Back in Uni, I read “The Turn of the Screw” by American writer Henry James. While the story itself was pretty alluring, its true charm lay in its narrative devices, and the effect they have on the reader. Simply put, it’s a matter of encroachingly claustrophobic ambiguity. You never actually know if the governess is going mental, or if there’s indeed some sinister supernatural influence at play in the house. Furthermore, the dialogue between both possibilities is in itself a conflict. And if you read deep enough into it, you’ll definitely feel the tension. Fast forward to the present day and my response to reading the latest WicDiv issue is not too different.
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have proven joyfully unafraid to explore character development, intertextuality, and even Shakespearian despair with this baby. They’ve also been more than willing to let us become attached to their characters. But then, they’ve also been merciless in their violent subversion of everything and bringing the temple down. The preceding issue compelled us to look back on what we’ve read and think about it on a deeper level. This one will do the same, for us to gasp in horror.
The cover hints at yet another leap into the past, this one back to 1923, where it all began, publication-wise. 34 issues later, and a lovely special on the matter, a return to this decade is bound to unveil some new knowledge. And if wee Minerva’s unexpectedly ominous presentation is anything of a clue, it’s going to be horrendous news. We find ourselves at Ananke’s tearful farewell to this Recurrence’s final four: Susanoo, Amaterasu, Amon-Ra, and Minerva, whose grin is the concerning sight we hadn’t considered the first time. At the final count of four, the surviving Gods snap their fingers, each pointing at the other to ensure the pact’s absolute success.
Minerva snaps differently from the others, though, casting a shield to deny Amaterasu’s snap. Thus, the suicide wheel tumbles, ‘accidentally’ sparing Minerva and Susanoo; the former disguises this is as fear of dying while the latter gives her a comforting hug. Duplicitous Minerva uses this to her advantage and claims Susanoo’s head. The treacherous child emerges from the flames to meet up with Ananke, who looks strangely reticent. Talk about hard characters to read. But it gets even stranger.
As the child places Susanoo’s still living head next to Morrigan’s, Set’s… and a never before seen Persephone’s, her speech starts to closely resemble that of the Ananke we know. On the other hand, Ananke’s words reveal an uncharacteristic fear, akin to a child afraid to die. It’s then that the Maid (Minerva) kills the Crone (Ananke) and magically consumes the heads, leaving only skulls behind. So much for thinking Luci, Tara, and Inanna were not fucked. As a result, ‘Minerva’ stands revitalized, flaunting glowing skulls in her eyes, something we more closely associate with Persephone. Peculiar.
The musical/intertextual 1-2-3-4 motif proved deadlier than we had anticipated. We’ve already seen Ananke die gruesomely at the hands of modern day Persephone. But this time around, one can plausibly think of a swap between Minerva and Ananke, which would mean the latter has just murdered the former, a Maid in a Crone’s body. Therefore, if my conjecture holds true, the physical Ananke we know may actually be 1923’s Minerva. SHIVER.
Fast forward to the present day then.
Asshole parent David Blake, otherwise known as asshole fake God Woden, interrupts Minerva’s sleepytime by holding her at gunpoint. It’s interrogation time after he found out Minerva attempted to take Sakhmet’s head, which didn’t work quite as well as she had expected. We now know of the ancient link between Minerva and Ananke, but Woden doesn’t, thus Mini’s claim that Ananke promised to break her out of the two-year lifetime curse is at least feasible-sounding to Woden. According to her, she merely stayed quiet while Ananke did her head-collecting. After the Crone’s death at Persephone’s finger snap, Minerva attempted to take the fourth head to somehow save herself.
Or so she says. That’s how things stand Minerva-wise. But why is Woden so interested in this information? Certainly he has no good deed in mind, but a more pressing concern snatches his attention. Woden teleports away, leaving Mini behind to do away with the facade (the outlines of which we can’t quite tell), as she observes Persephone, Urdr, and Mimir’s escape with the help of Cass’ pals from her laptop. It seems proximity with Cass allows Verdandi and Skuld to regain their divinity, which is nice and helpful. Alas, the heroes’ freedom doesn’t stop Woden from taking Mimir back, who’s just a head.
