Some things royally piss me off. Oversymplifying is one of them. As an example, it pisses me off when some people define Quentin Tarantino as just ‘that director who makes really violent movies’. Yes, there’s plenty of violence in them, but that’s not the only thing he has going on. I dare say violence is not even his signature. The way I see it, he’s more akin to conveying situations where verbal communication and the dominance of pop-culture are the narrative’s backbone. All the while, there’s a pervading sense of wrongness and peril looming over most situations. Much can unfold during one simple meetup for lunch, be it strudel and a glass of milk, or a nasty plate of nachos.
By this diegetic way, what could occur during one party that spans almost the entirety of this issue? Let’s find out.
Issue # 8
“Being Happy for a Night. That’s Not a Small Thing”
Since last issue’s page sort of already gave us a look at the cover’s portrait for this chapter, it only makes sense to start the weekly narrative a few steps away from Dionysus’ gig proper. Being a God of the Underground, same as Morrigan and Baphomet, there is still a sense of furtiveness and mystery around the whole thing. However, this is expressed in cheeky, light-hearted fashion with the location simply being “not telling”; it’s equal parts exclusive and playful. Inanna meets Laura outside of the inconspicuous venue. Seeing her unwilling to commune with this God out of the wound Lucifer’s death inflicted on her, he reminds her they got a mission. It’s only to be expected that this event would provide with some truths if consumption of wine amongst us mortals already has that effect.
Laura complies and heads for the entrance, only to be faced with a burly bouncer. The shift in the man’s eyes, expression, and speech bubble’s styling spells out that our good Dionysus is capable of possession. One set of stairs later, we meet the newest God in a most mundane, yet unearthly fashion. Laura recognises Dionysus as one of Morrigan’s fans back in Issue #3. She leaves aside all decorum, which hints at a familiarity that could also come off as apathy. Or it could be that she’s indeed wary of tonight’s gig. The black-eyed God reassures her by relaying the nature of the party. It’s a hive-mind hallucinatory ultrasensorial acid-fest, which you’re free to leave at anytime.
Eat your heart out, Hypnotoad.
It only takes one touch. The effect is slow to take on Miss Wilson, but it starts kicking in with a neat exhibition of McKelvie’s diverse stylings on Laura’s front portrait ala WicDiv cover. The visual effect on the panels may be synesthetic, as each change in colour hints at musical rhythm and dissociation. From this point on, for most of the issue, we’ll get a 1-2-3-4 count on alternating panels, which instantly takes us back to the first issue. At this time, it’s kind of a sinister numerical presence, but also a possible musical allusion; never forget Gillen and McKelvie also created Phonogram. Nonetheless, it’s all a prologue to the full effect; once Laura gets the hang of it, she swings about like a child in a candy store… where everything is laced with MDMA.
Dionysus’ first public event is a collective acid-and-ecstasy hybrid trance where you’re free to let go of all your burdens. Even the reclusive Morrigan is about, in her Gentle Annie aspect, of course. For the first time in a while, Laura unwinds in joyous existence. We should note that she exhibits a peculiar quirk, visible at one point during the party. She clicks her fingers with a ‘KLLK’ sound as she dances. Is this a habit she acquired from hanging out so much with the Pantheon? Is this a response to the constant 1-2-3-4 that dominates this issue’s events? Does she really want a smoke? Who knows.
It’s refreshing to see her like this, though, and when the sensation starts becoming a daze, Dionysus advises her to find a friend. This shouldn’t be too difficult since the bliss in the air makes everyone a friend. However, amidst the people communing, she is too quick to find Cassandra, who loathes happiness and looks on the experience as one would lotus eaters. Laura begins to lose the daze in her company, as the journo reminds her that they have information to gather on the ongoing mystery. Still, the presence of Baal, Amaterasu and Sakhmet draw her back into the party while Woden, the literal worst, enters the scene. He doesn’t dance, he just watches, no doubt with something in mind.
