The Wicked + The Divine #38 // Review
The Wicked + The Divine #38, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles, finds Persephone and Baphomet with a dead body to deal with, while Woden and Minerva hold Cassandra and the Norns prisoner. This issue is classic Wic+Div, revealing more of what’s going on while still leaving just enough in the shadows to keep readers coming back for more.
It begins with flashbacks to the 1940s and 50s, where a drunk Ananke, a former Minerva herself, reveals who and what she is to a writer. From there, it’s back to the present where Woden “threatens” the current Minerva with death to get Cassandra and the Norns to divine where the lost heads of the “dead” gods are. In the Underground, Persephone and Baphomet take Morrigan’s body to a temple Baphomet has been building to her. Persephone reveals her secret to Baphomet and he gives her the best advice he can give. Minerva talks to Baal and learns Persephone’s secret and pressures Woden and the Norns into trying to divine her location, opening up a whole new mystery.
This entire arc of the book has been tactical in the way it reveals information, dropping some major revelations and using them to wet the whistle for the bigger ones to come. Each issue so far has begun with a flashback that gives readers glimpses into the backstory of Ananke and her reincarnations as the Minerva of each Recurrence. These flashbacks are so effective because readers still don’t know the central mystery of the book. Each one provides another piece of the puzzle, while withholding the picture to guide where to put the pieces. This issue’s flashback keeps that up. It shows Ananke in her transitional form, which something never seen before in the book, and begins to almost answer the question of why it’s all going on, before pulling away from it all. Gillen has mastered the art of the reveal. Sometimes, stringing out a payoff can get tiresome if it’s done incorrectly. Readers want answers, to know what’s happening behind the curtain, and when it’s drawn out for so long, there’s a chance that they will get tired of it. Gillen, though, keeps readers on the hook by laying out just enough answers to maintain the intrigue. In an industry that has become a lot about instant gratification, giving readers answers and resolutions in a package just large enough to fit into a collected edition, he’s playing the long game masterfully.
Another place where he excels is characterization. Baphomet’s co-dependent relationship continues, even though Morrigan is dead. Minerva, in full Ananke mode, manipulates Woden by playing to his innate sense of superiority, and Baal by taking advantage of his viewing her as a child to be protected and doted upon. Cassandra is still all prickly exterior, but is unwilling to gamble with other people’s lives to back up her bluster. In the heart of it all is Persephone. She’s the one who wanted more than anything else to be a member of the Pantheon, to have the power and experience the adulation and now that she has it, she’s questioning whether it’s worth it. Every decision she’s made has led her to this point and she’s drowning. Gillen captures all of this perfectly. It’s another factor in why this book can keep going without frustrating readers with the lack of overall answers. Each character is so rich and real that readers can understand who they are and what they’re going through. The central mystery of the book is intriguing, but it’s the characters that make the whole thing work, that keep readers coming back every issue. If they weren’t so fully realized and relatable, this book would still be interesting, but something would be missing.
Speaking of the deft characterization, that wouldn’t be possible without McKelvie’s detailed and expressive pencils. Gillen puts the words in the mouths and the thoughts in the heads, but McKelvie’s pencils complete the package, conveying what is going on inside each character. Matthew Wilson’s coloring in this issue is also another wonderful part of it. The beginning flashback has a sepia tone to it, like an old time movie. The segments in the Underground are all black and blue, which fits the tone of the exchange between Persephone and Baphomet. Both of them are wandering in the darkness, the color blue clinging to them like their sadness, as they mourn the deaths of things they once had. This sort of artistic excellence is yet another factor in this book’s continued quality. It conveys mood and emotion adroitly, and readers can’t help but be sucked in.
The Wicked + The Divine #38 is yet another testament to the scope and breadth of the story Gillen and company are telling. It succeeds in every way possible. After the last few issues, which were packed to the gills with revelations and fights, it sets up the final pieces of this story arc for its conclusion and does it without skimping on characterization. The characters, their actions and reactions, inform everything that’s happening, giving it all that much more power. The Wicked + The Divine is one of the best books on the market, month in and month out. Issues like this are a testament to why the Pantheon should be added to the pantheon of all time great comic casts. The creators of this book are making something very special and it deserves all the praise that can be given it.