Persephone (whose inner monologue dwells on the matter of friendship) and the Norns return to the lab to try and rescue Mimir. The bodyless God is nowhere in sight, but an interesting development unfolds: Urdr gets a text from Minerva. At this point, Cass knows she can’t trust anyone, so she takes care not to reveal much even to Minerva. A wise decision. But Minerva knows just what to text—something devious, as foreshadowed by an unsettling-looking grin. The Maid admits she had been withholding information, but adds some specific information about a secret room behind Baal’s mural in Valhalla.
Laura asks that Cass and her Norns get the word out about the shit-show that has occurred. In the meantime, she will go and look at this secret room. Although Persephone doesn’t trust Minerva, she doesn’t fear her either. Persephone finds the mural (hard to miss it, really) and destroys it, revealing a secret stairway leading down. Under the nighttime setting, the grandiose Baal-centric design looks slightly unnerving. Furthermore, the contrasting setting and circumstance starts to undermine Baal’s persona.
Meanwhile, Mini puts her best oblivious kid act and wakes Baal, claiming Persephone mentioned the secret room. The Sky God freaks out and shazams his way to Valhalla.
At the end of the stairs, Laura finds her way to a small red chamber with an altar. Intertwined with the discovery panels, we see flashbacks of pre-Godhood, belligerent Cassandra Igarashi. In this flashing retrospective, the journo questions which Baal they were talking about. Initially, she believed him to be Baal Hammon, Sun God of Carthage. There was something peculiar about this God’s worship: it featured literal child sacrifice. Baal, with the most annoyed expression I’ve seen in comics, denied this, claiming instead to be Baal Hadad, a thunder God. Alas, it just so happens that this secret altar boasts a few skeletons, disturbingly small skeletons at that.
So much for the Thunder God facade. Baal furiously discards it by casting aside his cool-ass thunder chain. In its stead, we get fire all over. Baal Hammon has finally revealed himself in full. Maybe Sakhmet was not actually the most dangerous God around. After Baphomet’s reveal as actually Nergal and Mimir’s surfacing, why would this be a surprise? We’ve had death that far exceeds Game of Thrones in both horror and brains. Should we really be surprised one of the good guys was evil along—again? Maybe, maybe not. Gods know I was.
That’s it for this latest issue, my lovelies. So far this arc has raised the stakes with vengeful poise and swiftness. Gillen and McKelvie haven’t had a single dull moment here, so we can only anticipate something even better, either for triumph or tragedy.
The Wicked + The Divine Issue #35 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Images Courtesy of Image Comics
DC Elevates Batwoman to Live Action, Cancels Her Book
Ugh. Before anyone asks, no, there’s no way to save Batwoman from cancellation. Again. Volume 3 is dead. If you’re one of the ~25,000 people who bought and read Batwoman during the New52 era, in which her book reached a total of 45 issues (including two annuals, two #0s, and a crappy tie-in), but then just noped out reading Batwoman Rebirth…welp. Fuck you.
Because yes, that’s how frustrated I am.
The comics world didn’t get less diverse between the first cancellation and the relaunch. Sure, we’re sort of living in a Darkest Timeline scenario but that doesn’t mean socio-cultural progress evaporates overnight! Especially when the kind of people that Kate’s original ongoing managed to reach are only more numerous now. Which just begs the question: why did nobody read this book?
Unfortunately I suspect that I already know the reason. It’s kind of the same reason people seem to be sleeping on Black Lightning despite it being streets ahead of every other DCTV production. The lesbian wasn’t shtupping anyone (well, not in present day). Of course, in Black Lightning’s case, there’s also racism involved, but the more explicit and assertive Jewishness Bennett wrote in for Kate probably set off quite a few antisemite alarms. This attitude is unfortunately disturbingly common within queer spaces, because of course it is. Which means, yes, one can technically blame Nazis for Batwoman’s cancellation. I know I am!
(Or DC suits mumbling about ROI.)
