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The Wicked + The Divine and the Temple of Doom

Remember when this comic started, how the Gods looked like this awesome bunch that did no wrong? And when they did, in fact, do wrong, it would at least be cool. Lovely days, those. But no sunset lasts, and each comes to an end, at the coming of nightfall. Let’s keep that impression for a moment before we embark on this, the last issue of the Imperial Phase arc. The Gods are decaying in face of their enemy’s presence and death drawing near. It’s the Gotterdämmerung, the Twilight of the Gods.

Issue #28
“Isn’t this great?”

In a direction quite unlike past occasions, we kick off this issue through a regular-ass human being. Okay, that’s not entirely true. He’s no God, but he’s not some neophyte either. Expert on theology and organiser of Ragnarock, David Blake is our side of humanity’s closest link to the Pantheon, and a rather important character despite his scarce appearances. Whereas pre-divinity Laura used to be our link, her interest in the Gods has always been emotional. On the other hand, Blake’s spirit follows a more academic approach, if you will. At this time, with the Great Darkness running amok, it’s a colder judgement that’s needed. It’s late in the evening and the fellow has just arrived home, only to find Urdr, who has come bring him the latest results on Team Study’s research.

Whether by God, humans, or otherwise, an intrusion of the sort is never really welcome. Still, David takes Urdr’s breach of privacy with only mild annoyance. On the other hand, Urdr is rather startled at discovering he is a parent. A single parent at that. His son’s mother left the family when he was still young. His son, Jon – a troubled but brilliant young man – is currently at a boarding school. By his own admission, David bears responsibility for his son’s emotional state. Jon hasn’t lived a normal life, with his mother leaving and his father dragging him along all over the country for conferences. Although his son has severed communication with him, David is still proud of him.

Now, we return to the Pantheon… but first, let’s remark on something. Pacing and order of sequences can be very important narratively. What follows another event may speak volumes about what occurred before. It can underline it, or altogether destroy it. If for the slightest moment you thought it was a coincidence or mere bad taste, just remember; it’s no accident.

Urdr pays a visit to Woden in Amaterasu’s temple, where a party is going on, of course. Woden is hard at work, boasting a fancy device on his helmet purposed for the inhalation of cocaine. The Norns pull one of their finest but most undersold features: the condescending look. Woden’s debauchery deserves that condescension, but that happens all the time. No, their judging comes from the revelation that Woden is actually David Blake’s son. Thus, I’ll figuratively clear my throat for an announcement. (Imagine a deep, Ukrainian-Mexican accented voice) ‘ALL ABOARD THE MUMMY AND DADDY ISSUES TRAIN!’

Now, I’m not attempting to undermine the emotional burden of people who have been through what this character has. It can’t possibly be easy to cope with. However, one look at the family picture in David’s house and a few things come to mind. Jon’s mother is of Asian descent, and the lil’ baby appears to take after her as well. And more disturbingly, the girls he hires as Valkyries and mere sexual pleasure also have to specifically be of Asian descent. Therefore, the sexual dimension of his hedonism is something of a channeling of his abandonment issues because of his mother leaving. Now, I’m no expert on psychoanalysis or on Freud’s disastrous misreading of Oedipus Rex, but that shit’s creepy. Let’s leave it at that and move on.

Woden is not happy about this breach of past history and he establishes a similar parallel by Cass’ life before transitioning proper. The aggression dies down with Urdr’s apology about prying in his personal life. So the two smarties divert their criticism to someone that deserves it more at the moment. You’d never had thought that possible, eh? That anyone would ever be more deserving of judging and condescension than Woden at any moment. But Amaterasu and her brand new Shintwo cult is sure to raise a few eyebrows. The timing for partying is also pretty dicey considering the Big Bad is metaphorically at the gates. Urdr metaphorises this carelessness with Nero fiddling as Rome burns to ashes, which is something of a foreshadowing for next issue. (Sssshhhh, lovelies. We’ll be there next week).

