Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Wicked + The Divine Comes Out With a Few Truths

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There is something rather unsettling about the cover this issue. It may be the monochrome palette Matt Wilson used for the background to emphasize Ananke’s glowing red eyes behind that black moth-like veil. Or it may the poignant detail on Ananke’s wrinkled skin. It probably is both things stylistically speaking, but it certainly stands out in terms of theme. Ananke is one of the Gods, but she is not actually part of the Pantheon per se. We’ve seen her in the past Recurrence at the prologue on Issue #1, so we know she’s been around. Yet she appears to be the only one who’s lived past the two years afforded to the Gods.

What is her deal? Today we’ll get some truth on her and the nature of the Recurrence. As opposed to past issues, this one is somewhat heavy on exposition. That’s alright, though. We’ve been in the dark for a while, some harsh light is welcome at this point.

Issue #9 “’Life’ is the last thing I have, boy.”

Today we start off at the Wilsons’. Laura’s parents catch the news to see their daughter appearing on television again. With all these appearances on the media, you’d think they’d be concerned for her the well-being. Well they are, even if Laura seems to have proven a responsible teenager in the presence of these Gods. But being the swell parents they are, they are also quite aware that the Gods are adolescents, same as Laura. In spite of their awesome powers, their status as celebrities is the same as that of any teenage popstar: fragile in their lack of guidance. Mrs. Wilson wonders if somebody’s looking out for them as she and her husband are looking out for Laura.

Meanwhile, something is about to occur in Valhalla, where the Gods dwell. Ananke is comforting young, weeping Minerva, who still likely feels upset about what she did to Brunhilde. It’s no wonder the child turned out the virginal huntress, as her actions are not driven out of malice or want, but preservation. Ananke calls out Baphomet, who lurks in the shadows, restless for an audience with the Goddess of Necessity. Much as how his words left a brown note in Laura’s ears, hers seem to have done the same for him. He tells Ananke about her questions during Dionysus’ party and the alibi Morrigan fabricated to justify his absence from the spotlight during Lucifer’s trial. He comes off as confused, but Ananke doesn’t seem to buy it. The falsehood of the alibi certainly doesn’t paint a very favourable picture around Baphomet, and we know he likes bullshitting some.

Baphomet proceeds to ask why Minerva’s crying, in that careless, nicknaming tone of his. In most surprising fashion, she lashes out at him with the reason: she is dreading her inevitable death. This is especially painful in her case, being the youngest, bound to miss out on much of what her peers take for granted. In face of this, she’s simply not up for Baphomet’s jokes. This outburst brings out the tears in Baphomet’s eyes, which is an unexpected sight about the pungeon master. As any young person, a young God, he’s confused about many things, and then some.

He’s concerned about why a cop was even able to hurt him on Issue #3. Ananke says his defenses are at the weakest when he performs. We understand by this that divinity is not a passive thing. Gods are Gods through their performance, thus making the worship received by their fans a very active process. This vulnerability during the use of his powers is somewhat of a reflection of the fugacity of their lifespan as divinities. At this point, it’s clear to Ananke that Baphomet is exploring himself and his divinity. She asks Minerva to leave them for a moment, as it’s time for Ananke to Baphomet THE TALK, WicDiv style.

Chances are, Baphomet may have eventually come to the conclusion himself. The Prometheus Gambit is bollocks. No mortal can attain divinity by taking out a God. However, a Death God can indeed add a few years to his life by killing another God. She relays this information with a severe warning—she’ll hunt him down if he acts on this fear of dying. We know the outcome to such a warning from past issues. Baphomet calls Ananke out on killing Lucifer. She reprimands him by telling him she sacrificed her divinity for the Pantheon. She’s not a God proper.