So where do we go from here? Apparently, we sit on our hands and wait for December to roll around and watch the CW likely take a giant dump all over Kate Kane. I’m not going into this hopeful, and it’s not because I think it’s impossible to do it right. Frankly, I don’t even think it’s that difficult to pull off. You just need to actually know who she is. Here’s a list of people who have demonstrated that they fit that description:
- James Tynion IV
- Marguerite Bennett
- Tom Taylor
- Gail Simone
- J.H. Williams III
- Haden Blackman
Notice someone missing? It’s Greg Rucka! Because apparently “his” Kate is entirely unrecognizable from the Kate we have now (and have always had), which means he’s either pissed he didn’t get to write this stuff and is being a jerk about it…or his original intent was absolute shit. Either way, not a great look for Greg.
Obviously, none of those people will be writing/advising/consulting for the DCTV yearly crossover event. Maybe there’s someone on one of those four writing staffs that does get her, but the odds of that are exceedingly low. And even if someone does, the odds of them being able to adapt her right are basically zilch.
Why? It’s not because I suspect they’re only doing this as a palate cleanser/apology after the nazi-tastic crossover last year. It’s also not because Kate’s maybe being brought in to show off their stunning “progressivism”. It’s because the folks over at DCTV clearly lack one of the most fundamental understandings of how Kate can even be Batwoman: there needs to be a Batman.
For anyone who knows the story well, this should not be a surprise even if it does sound like a fanboy’s wet dream. There will always be a Batman, regardless of who happens to be under the cowl, but there are so many ways that there wouldn’t be a Batwoman. So many, in fact, that the entire running theme of Bennett’s Batwoman run was about that explicit choice she made, and the one she continues to make every time she operates as Batwoman. Kate chose this. She was not compelled by a bat flying through the window, or the hands of fate. The Batwoman is not a universal constant.
Kate Kane wanted to protect innocent lives, and her country. Following in her family’s long history of military service, she enlisted and attended West Point. Near the end of her second semester, she was dishonorably discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (watch them cut this and never elaborate on why she was kicked out aka the Andreyko Origin) because she refused to lie about who she was. The flag she wanted to serve tossed her into the dumpster, and that’s where she forced herself to stay in a drunken stupor for years and years.
The Kanes are a very prominent family, so this made headlines. Kate was basically outed globally. She had money, and her father had no earthly idea how to help her find a new purpose in life since she’d dedicated her entire existence towards serving others and fixing the world from literally her twelfth birthday. That is, until she found a new flag.
If not for that one night in the alley—in which she was not saved by Batman, but rather offered a helping hand out of the rain—Kate would never, not in a million years, have considered vigilantism as an actual option for her. Because that’s completely insane. The only way Kate becomes Batwoman is by meeting Batman. Thus, there cannot be a Batwoman without the Batman.
So, does that mean there is a Batman in the Arrowverse now? Is he dead? If Bruce is dead, why isn’t Dick the new Batman? If Dick is dead too, why not Tim? Or a resurrected Jason? Or, shit, Damian? Jean-Paul Valley? There has to be a goddamn Batman, and ultimately it doesn’t matter who it is, there just has to be somebody in the costume to inspire Kate and legions of others.
Tynion’s run has been very explicitly about what the Bat means to different people. How it can manifest, and how people interpret the symbol. It’s no accident that The Colony, Kate’s father’s black-ops group designed to operate like a literal army of Batmen in terms of effectiveness, exists in indirect opposition to Bruce’s ideology…yet more or less consistent with Kate’s. Because Kate doesn’t wear a costume; it’s a uniform.
So why the hell would Batwoman of all people be the focus of a DCTV four-part crossover? What possible plot contrivance could there be to remove every other vigilante from Gotham, because literally all of them are more inclined to interact with “tourists” than Kate? The answer is going to be stupid or shallow.
Whoever shows up on screen won’t be Kate Kane. She may have the name, and the colors, and the look, and the mentality of a Navy SEAL/Green Beret/Marine, but it won’t be her. Because at the end of the day, as far as DCTV is concerned, Kate is a lesbian and they got lots of good press from that Alex stuff, and hey Kate once dated Floriana Lima’s “Maggie Sawyer” (who totally isn’t a watered down Renee Montoya) so this all makes perfect sense!
Well, all of that stuff, but also a lack of emphasis on her Jewishness kind of breaks her character. Intentional or otherwise (great job, Greg!), Kate needing to scream for her own right to exist is kind of integral to how she operates and lives and you know…exists. Kinda speaks for itself considering what she had to do to find some sort of grounding in her life after the military shat her out.
