The Wicked + The Divine #34 review
The Wicked + The Divine #34, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles, answers a lot of questions while bringing up a whole lot more and setting the stage for the coming end of the Pantheon.
The issue begins six thousand years ago as two Native Americans, a young man and an old woman, walk across the desert. The old woman tells the young man to leave her and, eventually, a pursuer catches up with her. It’s Ananke, the future gatherer of the gods. The old woman and Ananke are sisters and, together, they decide on the rules of the Recurrence before Ananke kills her sister. The story picks up in the present. Laura and Cassandra (Persephone and Urdr of the Norns, respectively) are trapped in a cell in Valhalla, the hall of the gods, their powers won’t affect with Mimir, the god behind Woden and “his” inventions. Cut off from Cassandra, the other two Norns, Skuld and Verdandi, revert back to human and go searching for Cassandra. Mimir, long privy to Ananke and Woden’s councils, unloads a whole lot of answers on Laura and Cassandra, but is unable to answer the ultimate question of why all of this is happening. Skuld and Verdandi find Laura, Cassandra, and Mimir. Cassandra wonders why Woden, who has everything in Valhalla under surveillance, hasn’t noticed what’s been going on. The answer is that Woden is going over his surveillance records and finds something that could change everything.
Right off the bat, this issue jars the reader. Anyone expecting for the revelations of the last issue to be addressed is in for a surprise… and a treat. The beginning sequence in the past gives readers a glimpse of how the Recurrence started while also being just vague enough to keep things going. While alive, Ananke always had a cold blooded pragmatism to her and the fact that she was willing to kill her sister for power isn’t much of a surprise… but her sister tricking her during the bargaining phase is. The whole thing is a great little sequence. Gillen is able to give the readers a tantalizing and open-ended information dump, leaving us with a mystery of what the final rule of the Recurrence is. McKelvie’s pencils are, as always, beautiful. There are many out there who say that McKelvie’s characters have same face syndrome and in a lot of cases this is true. However, he also has a mastery of facial expressions that is second to none and it shows here. You can read what is on Ananke and her sister’s mind just by looking at their faces and it makes it all just that much better.
McKelvie does this later in the book as well. There’s a six panel page of Laura’s internal monologue in the cell and McKelvie’s pencils capture exactly what is going on in her head on her face. It’s little things like this that remind the reader that McKelvie’s “acting” is among the best in the industry. Few artists are adept as he is in this arena. It also probably that helps that he and Gillen have working together for so long. Wic+Div is still a great book on those rare occasions when other artists have worked on it, but Gillen and McKelvie together work magic.
This issue is mostly just one long info dump, setting the stage for this arc, yet it never feels boring for the reader. Gillen is a master of giving readers somethings while holding other things back and using the answers to raise even more questions. It’s a very rewarding way of doing it. It’s always nice to learn something new, but it’s even better when there’s the promise that knowledge leads to something else, just over the horizon. McKelvie’s art keeps the reader engaged, watching the back and forth between the characters like it’s a movie on the big screen, their pitch perfect reactions selling everything the characters are learning.
In his letter to readers at the end of the book, Gillen said that this issue is the beginning of the last twelve issues of Wic+Div.That being case, this is the perfect beginning to the penultimate storyline. It gives cast and reader alike answers, while promising more revelations in the issues ahead. Sure, it only sets the stage, but it does that stage setting in such an engaging way that the end of the issue comes as a surprise. It’s not only immersive but it whets the appetite for what is to come, which is exactly what the first issue of any story arc should do. The creative team takes what could be a boring slog in the hands of others and creates something that works better than it has any right to.