Cass and her lackeys (or crew…whatever) walk in, gleeful about the Schadenfreude-rich scoop of Ananke roasting Baphomet. She taunts him, gloating in the knowledge that ‘Baphomet’ has never been an actual God, but a Crowley invention. Baphomet is about to snap his fingers and blast something, but Ananke stops him, telling him Gods don’t use their powers on the mortals. Smugly, Cass sees him walk out with sheer animosity on his brow. It’s just as well since it’s time for serious business. Traditionally secretive and hermetic, Ananke for once has requested an interview to help matters surrounding Lucifer’s arc. As you’d expect, her openness is received cynically by Cass, who demands for physical proofs of immortality and the like.

However, being the one who’s accompanied and guided the Pantheon for so long; Ananke is not the kind of person to do grandiose exhibition. She has no need or intent to, for she only means to tell the truth about the Gods’ origins. From this point on, Ananke will have Cass against the ropes without even trying.

The Gods used to walk the Earth, literally. There was also the Great Darkness back then. The Gods’ karma was to fight these dark forces, but they lost all encounters, and came back every time in lesser forms, as phenomena, animals, etc. They did manage to beat the darkness once, resulting in the flourishing of human civilization. Cass bluntly interprets this as a relation of deed and debt. Ananke responds that the Gods only light a match to keep the darkness at bay. They burn bright for a while and then they go: that is the sole function of the God, hence the limited lifespan.

Cassandra asks if they are actually Gods. Ananke only knows that they come from ‘the Great Beyond’ and return to it at the end of their lives. To ensure the Gods would be deft, capable and wise every time they returned, they needed someone to guide them. Enter necessity, Ananke. She sacrificed her divinity, so as to live forever in wait of every Recurrence, to guide the Gods. This last century has been hard on Ananke, though. She became more involved with the mortals and ended up inspiring Robert Graves’ The White Goddess. Naturally, Cass has read that book and maybe Frazer’s The Golden Bough too, but Ananke doubts she truly comprehended it.

As you would expect, Cass goes for a belligerent ‘fuck you’ almost as a reflex. Tranquil, Ananke says Cass dismisses the experience of others because she doesn’t feel it herself, thus devaluing the belief of others. For the first time ever, Cass actually seems to show some humility, asking why she doesn’t feel anything. Ananke says it’s simply the way it is: some feel, some don’t. Shaking the vulnerability out, it’s time for the final question: How does Ananke choose the Gods? She says she doesn’t choose them, she just finds them. They would eventually develop on their own, but she speeds up the process. Her powers allow her to find most of the Gods, but some are elusive. She’s basically Professor Xavier.

This answer is the cue to the true reason Ananke requested the interview. Cass is the twelfth God. As I cackle from the irony, the light and colour spectacle begins. Cass becomes Urdr of the Norse Mythology, the one who sees all. All at once, her name strikes true with the mythological Cassandra; I expect some may have seen this a mile away, and a possible foreshadowing for another time. Urdr works out that she’s one of the Norns, so it only makes sense that her nameless crew members become Verdandi and Skuld. Yeah, that works. Cass, now Urdr, is determined to use her new divinity to show everybody the truth: there are no saviours.

In the bushes, Baphomet reflects alike a Shakespearian villain on what Ananke told him. Some Gods he couldn’t hope to kill and others he wouldn’t, but some others he’d be able and very willing to. Without his trickster demeanour, he is looking increasingly sinister, and suspicious.

Back at the terrace, Ananke looks tired, but also relieved. For the first time in the whole series, she is happy as smiling. With a highlight around the circle of Yggdrasil’s effigy, the Pantheon wheel is finally complete.

Back the Wilsons’, Laura comes back crying. Her dad jumps at the possibility that somebody had been harassing their daughter because of her closeness to the Gods. Her mother goes to comfort her daughter, asking her what’s wrong. She doesn’t know why she’s crying, she just knows ‘everything’s gone wrong’.

Just what could that mean? Given the events at Valhalla, there’s no shortage of options. One God down, the Pantheon may already be at a disadvantage against the Great Darkness, which is yet to manifest. Since the Prometheus Gambit is not entirely a lie, the number may decrease further.

The Wicked + The Divine Issue #9

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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