All of that being said, the optics here are just…really bad. DC shoves Kate on the silver screen and then axes her book? Look, we’ve all seen Marvel do that over and over and over and over and over again with their movies, but this is just a new level of stupid. Considering how the only other queer lead book DC has in their primary line is the abysmal Wonder Woman by James Robinson (that is somehow getting a spin-off featuring the somehow not copyright infringing Wonder Man?!), this is a Bad Look.
Which makes me suspect that DC isn’t so much as cancelling the book, as they are retooling for a relaunch around December with a new #1 and creative team. Probably with Kate Perkins because she’s written two Batwoman stories for DC already, despite them being just…comically insincere.
Or maybe they’ll give it to Gail. God, I hope they do. I mean, I’m heartbroken that Bennett lost her literal dream job because people won’t consume queer media unless there’s shipping, but I’m also terrified of Kate just…going up on the shelf. For a very, very long time. At least the solicitation for the series finale has Kate clearly getting back together with Renee. It’s not much, but it’s something.
Back in February of last year, I told you folks that this was likely going to be Kate’s last chance at a solo book. Let’s pray I’m not right.
Images courtesy of DC Comics
Sunshine Of Your Love: Raven Year 2 #5-6 Review
We’ve now caught up to the series with the next two issues in Raven: The Pirate Princess. If you’d like a review of the most recent issue, #7, you can read my review here. For now, let’s see how our favorite half-elf is faring under the sea.
Issue #5: The Kiss
a.k.a “lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice”
This issue begins on the mysterious island where Sunshine has found herself after landing in the drink. Why is she here? Who is this queen? It’s been a month, what’s she been up to? No time for all that! We have to use the Mirror of Galad…I mean Ursula’s Cauld…no I mean Queen Pavarti’s scrying pool to check on our friends back on the ship.
There, Ximena is angsting over her relationship with Raven after the loss of sunshine. The rest of the crew is taking part in a pullup contest between Raven and Katie, which Raven wins with gusto. She and Ximena are gay for a while until Ximena drops the bombshell: she wants to learn to fight. Their eventual near-kiss (there’s so many of those in this comic) is ruined by a lighting strike! But it is not the sea being moved by Sunshine’s antipathy towards Ximena, but by her own magic! Which she now has. The scene shifts back to the mysterious island where the irate queen casts Sunshine out of her palace for her inadvertent magic use. She mopes on a bench until she judo flips a mysterious girl, who asks her to dance.
Returning to the ship without the conceit of the mirror, the new drama is a poem that Dezzie has found. The embarassing poem, read aloud to the crew, is addressed to Quinn, who angrily storms out after an impassioned speech about acceptance. But it turns out that the poem was written by Zoe. Finally confessing her affection for Quinn, the two finally kiss at the end of the issue.
I enjoyed the relationship drama of the issues, as I’ve largely resigned myself to this shift in focus for the comic. The art has shown a marked improvement from the last few issues, perhaps due to a more diversified art staff. The Zoe/Quinn relationship is perhaps my favorite out of all of them, with the perfect mix of angst and fluff without too much contrivance to accomplish either. The Sunshine/Ximena/Raven triangle, by contrast, is becoming more and more of a relic as Ximena and Raven get plenty of good moments while Sunshine whines about it.
The shift from the island to the ship is a strange one. We know Sunshine’s ok, but we don’t know anything about the month she’s spent on that island. We find out her side of things next issue, but for now it just seems kind of odd. Especially since it gets so little focus compared to the next issue.
Issue #6: The Heart of the Sea
a.k.a “Happy, huh?”
We finally find out where Sunshine is. She has been rescued by a gay mermaid, as if there is any other kind, and taken to the island of Queen Parvarti. Sunshine is part of the Queen’s “collection” of women rescued from death at sea. It’s sort of a Flying Dutchman but for women. Also not dead. Maybe.
In any case, Sunshine is acclimating very well to the island thanks to Ananda, the girl she flipped last issue. The two go dancing, share dinner, and have a flirty time in Ananda’s garden. They share their origins and bond atop a romantic waterfall. It all seems idyllic. But when night falls, a gap appears. Ananda is not just a kind soul here to help. She was in fact sent to Sunshine by Queen Pavarti. A spy? A genuine attempt to help them both? Sunshine, and the reader, is unsure.
