Saturday, May 18, 2024

WicDiv: The Denouement Starts with Fire and Stardust

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Here be my (much) delayed reread and review for The Wicked + The Divine‘s latest issue. If there is one sigh of joy or relief to be had, it is that the next issue will probably follow soon after this review, and so will the review for that—no worries there. But before the next chapter swings by, we could do with a quick refreshing about this final act, and its stakes. Minerva-Ananke’s plan to continue her (far too prolonged) existence among us is a go, but this time with a reprise of her mischief from the days of the Black Death. The disease, this time around, will be one of the mind, and will probably reach far wider. You don’t get more Bond Villain than that.

Meanwhile, Laura Wilson who has finally got her stuff back together throws the first blow at Minerva’s scheme by crashing Baal Hammon’s final gig, thus preventing the deaths of everyone in attendance at the O2 stadium. So where does that leave us?

Issue #41
“I’ll make you something wonderful.”

The answer is backstage, where performers of all kinds—divine and otherwise—are free to unwind, party, or receive a chewing. Considering the bleak series of events in this arc, it’s safe to assume Baal is getting a proper chewing, from Woden, of all people. Here we learn that even Woden was unaware of Baal’s plan to eliminate the (highly convenient) menace of the Great Darkness by killing everyone present, including his own mother – as noted by Baal’s sister. Interestingly, despite how vile and messed up Woden is, even he is thankful for their enemy’s intervention. More than showing this as a sliver of humanity, it suggests he may not be entirely on board with means to take.

If he were to know the full extent of Minerva’s intentions, he might become something of a wild card at that. But that’s just getting ahead of myself. For now, the priority is to capture (and presumably kill) Laura Wilson. VALKYRIES ASSEMBLE!

Meanwhile, Laura Wilson uses the element of disarray to start gathering her friends and allies. Using what’s left of her powers, she manages to free Urdr and her Norns from prison. As a personal comment, I really missed Cassandra’s foul-but-amiable mouth around Laura; it’s just not the same when she’s cussing at the baddies. Now that Laura and Cass are back in action, they piece their info together and head for the prize: the heads, ruthlessly acquired by Ananke. And in the process, they also free Mimir, who has been through a lot as it is.

Now, what follows is a very special moment, one that I feel all of us were hoping for. But same as many things in charming, transgressive WicDiv, it unfolds with an unexpected twist. Of course, I mean Laura and Lucifer meeting once again. As always, Jamie is on point with the expressions. We can see, and feel Laura’s surprise, horror, sadness, guilt… and relief at seeing her friend alive, albeit as just a head with sewn lips. However, despite Luci’s state, she still conveys her very own signature of whimsical mirth. Her wink at Laura could well be a wink at us readers; like a slight nudge of reassurance, that even if things have gone south so badly, they still can get better.

But we’ll leave the fuzzy feelings for later, as the Valkyries assemble around them, ready to stop them from leaving. Whatever obstacle they could prove is minuscule—Urdr defeats them all easily, remarking that she had been waiting for this moment. We can interpret this to be both a strike back at the bad guys, as well as a strike back at her former crew, who screwed everyone over to become Valkyries.

With signs of Baal and Woden’s approach nearby, Laura, Cass, Mimir and Heads all high-tail it to the safety of the Underground. While roaming the dark tunnels, Luci squirms for her lips to be unsewn together, after which, she angrily relays a gold bit of knowledge we readers have had for a while, but Laura and Cass haven’t: Minerva is Ananke. When Laura asks if Sakhmet’s head was also separated from her body, Inanna informs her that decapitation didn’t go smoothly for the Cat Goddess. Laura feels sorrow upon knowing she lost another one.

We get some very brief emotional respite when Tara gets to speak again. No sooner we get her first actual spoken line in the present narrative, Inanna brings up the highly uncomfortable subject of Baal as he asks if he is okay. There is much Inanna has missed since his decapitation—for that matter, also much he missed before. How is Laura to tell Inanna, a friend, a good individual with Dionysus-tier-kindness, that the God they loved is a murderer of children and potential walking genocide? She doesn’t, she can’t, and I don’t think we could, either. Rather than answering that question, she addresses the very important matter of what to do next.

Down here, they are relatively safe. They may even have a potential ally in the neighbourhood. But there is something even more important. This ally could possibly get the Heads new bodies. But of Luci, Inanna, Tara, and Mimir, one will have to do without.

Not an easy decision to make there.

But as British humour deems it, solemn moods can lose all gravity in a second. Tara relinquishes the prospect of getting a body, likely because of some unpleasant experiences. Mimir immediately promises to create a body for her afterwards. This is pretty a heartwarming gesture in itself, and also the first kind gesture Tara gets.

But we still have yet to see if getting new bodies is a definite go. For that to happen, the current possessor of those bodies has to comply.

Thusly we arrive at the Shrine for the Threefold Goddess of Death. Yes, I took the liberty to capitalise. We meet up with Nergal, (formerly Baphomet) whom has gotten an ever gothier makeover. It looks very fitting for one who will mourn forever, which he actually may. As sign of maturity, the first thing he does is greet Inanna. Their shared appearances haven’t been the smoothest, after all. That evolution in his character also means surrendering the Morrigan’s three bodies is no easy choice. His heart pushes him in the direction of actually reviving Marian. Yet he acknowledges the ciclical nature of their relationship, which is an abusive one.

He reveals that he didn’t feel Marian doomed him when she got him to become a God. The death of his parents did that already. In his perspective, she only made his ‘borrowed time’ a more remarkable experience, throughout which he needed her. While he doesn’t seem to recognise her abuses on the late end as such, he knows he has to let her go. So he does.

Now, I’m gonna take another liberty as writer and fan here: I was very fond of the Morrigan in this comic. She was my favourite, in fact, until her truths began to show through. And even after, I still rather cared for the character, feeling the only attempt at redemption (if one were inclined to see it as such) would be a tragic one. And it absolutely was. So, it was an experience seeing the way Nergal moves on. With three snaps of his fingers, he repurposes Marian’s bodies, destroying the shrine… and giving Lucifer, Inanna, and Mimir a downright magnificent makeover.

At this time, we can clearly see the final showdown brewing. But Laura informs her friends that there is one more thing to do. Unless they manage to get Baal on their side, their efforts so far will be meaningless. Considering Valentine’s colossal will, for good and ill, this may be the greatest challenge yet. Their best bet is to shake his convictions on the foe he desperately seeks to vanquish: the Great Darkness. Fortunately, Cass has all the trust in the world for Laura (LOOK HOW HAVE THEY’VE COME, I LOVE THEM). And she will come through by scrying on the nature of this foe. Until now, she was unable to find anything on the Great Darkness. But this, she says, was only because she was asking the wrong questions.

Now, she knows the right question to ask.

That’s it for this issue itself, but there remains one neat thing to address. At the end of each issue, we get a look at the Gods’ circle, highlighting their status as alive or dead. This time, after so many issues of thinking them dead, Luci and Inanna’s symbols are back on the board. Each gloriously shining with fire and stardust as welcome back into the active cast.

Really, if there is one issue to make fans shine with glee, it’s definitely this one. In this world of unnecessary reboots and series with production value too great for their quality, we need true crowd pleasers sometimes.

Thank you for reading!

The Wicked + The Divine Issue #41 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
All images are courtesy of Image Comics




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