Although Cassandra could be considered ‘strong’ at being somewhat impervious to Dionysus’ powers, she also proves susceptible to Woden’s cunning. The latter approaches her to tell her something, whispered in such a manner that the speech bubble is too small for the reader to know. Whatever he told her, it’s the only thing that has made her cheer throughout the evening. This break in ambience is followed by the trance leaving the attendees, after which we see Baphomet nearby. Laura approaches him for a word. She asks him if he, being an Underworld God, can communicate with the dead, and if something special happened to him before he became a God. These attempts at approaching the mystery only result in his sowing doubt in Laura.
As if we didn’t have enough suspects, Baphomet hints that Morrigan’s alibi about him was a lie. Laura shoots a glance at her, who turns into furious Badb for an instant, as a warning. Suddenly, the stark lines we had as foundation of what was reliable and what wasn’t are starting to blur. Baal comes up to her for a chat shortly after, telling her about the aftermath of last issue’s nasty affair. Brunhilde, the Valkyrie that spited Woden is in the hospital, and Minerva is laying low. The thunder God doesn’t seem to particularly dislike Woden. But he is miffed that the dick had provoked a situation that made Minerva get her hands dirty. Before long, he walks away as soon as Inanna approaches.
Their conversation involves Inanna cheating on Baal with Lucifer, which is evidently a wound that hasn’t scarred over yet. The way Inanna describes his sexual ways could be interpreted as mere promiscuity, but it may be too simplistic to put it that bluntly. We might either be approaching a misunderstood polyamory (plausible, given how proud Baal is), or a character flaw, if Lucifer’s “ethical slut” assessment holds any truth. For now, we can only enjoy the benefit of the doubt. Before there can be any intimate contact between Inanna and Laura, Dionysus intervenes, urging them to not act impulsively. Laura questions the host on why he cares at all. He responds that he simply wants to give people a good time. The party’s haze begins to ‘crash’ as Dionysus takes after the Gods’ appearances in alternating fashion, with words as kind as they are ominous.
“To make each other’s lives better. That’s all we can do. The end is coming faster than we—“.
Laura yells for a stop before ‘they’ can finish the sentence. The strange end to the party prompts Dionysus to accompany Laura out of the building. It turns out that this party lasted far more than a few hours, but a few days. Our girl praises Dionysus’ powers and intentions, but she spoke too soon. Lacking in the blood of the original D’s parties, we get to see the disturbing downside of this Dionysus’ powers. The very nature of his powers means that his mind alone carries many others, rendering him unable to be ‘alone’. His eyes are not simply pitch black, but his pupils are so dilated by his powers that they appear that way. Dionysus shrinks his pupils back to normal, revealing a disturbing sleep deprivation. With naught but a smile, he returns to keep the party going.
Perhaps that break in the ambience earlier was him seeing somebody else out. What a nice God.
The ride back home has Laura questioning the reason of her actions and her desire to experience the Gods. Her mind oscillates between the possibility that she’s no different than a groupie, and the chance that her drive is legitimate, as a true desperate necessity. Suddenly, a green sports car overtakes the car, with literal lightning streaking about its wheels. Baal has come to offer her a ride home. This is a far preferrable option that just riding the bus, since that always feels kinda rubbish late at night. As they drive away, Laura asks which home does he intent to take her to. He smoothly replies that it’s entirely her choice. Cue the loveliest smile on Miss Freckles, as Teengirl Fantasy may be playing for the rest of the night.
‘Tis so that this party and this issue come to an end. What was the final takeaway of the entire night, and did Laura get what she came for? The answer to that varies. If we’re talking about the possible conspiracy going on, then only Cass got any proper info. But is any of that worth it, coming from Woden? You be the judge. Baphomet’s words only cast further doubt on a situation that was already shady. Is he being just the massive jester dick he is most of the time? Again, you be the judge.
Given how the only evident profit we see here is Laura feeling happy for a night, was it worth it? Yes, yes it was.
Beyond a doubt.
The Wicked + The Divine Issue #8 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
All images courtesy of Image Comics