Meanwhile, Amaterasu introduces Persephone and Sakhmet to her chambers for praying-and-partying while Dionysus keeps the gig alive. That’s practicality right there, I guess. Persephone and Sakhmet talk a little on the problems of being harmful to others. The way the Cat Goddess sees it, hurting others implies not being hurt, which is preferable in a very basic worldview. Of course, this view is informed by her predator persona. And we shouldn’t expect any different from the closest thing to a villain aside from Ananke and The Great Darkness. All said, the two return to the dance floor in this house of praying and partying. Or as Sakhmet puts it, preying and partying.

Down at the dance floor, we see Urdr arguing with Amaterasu, who has taken the problematic connotations of her new gig and absolutely ran with them. Whereas Little Miss Sunshine was once oblivious to the less-flattering nuances of her incarnating Shinto out of mere innocence, she’s now utterly and deliberately ignorant of them. The purity of her belief is simply gone. Instead, she has taken the Daenerys’ route and made the whole paradigm about her, and her destiny. This is rich considering she’s talking to the Goddess of Destiny, who tells her she is free to choose her path. Amaterasu Targaryen won’t have logic though. She basically threatens to burn Urdr into a crisp if she keeps saying things she doesn’t want to hear and walks away.

There’s no more aggravating impunity than that which is thinly veiled with a smile.

Anyway, a new guest arrives at Amaterasu’s temple of bullshit. It’s Baphomet who looks quite different from the Pungeon Master we knew and loved. Something in his character feels dim, and it’s not just the absence of puns. By his own admission, he’s had a rough time lately. And it’s bound to get worse as soon as he sees Persephone. He runs away, but she catches up with him, wanting to know why he’s been avoiding her. The reason is he came clean to The Morrigan about him cheating on her. Unfortunately, this honesty turned out the straw that broke the camel’s back between the two. As it is, she was already suspecting, looking through his phone and whatnot.

This breach of privacy hints at something we already suspected from last issue. It’s an abusive relationship, and it is confirmed when Persephone accidentally knocks Baphomet’s shades. At best we can hope it’s the furious Badb Catha persona which lost control, physically harming Baphomet, who has now left. Their fellow Underworld dweller, Dionysus, leaves the temple to see what’s going on. Persephone tries following Baphomet, but Dionysus goes instead, saying she can only make things worse. He’s not wrong there. Amaterasu comes out as well. But since all she cares about is herself, her distress actually comes from the party ending with Dionysus’ exit.

Although Persephone is in no mood for it, Sakhmet proposes continuing the party with a fuckfest upstairs. Everyone is up for it, including Amaterasu. A while later, Amaterasu breaks her personal record on dipshittery as she bitches about Urdr. Carelessly, she reveals to Sakhmet that everybody agreed to cover up for Persephone’s murder of Anake. Everybody, except for Sakhmet, who was unconscious – so she believed it was self defence, just like everybody else. Meaning, in her mind, everybody had been laughing at her behind her back for six months. Sakhmet pins Amaterasu to the wall as this goes on, but the latter does what she’s best at: fleeing like a coward.

Her mind addled by this perceived humiliation, Sakhmet has nobody else to unleash her fury on. So, she brutally murders everybody in the room. Once more, cheers on Jamie McKelvie for his skills to convey this visually.

Before the issue (and this arc) comes to an end, we get a scene from six months earlier, when Ananke still lived. It’s the moment right before she embarks on Minerva’s abduction. She writes a heartfelt letter, presumably to the rest of the Pantheon. She feels she has jeopardised everything but it may not be too late. The letter hints that the Destroyer (Persephone) is indeed the harbinger of the Great Darkness. If she survives, she will reveal the truth to the rest, but she doesn’t entirely expect to survive what’s coming. She dries her eyes and puts up the horrible old lady facade for Woden. The rest is history…

… However, the letter disappears from her desk in a cloud of dust, somewhat resembling Inanna’s star dust. Could it be that her letter’s intended destination has received the message?

Stay tuned, lovelies. For next week, we’re looking at the second special one-shot. It’s a beauty – a terrible, bloody beauty.

 

The Wicked + The Divine Issue #28 Credits

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

 

 

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Devotee of coffee, whiskey and baleful sentiment. I also write a lot of things.

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