I had much less to recap this issue as there just wasn’t so much. This is one of those slowed down issues, where it’s very talky and introspective. As I alluded to, this really should have swapped with the last issue. I love flashbacks, but when its such a short time as this it may as well have just happened.
In-issue, Sunshine’s internal monologue is hilarious as much as it is heartfelt. I loved how she shut down whenever someone pretty looked at her or kissed her. Her emotions seem to be a bit scattered as she shifts from sad to in-love to happy and worried over the space of a few hours. Ananda is kind of bland, sadly, but she’s sweet enough that she’ll be able to fill her role helping Sunshine heal with gusto.
The biggest quibble is the thus far unaddressed issue of the Queen’s “collection.” I commend Raven for not going the Steven Universe route and making the literal ownership of people some kind of fun quirk as opposed to something worrying, but it’s only very briefly touched on as a problem. I know it’s not dealt with next issue, but there’s still time.
The only big problem with these issues is the order of them. Issue #5 doesn’t justify the scenes with Sunshine outside of a Little Mermaid shout out and a way to yet again interrupt Ximena and Raven’s kiss. Plus, the story about the island is so much cooler than the relatively mundane drama on the ship. Why would I care about a high-school drama about misplaced poems, albeit a well done one, when there’s an ISLAND OF MAGIC GAY MERMAIDS! Like, that is such a neat idea and there’s so many places it can go. But, inevitably, we’ll be back on the ship next issue to continue the dating drama.
These issues also confirm my fears that there’s a long lull happening in this part of Year 2, which will reach its zenith in the doldrums of Issue #7. However, the character writing from Whitley is still top tier, and I really do find myself enjoying the fights, make-ups, near-kisses, and snark coming out of the characters. I just kind of wish the adventure of it all got more attention.
If anything in the above review interested you, you can pick up digital copies of Raven the Pirate Princess on Comixology , and collected physical editions on Amazon. If you’re already a fan, you can spread the word about Raven on social media and to your friends! Share this review with them! Review the book on Amazon or at other retailers. Issue #8 of Raven: The Pirate Princess drops on the 23rd of May, and is available for pre-order today!
Images courtesy of Action Lab
A Not So Final Goodbye To Jane Foster
See, I knew that Marvel was going to pull of something like this. I’ll admit I’m slightly annoyed. Death should never be used as a plot device unless you’re fully going to commit to the consequences both figuratively and practically within the realm of story and of emotional response from the reader. Not only do you risk losing the significance of said life ending, you also break the readers immersion into the fantasy the world that you’ve created. They will no longer fear the suffering or death of their favored characters if there are none.
On the other hand, I’m am so glad that Jane Foster is still with us. Only a writer like Jason Aaron could completely paralyze us with the fear of losing such an important and beloved hero and still fill us with a sense of satisfaction and pride when she returns.
So yes, after a long and enduring battle with the Mangog alongside her equally arduous struggle with cancer, Jane gave us a sacrifice that we would never forget. And she gave us a return that even though we should resent (because comics) it, we can’t help but shed tears of pure relief and joy that one of Marvel’s most well written characters will live on to fight another day…and fight she will.
With the series over and the future looking all the brighter for Jane, it’s important to remember our journey with her. We’ve seen her victorious and we’ve seen her defeated, yet never broken. The spirit she brought out in all of us is why her story will remain one of the timeless classics in comic book history. Yet thanks to these two final issues, we definitely know that this is not the last we’ve seen of Jane playing a hero. She may never be able to become Thor again, but we know thanks to the epilogue issue that things are far from over. The Mangog may be vanquished but threats are ever present.
At The Gates
Now we all knew that Jane’s death would be honored by Norse belief even though she herself wasn’t actually Asgardian. As such, the revered dead who died in battle go to Valhalla to live out the rest of their existence in glory. So it really wasn’t a surprise when she ended up before the gates. What was surprising however, was Odin’s appearance and subsequent reaction. Since the start of the series, Odin has been a constant thorn in Jane’s side. He was obviously not happy about his son’s birthright being taken by another and spent most of his time in the comic series foiling her every chance he got. They shouted and dueled at some point or another. Even when he was deep in mourning after Loki stabbed Freyja with a poisoned blade, Cul Borson did not make life any easier for her.
