taking out the giant Valkyrie. All the while, Woden plays dead until it’s safe to get back up. Has any other character been more deserving of being called the C-Word?

Anyway, the fight goes on until Urdr and her companions land on the battleground to put a stop to the violence. She manages to talk everyone into halting the fight so they can prove Ananke’s role in all of this. Everybody complies, except for Sakhmet who takes the opportunity to attack everybody who let their guard down. Then, Baal does the right thing for once and electro-sucker-punches the Cat God, incapacitating her.

Ace. It’s time for cooperation amongst Gods that aren’t assholes. And it’s not a moment too soon, as Ananke is on the latter end of her villainous monologue, just before sinking the dagger into little Mini. As a Big Damn Heroes moment, Baal interrupts the ritual with a pun that’d do Baphomet proud. It’s refreshing to see that he acts swiftly when faced with actual truth. In spite of his efforts, Ananke takes him down, leaving herself open for a sneak attack, courtesy of Baphomet. As the Morrigan joins in the assault, Ananke resumes her speech on the necessity of the sacrifice. She claims that she can explain it all, that four deaths are needed to stave off the Great Darkness.

It is certainly too late for apologies, explanations, and discourse along a similar vein. The Goddess of Necessity had no faith in this Pantheon. And her words when in solitude or in the company of Woden greatly differ from an appeal to sober thinking or a bid for “The Greater Good. The Gods surrounding her see her through the lens of what she had done. Ananke’s body count is as follows: Lucifer, Inanna, and Tara, as well as Laura’s and Mini’s parents. Ensnared by Persephone’s vines, Ananke admits that she has killed many Gods in the span of thousands of years. She knows they would not abide by the rules if these were put plainly to them, so she’s used coercion to ease the process. Some she killed because of convenience, uncaring since they would be dead within two years anyway.

The only objective is to stop the Great Darkness. But Ananke, old and tired from this ages-old duty, is convinced the Gods will be the ones to destroy the world. Thus, Ananke’s plan is foiled and Minerva is saved. Now, what is the best course of action henceforth? It’s quite the question, considering what we’ve learned and whether or not Ananke speaks true. Good thing Urdr is around, as she suggests they should use the cage Morrigan was imprisoned in to hold Ananke. In the mean time, they ought to interrogate her and gain knowledge on the larger situation and what the machine actually does. It sounds sensible enough, but Persephone has something else in mind.

Proving true to her name, “she who destroys”, Persephone wants a harsher brand of judgement. She wants vengeance. While Ananke uses this time to continue her diatribe about Persephone being a sort of Anti-Christ, she hints at the possibility that it’s not the first time Persephone has jeopardized her plans.

However, Baal talks some sense into Persephone. He believes that she’s a better person than she thinks, much better than Lucifer as well. She doesn’t have to be what tradition and divine design frame her to be. With a warm hug, they walk away from the old Goddess. That is, until Persephone remembers Jenny, her little sister, who was asleep in the house when Ananke blew it up. Cue the skip of the heartbeat as we reach that moment of no-return. Persephone snaps her fingers, but she doesn’t do the head-exploding thing Ananke favoured.

Ananke’s death is nasty and messy and leaves everybody present a bloody shower and a gaping expression. There goes Urdr’s plan for the near future. Instead, they all agree to lie, to claim self-defense in this murder in order to protect Laura. As usual, timing proves to be a force for good, evil, and all things eventful in between. Woden picked this moment to get back up, and he’s seen it all. He has agreed to no such thing about keeping the truth of Ananke’s death secret. And knowing him as we do, he’ll use this to his advantage. Nonetheless, this doesn’t bother Persephone much for the time being, as she has an answer to that question in everybody’s mind. What will they do now? Whatever they want.

The answer the circumstances so fiercely demanded came to us with bloody vengeance. The rising action has died down with the fulfilling of purpose. And the baddie has gotten more than a fair share of comeuppance. But in an ironic end, the resolution only gave way to further uncertainty. Now, the Gods are truly alone, for even if their caretaker intended for their destruction, she possessed knowledge, which is now irretrievable. Whatever their means of action will be henceforth is anybody’s guess. One thing is for sure, the next arc will be quite different. Stay tuned, lovelies.

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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