Monday, July 15, 2024

The Wicked + The Divine Prefaces a Deadly Gambit

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This one is a bit of a complex issue (Spoiler alert: it’s not gonna get simpler as we go on). With the introduction of Inanna last issue, we got a brand new direction to the narrative. We got a fresh dynamic and a sense of urgency with the possibility of a conspiracy underneath this “Summer of the Gods.” Exploring inner functionings, in my experience, is when stories begin to soar or sink. It pleases me to say we’ll find the former true for this story. But we’ll need some sour to make it work, some more conspicuous sense of antagonism.

Enter this week’s feature on the cover. Woden, also known as Odin, prime God of the Norse pantheon. The music reference of choice for this one is, of course, Daft Punk. Cue Aerodynamic, my personal favourite.

Issue #7
“I’m a God, not a Saint.”

What do you do when you’re faced with a grand conspiracy that has already claimed several lives? You get by with a little help from your friends, of-fucking-course. Horrendous attempts at referencing English bands and musicians aside, this is precisely what Laura Wilson is up to. In the company of a smoke and her new ally Inanna, our hero meditates on the reasons that led two Pantheon fans to “get shooty”. She concludes that, given the right circumstances, all fans are perfectly capable of taking up arms and doing something incredibly foolish. The stakes go even higher as they overlook the attending crowd – 100,000 strong – for the ongoing London Fantheon event.

We then get a map of the venue (Massive kudos to McKelvie for the attention to detail on the actual building’s layout) with annotations by Laura, indicating her annoyance at being asked to sign autographs. You get the usual areas here; the food court, restrooms, retail, cosplay and VIP areas, etcetera. But London Fantheon is no base Rob Schneider-Con. You can also drop by incredibly punny gigs, such as Hamaterasu Sandwiches, Inanna and Out Burgers, Baal-You-Can-Eat-Buffet, and the terrible list goes on. This said, the map also indicates a shrine and a defibrillator, and the implication of these is important. Fans are in for a religious experience, in every sense of the word.

Of course, as Laura points out, this is a religious experience that comes at a monetary price. VIP access allows for better seats at the temple. I’ll save the jape on Catholicism for the bar and those magical drunken conversations at the restroom. Laura herself has VIP access, but she’s not overly enthusiastic about it. We observe, through her eyes, how Minerva – the youngest of the Pantheon is the only God doing personal blessings. However, this is not at her choice, but her parents’, who want to bleed their daughter for as long as they can. Laura is understandably appalled. Amidst the horrendous exhibition of human greed, Cass makes the save by taking her to the Press Lounge.

It’s time for a ‘work meeting’. Laura relays Inanna’s information, though she refuses to reveal her source to Cass. Pleased with the new information and her speed in learning the ropes, the journo points to one David Blake. This is the guy Laura argued with at last year’s Ragnarock, so the prospect of a chat is not very appealing. As an alternative, Cass mentions one of the coolest word pairings ever: the “Prometheus Gambit”. You kill a God, and become a God as a result. There are no actual precedents, just a load of talk here and there. Nonetheless, it’s still the closest thing they have to a new lead. An angry former employee of Cass drops by and breaks the meeting.

It’s just as well, since Laura’s gig is about to start: Life After a Near-God Experience. It’s basically a panel of people who had at some point been close to one or several Pantheon members. Laura is there on behalf of Lucifer, but she doesn’t get to say much.

Instead, Brunhilde takes most of the spotlight. It is through this former Valkyrie that we get a first glimpse at this issue’s feature. She has very few nice things to say about Woden. He, in turn tries to shed some doubt on her words by visiting the panel, with a gift for Brunhilde: new fancy armour. All he wants is for her to say it was all a lie. However in doing so, he is effectively confirming her claims of abuse, with perverse pleasure. it seems. Pleased at her ‘coming clean’, he makes the armour burst, humiliating the former Valkyrie. Raise your hand if you hate this guy already.

Laura wants to have a word with this asshole backstage. Woden thinks she’s asking to be turned into a Valkyrie, for he’s smug like that. According to me, it’s not that he really can’t only get it up only for Asian girls; he’s working on an “aesthetic”. As he talks, he instantly categorises himself as a “card-carrying villain”. It turns out that he’s kind of a rubbish God in more than one sense. He can’t use his powers on himself; it didn’t go well when he tried, hence the helmet. However, he can give powers to others and build cool things, but this is not enough to temper his bitterness.

Well, fuck him I say, and so does Brunhilde, who now has a gun to his head as they come out of the VIP area. “Prometheus”, she says. Before Brunhilde can test if the gambit proves true, Minerva stops her with some invisible concussive force. The young God is shocked, as she didn’t mean to hurt her that much. Baal is quick to comfort her with a hug. The former Valkyrie is badly hurt as she reaches for the gun, but Woden takes it and taunts her about the gambit. Before leaving through a portal, he says the gambit isn’t real. Otherwise he’d be wasting Gods left and right to be other than himself. He has effectively made himself suspicious.

At the end of Fantheon, Baphomet pops out from a basement, inviting Laura to his Pun-geon. Laura wants none of it, or the whiskey bottle he offers to sweeten the deal. However, she accepts when he says Morrigan wants to see her. As they climb down staircases, Laura’s inner narration expresses a dread about fancying him, but she’s not entirely opposed to the idea, either. Her experiences about the Gods are becoming increasingly intimate, so it actually might be tasty foreshadowing. Playing to this growing sense of familiarity, Baphomet lets slip that Morrigan’s mortal name is Marian. Little does Laura know, she’s about to walk in on Morrigan, as Babd… singing Karaoke. Even Gods can resist doing Karaoke. When you get the microphone, you know you must.

At this revelation, Baphomet admits he was lying about the Morrigan wanting to see her. Laura doesn’t take this jest very well. The God justifies his constants jokes as a way to cope with the fact that he’ll be dead in two years’ time. “He puts the FUN in funeral”, and this deserves being quoted. His sense of humour works a preface to sincerity. He wanted to her to offer his condolences about Lucifer. For the first time, the Hellfire God removes his shades in a gesture of candour. “Morrigan and he aren’t good company, but they’re good bad company”, and this also deserves a quote.

Laura complies and accepts his invitation into their den for a cathartic evening. Morrigan and Baphomet are nice enough to walk her back out into the open. After our girl humorously and furiously yells at a flyer-giver, the Goddess of Death advises her to take the flyer. She reveals there’s a third God of the Underworld, friend of theirs, and he’s about to make his first public gig. Everybody’s invited for the Eleventh God’s appearance.

Dyonisus: Greek God of Wine. The name says it all. By sheer nature, we know him associated with hedonism and partying. Yet we’d already seen a more careless and callous aspect of hedonism through Woden. You know he’ll sell you out for a slice of cheese. However, we may trust Dyonisus a bit more, considering the Underworld Gods vouch for him, and we know they’re cool. It may be that we’ll have a foil relation between Woden and Dyonisus. Only time will tell if this contrast is only thematic.

On the other hand, the words “Prometheus Gambit” still echo with haunting significance. Is it truly just a load of bollocks? Or could Woden be saying the truth for once in his god-damned miserable life? At several points so far, we’ve heard Laura referred to as a “Dark” or “Unlucky” girl. We know, she knows, that she was able to pull off one of Luci’s tricks after her death. Could it be that she had somehow already experienced the gambit in some way?

The Wicked + The Divine Issue #7 Credits

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson

All images courtesy of Image Comics

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