Monday, July 15, 2024

The Wicked + The Divine: When the Levee Breaks

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Much the Rising Action arc, Mothering Invention runs on a narrative engine of sheer momentum. Raise the stakes, stoke the fire, fatten the conflict a little via vendetta or survival, then its chow time. And it’s quite a dish Kieron and Jamie are cooking here. It’s lighter on the animosity that compelled Laura, then Persephone, to kill Ananke. Instead, it is (ironically) necessity what drives the conflict against Minerva. The Crone and the Maiden’s perennial cycle of death and rebirth has claimed too many lives. And humanity moves on none the wiser… unless Minerva’s evil plan comes to fruition, in which case humanity may not move on at all.

The state of conflict requires that Laura and her friends act as, well, comic book or even literary epic heroes – something neither they nor we ever really expected would happen. And I’m not complaining. For do not so many stories of Gods follow this pattern?

But first, there’s gonna be a little more drama, and a little more death. Some of it is pretty nasty. I’m not including images per se, but still…

Issue #42
“I am oh so bored of men like you.”

Today we start off at The Shard, where Minerva is doing her best to avoid a PR disaster. She frantically screams at Baal over the phone about the terrible, likely consequences of the O2 gig. When you think about it, it’s really weaponised divinity with terrorist intent – not a good look at all. Unfortunately for Minnie, Baal’s attention lies elsewhere. He has received a message from Laura, and a location. This is evidently the ultimate leap of faith for her given how much she knows about her ex’s activities. But Baal being Valentine, he still goes.

Laura’s inner monologue here reveals that she didn’t tell the whole truth. Indeed, Baal is going to be an important party in all this. But he will either end up a mighty ally, or a necessary casualty to keep him from being Minerva’s enforcer. The truth that Laura and Cass are about to show him will either set him free, or kill him. This truth is something we have suspected for a while, but it’s still a huge surprise, and a very neat one at that: the reality about the ‘Great Darkness’.

There’s a little preparatory explanation beforehand. Cass’ scrying abilities drew a huge blank on the Great Darkness because they all thought of it as an entity, when in fact, it was a phenomenon. When she changed the question into what causes the Great Darkness, that’s when she struck gold. And lo and behold, the Great Darkness is generated by a creature over a century old, bound to Ananke and Minerva’s will. She is the ‘Future yet to come’, Woden’s daughter borne in her image at the end of the Devil’s party in 1831. Ananke captured and debased her in 1923, her powers now used for the Crone’s gain for this point forward.

And thus, the fiction of the Great Darkness came to be. A convenient horror, a hollow adversary for Ananke-Minerva to manipulate the Gods through currency of antinomy and fear. Woden’s daughter goes on to disclose the old Goddess’ true role in all of this. The rude awakening includes the Future being forced to kill Baal’s father to foster his loyalty to Ananke, and the awful realisation that he himself nearly killed 20,000 people at the O2, including his mother. And then, of course, the killings he did commit through Ananke’s coaxing. And in the end, all of it was for the Crone and the Maiden’s agenda.

The horror is too much for Baal to take, so he asks the Future to kill him. Laura talks him out of this by reminding him his family is with Minerva. Baal joins Laura and company against Minerva, but not before hearing the Future’s wish for freedom from Ananke’s bondage through death. Valentine complies, bringing an end to the conflict against the ‘Great Darkness’.

Meanwhile in the Underground, Laura’s friends are chilling for a while. Nergal receives a text from her, letting them know she and Cass will accompany Baal to free his family. Carefully, and away from the others’ line of sight, Mimir texts his father, Woden. He very succinctly says that Minerva is the enemy, and urges him to escape her grasp. One can read profound concern in the young man’s face through this moment, revealing that for all his father did to him, Jon Blake still cares about him.

On the other end of this, we see Woden and Minerva at the ‘head-dungeon’, realising Laura took them heads. David reads his son’s text message, and though he’s aware he cannot trace it, he would still try and take advantage of the situation. So, discovering that Minerva is Ananke, Woden summons the Valkyries to get all the information withheld from him. Minnie doesn’t seem at all intimidated by the Valkyries’ weaponry, but she still reveals the knowledge, with some sass to spare, of course.

Interestingly, learning Minerva is Ananke (before actually confronting her) did not seem to even suggest to Woden that she would have some of her older self’s power. Minerva punishes this oversight by turning the Valkyries on Woden, restraining him. This shift in leverage forces Woden to change his approach, and start pleading to save his own hide. Given his history, it’s no surprise he attempts using his son as bargaining chip, fully knowing Jon would indeed come if his dad asked him to. But Minerva knows they will come anyway, since they’re aiming to stop her. Therefore, Woden is really a useless asset now. He knows more than he should, but he’s still hilariously oblivious of the full dynamic at work.

And so, we get a fascinating, yet gruesome panel alternation. While Minerva verbally tears him apart, calling him out for his horrible, foul choices, the Valkyries begin to literally tear him apart. It’s honestly one of the most graphic moments of violence in the comic, way up there with Ananke’s death. And though he deserved, it’s still pretty nasty. I don’t see anyone complaining as comeuppance for the world’s most rubbish dad. Anyway, from the current state of affairs, the final confrontation is coming, and Minerva would have it at a place of her choosing. So to Valhalla they go, with Baal’s family in tow.

However, before the Valkyries fetch Valentine’s mum and siblings, he takes them out. But from his shame and from their fear of him (the O2, again), Baal opts to let the cops handle the rescuing, knowing his family would be safer that way. Following in the mechanics of guilt, rendezvous at the Underground has Baal meet once more with Inanna. There’s a lot of drama here, but all of its is old and irrelevant for Valentine. His unwillingness stems from something different. Though he really wants to see his past (and truest) love, he doesn’t want Inanna to see him, what has become of him, and what he’s been all along. So Baal focuses on revenge against Minerva.

Laura lays out the stakes and the possible consequences before they carry on. Not only may they lose their powers if they vanquish Minerva, there’s some mundane concerns, such as Baal and Luci being wanted by the police. Just as she says this, a peculiar video comes online: the footage of Laura killing Ananke. Cass remembers this was the leverage Woden had on them should anything happen to him. It’s not a good way for Jon to find out his father died. At least he didn’t get to see that. This video going public essentially throws out the choice out the window since they have nothing to lose now. The time for war is now.

But Cameron hesitates. He begins to panic, thinking himself unable to go through with this. Laura tries to reassure him once more. He seems more secure after, still scared, but willing now to pool in his power along with – SWERVE! He teleports away in a shocking act of cowardice. Cass immediately begins scrying after him to fetch him back, and he finds him. But her face is not triumphant, or angry as only dear Cass can be. That is never a good sign.

For it was not an act of cowardice.

After some one-way humourous small talk, Nergal lets some of the very human Cameron shine through. He is scared, because despite the lot he has suffered, and the losses, he does want to live. But he also has to choose what really matters, and sometimes that’s well beyond oneself. With a final tearful gesture, reminiscent of his fear of death from the first arcs, Nergal snaps his fingers. We see a very distinctive speech bubble outside our perspective, as Cameron falls dead.

Umar, the ‘goodest non-dog boy that’s ever lived’, aka Dionysus, lives again.

The Wicked + The Divine Issue 42 Credits

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

Images courtesy of Image Comics


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