I think we can all agree that cats have had a nasty reputation throughout the ages. In the history of Western civilization and popular culture, cats have been deemed foul and evil animals. Who cares if they are natural pest control agents, you have to earn the right to that belly rub. And that’s just bad news for an entitled species such as us, humans, isn’t it? Whether by flagrant anti-cat propaganda such as Dogs & Cats, or allergies, cats can sometimes be easy targets. If you need a baddie, you can always make them cat-themed. But this is not gratuitous, for there’s quite a way to go from a meow to a roar. Take the strength and qualities from that progression and imprint them upon a character, and you’ll have somebody beyond good and evil.
But there is no love here, no belly rub, only power for the sake of it. In this issue of The Wicked + The Divine under the Commercial Suicide‘s arc, we’ll look at she nobody dares fuck with. Sakhmet, Rihanna-expy, Egyptian Goddess of Fire, Vengeance and Healing. On this occasion, we have Brandon Graham as guest artist. I personally feel his style is somewhat unfitting to the feel of the character as we know her. Alas, it’s a risk to judge early, as he can also efficiently portray the feel of what surrounds and makes her. The degree to which he succeeds in doing so may vary between opinions. One thing goes beyond debate: It’s best to tread carefully, lovelies.
“Are you ready?”
It’s not unreasonable to think that we’ll get layers of personality in these charactered-centred issues. We learned plenty about Tara, Amaterasu, the Morrigan, and even Woden; but what have we to learn about Sakhmet? That even as a child, during a visit to the British Museum in London, she has no interest in subtleties. She also cares little for sensibilities, as she angrily denies she’s been crying, which is never a good sign. As a followup to her mood, she disregards all hints of expression or emotion in the original-Sakhmet statue. Since it’s made of stone, it feels nothing. Little may she know, she was practically invoking herself in the future, as an unfeeling, uncaring character. Nice thematic foreshadowing/flashback there.
Fast-forward to the present day, and we find Sakhmet waking up in the aftermath of a fuckfest in her bedroom in Valhalla. It’s half past eleven and the rest of the Pantheon is up and about for business. In fact, Baal wants her to train with him, in preparation for the upcoming Armageddon Ananke has preached about. Although the action in WicDiv is quite distant in stakes and frequency from Marvel or DC comics, it does occasionally deliver. However, Sakhmet is so confident in her capabilities for destruction that she thinks herself above the need for practise. Thus, she sleeps all day until it’s time for her performance that night. Admittedly, the way she makes ghostly mutating cats appear amidst the crowd is pretty cool.
After the show, she appears to be in the obligation of giving an interview backstage. As you’d expect, she’s not very enthusiastic about it. Since the journo seems only interested about unearthing her past, she’s even less interested. In fact, the better part of her attention is on a drink that still hasn’t arrived. When it becomes evident that the beverage won’t be arriving, she decides – with a hiss of annoyance – to go get it herself. She takes this opportunity to simply leap out of the place onto a nearby roof. An unexpected shade of melancholy hovers over her expression as she looks below, reminiscing. At this point, the rumours the journalist mentioned come back. Was Sakhmet a troubled youth, homeless and abused? As she knocks her mobile from the roof with her ‘paw’, the flashback ensues.
Pre-divinity Sakhmet and Ananke sit at a bus stop. The former indulges in some possibly unlawful alcohol consumption, while the latter delivers one of those super-quotable lines. The difference between dog people and cat people. Dog people are insecure and needy, how we truly are; whereas cats are how we wish we were. Whether or not that’s a load of bollocks (it is, same as potentially everything else she says), the girl certainly prefers cats. Thus, her ascension begins, which we once more don’t get see, because of reasons, I guess. Sakhmet remembers this day rather fondly, it seems. Perhaps, this Cat God does have a heart beneath all that careless hedonism. A second memory reveals that she indeed has a heart, literally, in her tummy. She has just eaten her dad. We get a hint that he may have had it coming. which is plausible, considering Sakhmet’s younger selves.
Woden and his Valkyries were the ones to see the bloody scene that unfolded that night. He angrily scolds Eir, the Valkyrie, for leaving Sakhmet alone while sober. As it turns out, the delay of that drink during the interview was a catalyst to disaster. Much like the mythical Sakhmet, this feline popstar can only keep her bloody instincts in check under the influence of alcoholic beverages. As a peculiar parallel, Dionysus, God of Wine, seems to be a polar opposite to Sakhmet as far as sanguine characters go. Put this cat and booze together, and you get a happy, relatively-safe-to-be-around Goddess. As Sakhmet carelessly goes to the window to eat more people, Woden manages to convince her to have a drink beforehand. This would, no doubt, decrease the body count for the next morning.
Finally, a drunk Sakhmet is the one to guard the Morrigan for a bit. It’s literally a cat watching a bird in her cage; thematic parallels are always a good thing, and I like this one a lot. Sakhmet looks really quite cosy, and she really gives no shits about the task she’s been given. Well, why would anyone when you have alcohol and cats lying around? (I’m not encouraging careless alcohol consumption, mind you. Drink responsibly, and pet your cats and/or dogs generously). Shortly after, Sakhmet decides to take a nap on the work. Morrigan appears quite ready and willing to seize the opportunity. Let us hope the bird can outrun… eh, outfly the cat once the chase goes on. That is, if the cat is bothered to give chase.
And thus, the Commercial Suicide arc comes to an end… But not so fast. The epilogue page is quite the ‘inevitable cliffhanger’. A barman in Highbury & Islington in London receives a call from a mysterious party. They are trying to book the place for a date, September 23. Somebody called Persephone will soon make an appearance. This date is quite meaningless in the meta-sensesince the next issue came out on April 2016, over three months after Issue #17. Still, it was quite a way to brew expectations. In the personal experience of yours truly, it was pretty effective. You won’t need to wait nearly as long, though. Tune in next week, lovelies.
The Wicked + The Divine Issue #17 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Brandon Graham
All images are courtesy of Image Comics