Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Wicked + The Divine Sets the Sides in Opposition

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There is an unmistakable allure to narratives surrounding the ‘youth in revolt’ aesthetics. Rebellion is an attractive dish, especially when it’s justified. Ranging from those singing the entirety of Pink Floyd’s The Wall to heart, to the Freedom Writers of the nineties, to even our contemporary efforts towards equality; it’s something easy to get behind. And this is because sympathy can often be genuine. Sometimes, the rising action is not something easily dismissed as sheer adolescent spirit. Sometimes, an older generation does drop a too-heavy burden on their children. In WicDiv‘s case, the expression is as real as it gets, as Twelve (or Thirteen) youths are meant to die for an ages-old institution.

It’s already too much to ask, and they have little say in it. Thus, for one of these patriarchal agents (as soberly defined by Woden back in Issue #14) to manually hasten the process is a crime. For one such agent to deceive the youth into thinking her an ally is a travesty. The mask begins to crumble, and war is about to ensue. In this scenario, there is no room for neutrality.

Issue #19
“Do you guys believe her?”

The issue starts right where the previous one ended. The Underworld Gods have just escaped Valhalla with Minerva. Ananke soon discovers this as she realizes that the young god left a decoy behind. We could chalk that up as a victory against the Goddess of Necessity, and Minerva’s neglectful, greedy parents by proxy. Meanwhile, at a still-undisclosed location, Dionysus parties the night away with his fans/worshipers. Suddenly, he suffers from pang of sorts, which prompts him to take a break. Baphomet seizes the chance to transport him to the Underground with a capital U, much to Dionysus’ annoyance. He is pretty surprised about seeing The Morrigan, Minerva, and especially Laura, who declares it’s not she who’s alive, but Persephone. She also confirms that Ananke’s right about pursuing a Destroyer, which is slightly disturbing.

Back at Valhalla, Ananke continues with her bullshit. As per her villain-with-gravitas’ fashion, she looks at Woden’s latest creation with a sense of purpose. This is prior to her pep talk with the gods still on her side. As usual, she uses manipulation in the guise of empathy to quell any possible doubt. This is necessary in the case of Baal, who appears to harbor some doubt at seeing Laura alive last issue. Amaterasu sees no reason to doubt Ananke at all; she’s simply sad about Persephone’s opposition. Sakhmet is Sakhmet, so she needs no convincing at all. The plan, as Ananke puts it, is to plunge into the Underground to ‘rescue’ Minerva from the Goths. This measure has proven ineffective in the past, but now they have an aide. They have Minerva’s Owly, which stayed behind to project her decoy.

Back in the Underground, Dionysus receives the news about Ananke’s foul deeds with some skepticism. Baphomet is not naive about their chances to prove these crimes, as witnesses are few and discredited. Neither his or the Morrigan’s words are precisely reassuring, but this is where Minerva comes in handy. It’s easy to dismiss the importance of kids, but this one has observed Ananke’s discourse as of late. Furthermore, she has found small, subtle contradictions in her words, which sound so witch-hunt-y they’re scary. On top of that, she wants to get her parents to safety. Ultimately, this is what gets Dionysus on their side officially. This is pretty good, but the moment to congratulate this alliance of the Underground will be short-lived.

Owly has come back, much to Minerva’s joy. But an outlandish spark about it bears grim news. Baal has come, ready to fight round two. Amaterasu and Sakhmet have come as well, which may put the Underworld Gods at a disadvantage since Dionysus is not a fighter. Minerva tries to talk sense into Baal, but he won’t hear it. The Morrigan stops Baal by transforming into her Badb persona. Let the blood birds flock relentlessly as Sakhmet knocks Dionysus out with no effort. Baphomet attacks but he’s no match for the cat. Persephone manages to carry Mini away, but Sakhmet pounces too quickly for the Destroyer to counterattack. Amidst all this chaos, it’s Amaterasu who takes Minerva away from the violence, towards Valhalla.

Ananke’s fold has who they came for and they leave. However, Baphomet tries to reason with Baal, saying that it wasn’t he who killed Inanna back in Issue #11, but Ananke herself. This falls like a bomb on us, but Baal is not surprised, as Necessity told him Baphomet would say precisely that. Gullible.

At the end of the day, we can mark this as a loss for the ‘Dark Side’. Persephone notices that they left Owly behind, remembering that Minerva had told her that it contains all of her secrets. Badb shifts to her Gentle Annie persona, finger snapping Owly back to life. And true to Gentle Annie’s words, Owly is full of pretties… and information. Things are not going well for the apparent grand scheme of things. To prevent the Great Darkness from coming, a ritual is necessary, outlined in death.

Three deaths so far. A fourth one is needed. Ananke means to use Minerva as that sacrifice. This piece of information even puts an unlikely tint of shocked anger in Gentle Annie. There is no denying it anymore, as the two sides are now firmly in opposition. Ananke is the enemy, and the stakes are even higher, as she plans to kill the youngest and most innocent amongst them all. Dionysus wonders, distressed, what are they do. How can they stop Ananke? Persephone responds, with deathly resolve, that they will do whatever is necessary.

There is no going back, now that the players have all taken their respective roles.

Structurally speaking, this issue proves very efficient in continuing the tone from the previous one. The time is gone for the nasty truths to slowly and timidly peek at us from around the corner, or in this case from Ananke’s side. Aside from a few moments to scheme and to catch their breaths, the intention of the gods has become pure action carried out from conviction. In some instances, this conviction has been tainted by grief, fear, and ignorance. Alas, this is what makes Ananke such a great villain: she can be sinister while still maintaining the weight of her gravitas. And now, her goal is clear, though her intent is vague. We only know is that she must be stopped.

However, is she risking becoming too much of a ‘Bond Villain’? Until we see her boastfully cackling, I’d say we are safe from that risk. In either case, we know the stakes, and the pieces are where they ought to be. Let the games begin.

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine Issue #19 Credits

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artist / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

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