Last week, we met two of my favorite characters. That’s as much as I’m saying from pure subjectivity, though. The two black-clad gods of Death have proven suitably enigmatic while Laura remains hard at work to exonerate Lucifer. Things go awry in the subway, but our hero emerges with a new possible ally. The next day, Laura and Cass meet up to piece their findings together. As the devotee and the unbeliever start weeding out the possible suspects for judge’s murder, one name comes up. Baal. And what would you know? He shows up as soon as he hears his name. Speak of the Devil.
“When you’re as good as I am? This is humble”
The format and styling of the covers to the individual issues is pretty straightforward. Pick a character from the neck up, with eyes and factions focused with meticulous symmetry, and superimpose the comic’s name over their faces. It’s neat; the charm lies in its simplicity. You need little else when the eyes of a god gaze into the eyes of the reader, a mortal. With this design in mind, it’s no coincidence that Baal’s gaze would convey sheer vehemence even behind his shades. He’s an angry God, unconcerned about containing his wrath as lighting blasts about him. Just what have Laura and Cass gotten themselves into?
As we turn the page past the Pantheon-styled recap, we meet the same frightful symmetry from the cover, only the style is quite different. Gone are the fury and the lightning, yet the elegance remains. Turns out, Laura and Cass are beholding a painting of Baal at his personal retreat, and they’re not exactly overwhelmed. What they would recognize as vanity expressed through a Renaissance styling of himself, he qualifies as humility. Although he appears caricaturesque in his arrogance, this Skepta/Kanye/TinieTempah expy manages to maintain credibility. He can afford to be cocky, because he can back it up. Even before he learned he was a god, he believed himself one. That says enough.
We learn that his powerful stance last issue prefaced an attack either via lawyers or super powers, but he thought better of it and chose to parley. Baal has a very clear sense of self, if that wasn’t obvious already. He specifies that he is not Baal Hammon, but Baal Hadad – a lightning and thunder god. It may seem like splitting hairs, but this kind of specificity is greatly appreciated if you’re into mythologies. It’s also highly useful when you need to lose the heat of plausibility.
Back to the plot. Laura asks Baal about Inanna. He explains that his outburst against his boyfriend was the result of a disagreement about what to do about Luci. He proves himself to be quite level-headed in such a complicated situation, despite his incendiary persona. Safe to say, Laura is crushing hard.
Absolutely self-aware, Baal acknowledges the effect his godly nature/persona has on his devotees. The allusion to immanence puts him on the same level as Amaterasu, whose abilities we’ve witnessed. It’s also a surprising moment of candor as he takes Laura and Cass to meet Ananke. Once there, however, Cass is not allowed in, possibly because of her sceptical nature or because he finds her annoying (either is equally plausible with Baal). Regardless, Laura is allowed passage into the ultimate VIP area: the dwellings of the gods in Valhalla. Laura is understandably overwhelmed and speechless before the presence of Sakhmet, Minerva, Amaterasu, Woden, and Ananke. This is the first time we see several of the gods in the same space. As a slight punch in the gut, Minerva is a child, one whom, you will recall, will be dead at the end of this Recurrence.
The elderly Goddess of Necessity Ananke addresses Laura with gratitude for trying to aid Lucifer. Nonetheless, she acknowledges that Luci had been playing perilous games. Last issue, we learned of her conduct and the drama she sowed amongst her peers, so Ananke’s words are understandable. She says the young god needs to stay in her cell while they find the culprit, for “THE GREATER GOOD”, or, rather, to maintain the line between the affairs of the gods and the affairs of mortals. The Elder god explains that these deeds could damage human inspiration. After all, the deities become ‘flesh’ by human inspiration, so without it, the Recurrence could happen no more. Much is at stake, and for this reason, Lucifer has to stay in her cage. If necessary, ’til her two year lifespan comes to its end.
Full of regret, Ananke bids Laura give their love to Lucifer. Laura doesn’t buy it. She lashes out, telling them that one of the gods amongst them is a murderer. This earns diverse reactions from the gods. Minerva is visibly worried. Sakhmet is perpetually annoyed. Baal and Amaterasu look on with either complacence or pity. Woden’s face is a screen (fuck that guy, we’ll get to him eventually). Yet Ananke’s eyes remain rueful behind her moth-shade. Although passionate and full of merit, Laura’s words fail to change Ananke’s mind. Her parting words for Lucifer are advice for wisdom and sobriety, to not be foolish. This gesture is well-meaning, but useless because we know Luci won’t sit still.
Laura relays everything to her friend, undoubtedly with remorse for failing to bring aid. Lucifer reacts with a mixture of shock and disappointment. Beneath the dapper style and the makeup, we see the adolescent she truly is. Beneath her divinity, she is human. Luci tells Laura that, above all, she comprehends the imminent fatality that awaits her. An intense and furious resolve stirs inside of the rebel, rebel. Prepared to walk in the shoes of the Devil, Lucifer voices her refusal to bend to anyones laws. With a snap of her fingers, Luci breaks out, blasting holes all over the place. She turns to Laura and proceeds to verbally shatter the image the girl had come to adore. But Laura doesn’t give up on her. If only for a moment, Lucifer appears genuinely sad. Her biggest fan, and friend even, offered Ananke’s advice to remain cool in vain.
The rebellious god puts on a set of earphones attached to a mobile phone. Fittingly, “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones will be her rampage jam. With furious, infernal confidence, Lucifer walks free of her prison. You can tell she’s ready to unleash fire on a world that would force its nonsensical coherence on her. All the while, Laura remains aghast on the floor. The sympathy she had for the Devil had once turned to faith, and now to ash. The tune that accompanies Lucifer on her way out may just preface the nature of the situation. Neither Ananke’s moral protection or Laura’s admiration can retrieve this fallen angel.
Fascinatingly, this narratives about gods, Angels, and Demons carries a notion of inevitability, of fate. We can say the same about the lives of celebrities we see on the media. They thrive, and fall and reincarnate. Nonetheless, when looking at the human vessels that inhabit the icons, we get a fairly grim image. We see the bending of individual humanity to the narratives we’ve grown to expect from our idols. This is, essentially, the tragedy of Lucifer. Her awareness about the game of belief demands that she dies. So, like Milton’s Arch-Fiend, she’s chosen to play by her own rules. I can’t imagine it will end well.
The Wicked + The Divine Issue 4 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Illustrator: Jamie McKelvie