The true surprise was the fact that upon learning that Jane Foster had taken his son’s mantle, he showed nothing but respect and acceptance. Considering she had given her life so that his people and family could live, I would expect no less. Even from someone as thick headed as Odin. It’s a heart wrenching scene for sure, as we see Jane take in the finality of death. In the moment, she was ready to give her life to save others, but now that she really has a moment to look at it, she was not ready to die. Yet try as he might to convince her of her reward as an honored dead, she was not the only one who wasn’t ready to let go.
Back in the cosmos, Odinson and the rest of Asgard mourn Jane’s passing. Yet the anger, rage, and denial in Odinson only serves to pique the attraction of what lived inside Mjolnir. As you know, Mjolnir was destroyed along with the Mangog when they were thrown into the sun, leading to the ancient hammer releasing the mother storm. Odinson’s will alone is not enough to channel the mighty storm as is begins to break him down, even his mighty Uru arm melts at its power. I think it was safe to say we all cheered and cried when Odin shared the power of the storm, causing the great tempest to breathe life back into Jane.
The comic ends in such a promising way. Jane confirms that she will resume her treatment, as her rebirth has given her a new lease on life. Odinson also prepares himself for the challenges that will face him soon enough in order to reclaim his identity as worthy, as Thor. Our two Gods of Thunder depart as Odinson gives Jane a surviving piece of Mjolnir. Our spirits fly with hope as we get a deserved happy ending, and surely this hope will let Jane fly into our memories.
Jane The Remembered
Remember back in Mighty Thor 700 when he got a random glimpse of three very Thor like Asgardian women? Well, they get their own story in the first half of The Mighty Thor: Gates of Valhalla and it’s way more significant than we originally thought. They are the granddaughters of Thor Odinson some billion years after the present time. In this charming and beautiful story we see the three sisters—Frigg, Ellisiv, and Atli—battle across time to find the greatest Thor of all.
During their travels, we see a young Odinson struggle to lift Mjolnir for the first time. We also see all the silly variants of the God of Thunder over the years, yes, even the frog. The sisters also witness a fight between their grandfather and Loki far in the future, telling of possible stories to come. Yet, by the end, their search is complete and they come across Jane Foster, who in that time was struggling in fear to return to chemotherapy.
This right here was so important. Not only do we see a human Jane again, but we see the real fear that affects so many afflicted with this deadly illness each and every day. Not everyone wins the fight against cancer, but everyone who fights is a hero, just like Jane. The end of this made me feel a sense of peace and comfort knowing that even so far in the future Jane is remembered for the hero she was and that her story is not yet over. She will fly again and a war will wage, one that everyone seemed to forget about.
The War of the Realms is Coming to Midgard
One of the biggest plots of this comic series was not closed with the end of the series. The three sisters transition the tone of this comic from light hearted to dark as soon as they mention Jane’s role in the war of the realms. The last we saw of this war was during the War Thor arc, where Malekith had a firm grasp on many realms. In the second story of the issue we see him solidify his hold on nearly all of them. His alliance with Roxxon corp, a deal struck in the 2014 series, is virtually unopposed as the Asgardians regroup and resettle on old Asgard.
This story shows the malice and pure ruthlessness of his campaign against the entirety of all the realms within the world tree. Not only that, but he also emplores the angels of Heaven with news that their greatest enemy, Asgard, has fallen. Dark days are indeed coming as we are left with a vision of earth burning among the various armies under Malekiths influence.
I love this portion because it lets the reader know that this huge of a story wasn’t forgotten and eventually loose ends will be tied. I also love that it will be it’s own event, either within the main Thor series coming in June or as a standalone series. What I don’t like is that I have to wait until next year for it. Seriously, that’s way too long a wait. Yet, we can find solace that Jason Aaron will continue writing Thor in June and also his run on the Avengers, which is already promising, two issues in. I say all we can do is prepare ourselves for the eventuality that is the war of the realms and hope our favorite Goddess of Thunder will return in all her glory.