Monday, February 26, 2024

The Wicked + The Divine Invites us into the Dark

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Judging by the cover, this issue centres around the lovely Morrigan. More accurately, this might just be her vengeance after the events of Issue #12 where she was violently apprehended by Ananke’s dumbass lackeys, who are otherwise rather charming Gods on their better days. Clearly, those days are long past, all the way since the first arc. It’s a given that we’d enter early into conflict. Alas, the very nature of these characters is a constant reminder of a contrasting state. Take away the divinity and the powers that come with it, and you get adolescents doomed before reaching their prime. Such narratives are not uncommon in comic books, film and literature. And more often than not, they carry a tint of tragedy.

These kids are metaphorical birds, locked in a cage of destiny, unable to escape. But Morrigan, in spite of her black feathers and her circumstances, is not your traditional frail, caged bird. Underworld Gods tend to behave curiously in face of adversity. This time around, guest artist Leila del Duca and colourist Mat Lopes drive the narrative through their style.

Issue #16
“You were always best at the game”

Today we start off at Valhalla, in London. Occasionally grieving, and often vengeful Baal has taken on the role of gaoler to the Morrigan. He brings some food for the Goddess of Death in the company of Minerva, who has long been trying to talk to her. If we take to remembering last issue, it’s clear that Minnie possesses a clearer understanding of the current events. By that, we mean that she has no idea, but knows that something fishy is going on, as opposed to Baal. Ignorance and blindness on a character can be frustrating traits, but they make for a good preface to an inevitable disclosure in the future. As for the prisoner, she is ambivalent as always. The Badb aspect would seek retaliation, but sober raven-haired beauty has none of that. She actually accepts her imprisonment, claiming responsibility for Baphomet, the current prime suspect.

Flashback ensues to tender days before the Recurrence. The scenery unfolds with some goth teenagers doing non-sexual roleplay with candles in a cave, as you do. Marian (soon-to-be-Morrigan) is pretty into it. Cameron (soon-to-be-Baphomet-Lord-of-the-Pungeon), not so much. The latter is quick to deconstruct and mock the corny feel of it all, and he’s not wrong about it. As a consequence, the third nameless guy we don’t give a shit about decides to leave. Once the melodramatic saccharine party is out of the scene, the two proceed to make goth love in the cave. All in all, these two goth geeks tend to enjoy themselves. However, a phone call throws a sour note into it. There’s a funeral to attend, for a mutual friend or acquaintance.

The topic of Death, thusly makes entrance into their conversations. We learn that Cameron is an orphan and that Marian almost died from sickness when she was thirteen. The young man has a pretty grim outlook, which only got gallows humour as a disguise later on. On her part, Marian is rather stoic about inevitable, eventual death. She believes in living her fullest while she’s alive without self-destructing. The contrasting views lead to a tender hug that is then countered with Cameron fucking up, by cheating on her. As he openly admits to the shameless deed, she angrily walks away, only to run into Ananke. And we know what happens next. One minute, she’s just Marian; next she’s reborn Morrigan.

My only real gripe with this issue’s guest artists is that we didn’t get to see the transformation. It’s literally just a blink with no momentous words. I guess you can’t have the pretty things all the time, whatever. Marian is quick to pick up on the Deity-persona and her nuances. It’s really just kind of a level-up for her. Nonetheless, Ananke quickly warns that Gods of Death tend to run into trouble. That’s theme-profiling for you. Still, things seem to go pretty easy for the Morrigan, as she’s content with doing neat goth-like stuff for her modest group of fans. And then Cameron walks into her realm in the underground, with sweet words. And she, being a sweetheart in spite of his bullshit, talks to Ananke to make him her partner.

Thus, she brought him into the fold. Accordingly, at the end of the flashback, she offers to take him out herself. That is, if they set her free. Unfortunately, Baal doesn’t accept the deal; he just sets her food in front of her, and leaves. Minnie leaves soon after, but not before giving some food for thought as well. Why didn’t Woden make an inescapable cage for Lucifer? That’s a question nobody else appears to have asked. It might be that Minerva fully embodies the persona of a Wisdom Goddess. Perhaps, common sense abandoned just about everybody else in the face of tragedy. Most likely, it’s a share of both with a hefty side of manipulation on Ananke’s part.

Nonetheless, the Blackbird Belle is alone in her cage for Gods. She might as well eat. And we might as well get one of my favourite moments in the entire run of the comic book. You see, the dish is not the the falafel with hummus that she had expected. Unexpected dishes usually get the privilege of special significance. Sometimes it’s a donut with a dose of poison to snatch a life away. Some other times, it’s a key or a file inside of a cake. And yet, sometimes, it’s dark magic in a condiment. Instead of the falafel with hummus she expected, she sees a plain-looking hamburger on her plate. Remove the bun, and you’ll see a pentagram/pentacle made of ketchup. As if plain ketchup wasn’t sinister enough.

Allow me to quote it. “This burger… is a Bap-O-Meat!” Hence the Morrigan steps into her boyfriend’s territory of puns.  The five-pointed-star transforms into a miniature ketchup Baphomet. It’s his very unique way of relaying a message. He has a lot of explaining to do, and she’s probably looking forward to it, with anger in her eyes. Now, we know from this issue’s flashback that Baphomet is full of shit. Christ, we already knew it from way before. However, in the face of urgency, even these bollocking members of the community can reveal some unheard truths. Little by little, the gaps are filling out. The final image will inevitably point at a previously unsuspected culprit.

This issue’s ‘post-credits’ scene by Jamie McKelvie focuses on the Morrigan’s fans after one night’s gig. They recorded her sighting on a mobile phone. As a foil to the fleeting, distorted image they managed to capture, they also get a peculiar image. It’s one of them, in their deathbed. They are suitably confused and disturbed. When hanging with Gods of War, Death and Hellfire, it’s best to play by the rules. Soon, we’ll see the Gods of the Underworld striking back. Do tune in to see the inevitable retort.


The Wicked + The Divine #16 Credits

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Leila del Duca, Mat Lopes, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

All images are courtesy of Image Comics



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