Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Wicked + The Divine Fills the Hollow with a New Arc

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You may have been there at some point of your life. It’s some grand, momentous occasion that you know you will never forget. But when the mood has died down from its climax, you’re left with uncertainty. Will anything that follows this moment hold the potential to be better, or even just as good? Regardless, it will still feel much like a farewell.

Think of it as the best sunset you’ve ever seen; nightfall will always leave you wondering. Last issue we saw a close to the second arc of The Wicked + The Divine. The events unfolding in Prometheus Gambit have turned our understanding of this universe into uncertainty. Beloved characters have died in brutal fashion, including the protagonist. What have we left after such a storm? Where do we go from here? Will it get any better as we go on? There are no immediate answers to those questions, but we’ll be finding out. Let’s start this arc anew with a brand new styling for the covers, this one featuring the late, great Inanna. Commercial Suicide begins.

Issue #12
“I loved him”

The most obvious departure from the previous arc is the artwork. The writer himself even admits the style’s gimmick for the new arc risked getting a mixed reception from the WicDiv crowd. Rather than McKelvie doing the drawing, each of the coming issues would be drawn by a guest artist. This direction was already expressed in the previous issue’s backmatter, nonetheless the reception was unsurprising. Although I can by no means call Kate Brown’s work subpar, my first reading of the issue did feel awkward due to the loss of McKelvie’s familiar pen.

This is more a matter of custom, though. Something far less dependant on habit and taste is the plot, however. Any followup from last issue’s denouement would most likely feel somewhat lacking without our protagonist.

This issue starts off with a video recording of an interview with Laura Wilson on her relation to the gods, dated August 3, after the Norns’ awakening. She talks about her feelings regarding Cassandra’s ascension as the twelfth god. The viewer is Beth, former assistant to Cassandra before being fired; she doesn’t buy Laura’s nonchalance about not becoming a god.

Since the journo position in the story was left sort of vacant, Beth has taken the spot with a crew of her own (Robin and Toni). They’re trying to find the truth about Laura and Inanna’s deaths, with no lesser zeal than Cassandra it seems. However, they don’t possess enough material to make much progress on their own.

Robin suggests, to Beth’s great and furious displeasure, consulting with the Norns, the leader of which is Beth’s former boss. Oh dear. Of course, this option is a no-go, because stubbornness trumps all. Instead they will get footage of grieving people at the remains of Inanna’s place.

They first expect to get little more than what they already had, but they find that a wild Baal has appeared. Cops will be cops, and more often than not, their work in comic books involves hindering and annoying more worthwhile characters. They’re inverse mooks, but mooks all the same. They won’t let Baal pay his respects for the sake of ‘law and order’, or whatever. A threat from the thunder god gets them to back the fuck off, though. Baal takes a moment to grieve his former friend and lover, yet he leaves as quickly and thunderingly as he arrived.

Beth decides to use the power of social media and private messaging to secure an interview. It works. Next thing we know, Baal is sitting in a chair that seems rather small for his badass divine persona in front of a recording camera. He speaks with candor about his relationship with Inanna and acknowledges that he indeed loved him. His sorrow is real, but he refuses to weep for the dead god. That’s not Baal; masculinity in the Classical sense is deeply rooted in his character. His emotional outlet focuses on action when confronted with a problem. In this case, the problem manifests itself as Innana’s killer, Baphomet, being on the loose. It looks like we’re in for an action-filled bout between gods once again.

After the interview, Beth’s team ventures into the underground, where she decides to pull one of Laura’s methods. Fearlessly, and somewhat moronically, Beth steps onto the train tracks as Laura did back in Issue #4. Much like then, Morrigan steps out of the darkness to pull Beth to safety, proving the goth’s capacity to be nice. If it wasn’t obvious already, Beth is more pragmatic than Cass in terms of what she’s willing to do to get footage. This was a trick in order to get the Morrigan out in the open, for Baal to ‘interrogate her’ about Baphomet’s location. Thus follows a subversion of the duel between gods that we’ve come to enjoy. It’s a tad uncomfortable to describe.


Relentless, Baal beats the Morrigan to get her to talk. He knows she has helped her boy escape back into the dark after every one of his mischievous deeds. In the aftermath of Inanna’s death, she most likely bailed him out again. She says she doesn’t know of Baphomet’s whereabouts, but Baal won’t have it. She doesn’t deny any involvement, nor does she even attempt to defend herself. Failing to obtain information, Baal’s assault only increase in brutality, to the point of crying fiery tears. All the while, Beth’s crew keep filming, because they’re callous like that. The thunder god is on the brink of killing Morrigan when an unlikely hero makes the save.

Enter local asshole Woden with his Valkyries to talk some calm into him. Preaching Ananke’s now probably meaningless words, Woden manages to get Baal to chill. Apparently, Ananke is opting for an orderly unearthing of the responsible parties to execute them neatly, all hunky dory. Thus, they can’t allow Baal to give in to his grief in such bloody fashion.

However, Morrigan is still a suspect through her partnership with Baphomet, so Woden and Baal carry her through a portal to Ananke. Now that the gods have left and the subway station is in shambles, Beth’s team of assholes take joy in having filmed the whole thing. They leave the scene before they get blamed for something that is absolutely their fault.

Now that the station is deserted and in ruins, a lonesome dark figure appears in the scene. Baphomet looks on the aftermath of Baal’s anger. With baleful fury in his eyes, he takes one of Morrigan’s feathers, token of the assault onto her, and walks back into the dark. His words here leave an ambiguous taste to his intentions. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that he won’t stay quiet or idle about this. Dissension in the Pantheon is brewing, and Ananke’s ambiguous involvement makes it even more volatile. Whatever will happen to our dark sweetheart Morrigan? Will Beth and her pack gloat with impunity? We’ll find out next time, as this issue ends here.

Now, as mentioned in this recap’s introduction, backmatter is more than the creators replying to fanmail. Sometimes we get to read important stuff about upcoming issues. As a new direction for this arc, the backmatter mentions guest artists and future events. Thus, we get a lovely sample of Kate Brown’s works: The Unicorn & The Woodsman and others. We’ll also get to see (fucking) Tara proper for the first time in the entire run. That’s pretty exciting, isn’t it? Justified infamy is the best.

As an unusual stinger after the letter column, we get a ‘post-credits’ scene featuring Inanna giving an interview. It’s May 25 and he looks as lively and happy as we’ve always known him. He discusses the way he copes with his regrets. Although he believes it’s possible to simply not care about a thing, he’d much rather care about it all. Thus his regrets are really the one thing he doesn’t regret. He aims to live each day fully.

Reading this after seeing what Baal has done out of grief strikes bitterly. It’s also worth noting this interview features Jamie McKevlie’s art, thus imbuing the scene with a sense of past, a small treasure in a regretfully compiled archive. If we consider the alternate cover of the issue by Kate Brown, this new arc acquires very a distinct flavor: a posthumous dedication to Inanna. It’s also the first bit of momentum in a headlong rush to destruction in the WicDiv universe.


Images Courtesy of Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine Issue #12 Credits

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: James McKelvie, Kate Brown, Matt Wilson

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