Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Wicked + The Divine Finally Reveals Tara

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It’s a miracle, it’s true! This time we’ll actually get to know the one god we haven’t properly seen so far. However, considering Tara’s reputation as resident Scrappy, the honor is rather dubious. When the word ‘fucking’ becomes somewhat of an obligatory prefix to your name, you know something’s not right in your life, however short it may be. In full expository comic book fashion, today we’ll learn of the reason behind such unsavory reputation.

Continuing with this arc’s aesthetic choice, the cover features a frame of Tara from below eye height down to the upper thighs. Such a focus imbues the character with sensuous mystique, which is quite appropriate for the image of a pop star god. Even now, her sultry appearance is hardly indicative of her belonging to any pantheon in particular. The mask she holds in her hand is somewhat of a hint, though. So, just who is ‘fucking’ Tara?

Issue #13
“Looking good, girl”

As with many supernatural, metaphysical and mystical characters in comic books, gods use different speech and thought bubbles than mundane characters. In WicDiv’s case, these bubbles are fashioned out of the gods’ individual designs and color palettes. But even so, Tara’s appear rather alien in their bright, lively design. This may be a consequence of her speaking for the very first time. That’s the thing. We are seeing Tara’s own story, told by herself. In a universe where everybody but the reader has an unfavorable opinion of her, such direction inspires sobriety.

She addresses the elephant in the room right from the beginning. She is hated, but it wasn’t always like this. The colorful splash art in these opening panels are a flashback to a past performance. She was worshipped as any other god. Yet she was displeased, for it was not she they loved, but her being a god. Quickly enough, she becomes a foil to the late Laura Wilson. Tara’s significance is not the face she puts before her adoring fans. Her more genuine persona is the mask, which she wears when performing her own material. That’s right, the Scrappy was a singer-songwriter before becoming a god.

She rarely gets to do this since it’s diametrically different from what her fans have come to see. So they boo, they riot, and they call her a “selfish bitch”, because of course they fucking would. In no subtle terms, the pedestal of the gods can equal the gallows. And yet, at the end she always takes off the mask, ironically reverting to the face the fans ‘love’. The show goes on in spite of all, as she’s already used to it. So, we go on another flashback, to her days before divinity. And now, WicDiv gets real on a whole other level.

There is a fact prevailing in this world that is true no matter what gender you are. If anyone doesn’t see it, it’s because they don’t want to. Women have it hard, and objectifying them is still seen as socially acceptable. Since the age of eleven, Tara has been harassed by men. She has seen words of flattery turn into rape threats by rejecting advances. When pursuing a career in fashion, she proved to be more than competent. Still, she was scorned by her peers. Thus, her artistry was guided by a drive to show more than the obvious. When playing on her guitar, she would wear a mask to conceal this obviousness and to shine through her own skill.

One gig before an uninterested audience changed it all, as Ananke was in attendance. So, she became Tara. Which Tara? We don’t know. She could be a Hindu wisdom goddess, a Polynesian sea goddess, or a Druidic mother goddess. The mystery of her origin plays well with her choice to remain hidden behind her art. She could be any of these goddesses, or all of them, behind that mask.

Her induction to Valhalla, where the Gods dwell, was welcoming, but she never really got on with the others. Tara was still too different to her new peers. She knew people would look, not at the who, but the what. The design on Tara’s mask may allude to the tragedy-comedy dichotomy. In the future, she would be mocked as a comedy character, when in truth, she is absolutely tragic. Taking all of this into consideration, it makes a lot of sense that we haven’t seen her thus far.

Would we have truly seen her otherwise? There’s a rueful call-back to Issue #5, which featured her in the cover. It started off with Lucifer defacing a Tara poster, yet her entire Divinity was already a defacing. It was perhaps but an extension or amplifying of what she already went through.

Fast forward to the diegetic present and elusive Tara has come back to Valhalla. The rest of the gods bring her up to speed on the latest events, namely Morrigan’s capture. When calling out Baal for hurting Morrigan as he did, he shifts the blame on her for not being around. However, she’s having none of his shit. She stands up, towering over the thunder god, telling him he’d best not fuck with her. In the oppressive atmosphere of it all, Woden remarks that a film crew has also filmed the events at the subway. Enter Ananke, who has always been nice to Tara. The mother of necessity mentions a problem that has haunted Tara for a while.

Later that day at her penthouse, Tara has a conversation with Ananke. It first appears that she’s only restless about knowing which god she actually is. However, things turn grim when Ananke mentions it’s not too late to change her mind. One look at a tablet screen littered with insulting tweets directed at her, and everything becomes clearer. Internet harassment is no trifling matter. If we already think of Tara as an opposite to Laura, the next events will strike a bitter chord.

Ananke urges Tara to sing one last song. Tara lets the wonderful music soar out of her, and she hates all of it. She never wanted to be anyone’s goddess. She may have seen suicide as a liberation from the burden. And make no mistake, it’s lasted for longer than godhood. As opposed to Persephone’s, her tears are pure sorrow. And just like with Persephone, a snap from Ananke’s fingers seals Tara’s fate. Next to the bloody mess of the murder, Ananke sees a note, revealing Tara’s thoughts throughout the issue to be a suicide letter. The goddess of Necessity burns the letter, along with the entire penthouse. Ananke’s name shall henceforth be Lady Impunity. And we don’t even know her motives, except perhaps for evil shits and evil giggles.

Soon enough, the news of the event spreads. Cue the festival of hypocrisy around the tragedy, and the tweets change their tone drastically. Even now, people don’t see Tara. Ananke may have made her head explode, but the fanbase killed her a long time ago.

Let’s give this some thought. It might be that we don’t really see people we know and follow. It might be that we kill them. Let the tone set with tragic irony. The one everybody despised deserved it the least. She died trusting one she never should have. Not even the story’s heroine, whose fate Tara’s mirrored, ever knew the truth. Is this as bleak as, say, King Lear? Debatable, but it’s no small taste of despair.

This issue featured Tula Lotay’s amazing work. I dare say her pens made this issue more effective than the previous one. Her style captured the outward sensuality of Tara’s self-loathing divine persona, as well as the torment that resonated behind it. Do check out Blue Rose, featuring her pen and Warren Ellis. (Does this combination not sound fucking tasty?)

Once more, as per last issue’s fashion, we get a final page featuring Jamie McKelvie’s style. A flashback to the “summer” of the gods. Tara appears statuesquely at a public event. She wears her mask, the only true link she has to her own self. Yet the paparazzi only focus on her sultry dress. The reporters shower her with questions on how she obtained her physique. They immediately claim surgeries. Tara, fed up after years of this kind of objectification, walks away. And the ‘journalists’ response? Fucking Tara.

This issue ended bleakly, but this recap doesn’t have to. It’s not sunny either, but it’s the soberest you can get. Let’s close up today with a quote from Tara’s letter. “Try to be kinder. You have no idea what people are going through.” The way I see it, this will forever be relevant.

Images are courtesy of Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine Issue #13 Credits

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Tula Lotay

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