Published on October 22nd, 2014 | by Dapper Dan0
The Wicked + The Divine 5 – Review
OK, right off the bat I have to say : HERE BE SPOILERS. Please, please read the issue first, as I will be discussing the events of The Wicked + The Divine 5 here and you really should read them before proceeding further.
Now that’s out of the way: The fifth issue of The Wicked + The Divine is here, wrapping up the first (Faust?) arc and it’s a hell of an issue. As good as the first arc has been to this point, this finale is off the freakin’ chain.
Last issue’s final page had Luci nonchalantly walking out of prison after deciding she’d had enough of confinement and a need for a decent cup of coffee. The Pantheon’s utter disinterest in clearing her name, or freeing her, finally became too much and the great Rebel does what she was born to do. As if Lucifer in a teenager’s body could do anything BUT kick back against the established order of things. I suppose once you’ve been cast down into hell, smashing bricks and mortar just isn’t that much trouble.
After three issues of being given the Hannibal Lecter treatment in a glass cell, the Prince Of Lies is on the loose once more. You can feel, right from the off, that this is not going to end well for someone. Unfortunately, it becomes all too apparent who’s going to come off worse in this power struggle. At the risk of sounded clichéd I think it’s pretty clear by issue’s end just who’s really the Wicked here and who’s Divine. For those who’ve felt the first arc had slowed a little over the past couple of issues, you’ll be pleased to know it was a slow-burn and this issue sees all the simmering tension boil over, quite explosively.
Laura watches as her friend (Yes, she and Luci are friends, despite what Luci might proclaim otherwise) tries to walk away from her responsibilities and the Pantheon. Luci’s actively challenging the Pantheon to get involved at this point. She knows smashing out of prison will force them to intercede. It feels less teenage rebellion, and more an unconscious acceptance of her inevitable fate.
Amaterasu attempts to talk Luci down, but is rebuffed. She’s too angry and too hurt. “I’d rather die than go back” is a powerful line. Luci really means it but still expects the Pantheon to back down. There’s the fatalistic feel of the teenager who’s listened to one too many navel-gazing records and questions what there is left to live for, if you’re only going to die anyway. Like Laura’s bravado in issue 3, where she goes from daring the police to stop her, to praying for their intervention, Luci moves from from “Fuck you, I can take you all on” to “Don’t do this”.
Jamie McKelvie turns in another gorgeous looking issue. His art is perfectly matched to Gillen’s script for The Wicked + The Divine, he matches the pace and mood as perfectly here as in previous issues. There’s a real sense of kinetic energy that makes the book feel like it’s running at you full-pelt. You can hear Laura shouting at Cassandra, you wince in sympathy at Amaterasu flinching back from Luci’s reaction, you feel the impacts from Baal and Sakhmet as they attack Luci as if you’re right there in Highbury, watching it happen. Equally, one can only praise Matt Wilson’s work on colours, continuing the high standard he set back in issue 1. The page where THE THING happens is intense, the colours popping off the page and illuminating your view beyond the rest of the issue. It’s a nice juxtaposition to the quieter, but no less effective use of a cigarette’s glow towards the end of the book.
While last issue’s prison-break finale played with irregular shapes and alignments for the panels, the whole of this issue remains in regular very strict patterns almost as if everything that happens is unfolding according to a design. Of course I might be reading too much into things…
One of the more touching moments of the issue is when Luci takes Laura’s offered hand, mirroring Luci’s initial offer to Laura way back at the start of issue 1. With this being the end of the first act of The Wicked + The Divine, bringing things full-circle in this way gives a nice sense of how Laura has grown so far, and reinforces the idea that one should never meet one’s idols. (Cue up Mansun’s “I Can Only Disappoint You” at this point).
As Laura pulls Luci through a flurry of Morrigan’s ravens, away from the fight with Baal & Sakhmet and into Cassandra’s(?) apartment, I was reminded of A-Ha’s video for “Take On Me” when they move from the animated world to the real one.
And in classic Kieron Gillen style (The man who brought you “Kid Loki saves everyone but has to be wiped from existence and replaced by his evil self”) right when we get a moment to breathe and think Luci might be safe, the rug is pulled out from under us: Ananke waits. Which could be my most on-point description of the masked lady so far. A click of the fingers later and Laura’s heart breaks, along with those of every reader of The Wicked + The Divine.
It’s heartbreaking, because as much of a shock this issue’s big surprise is, you realise that you should have seen it coming, and ultimately that it had to end this way. While she’s not the focus of her appearances for the remainder of the issue, Ananke’s grief seems as real as Laura’s, albeit born out of guilt at the inevitable, rather than the anger fuelling Laura’s. It’s a more subtly illustrated grief, but just as affecting. She really didn’t want it to come to this.
After the adrenaline surge of the issue to this moment, the rest of the book has a numb, comedown feeling. Laura achieves the fame she sought at the start of issue 1, but it’s not what she expected. She’s lost her best friend and no-one is there for her. She’s as lonely now as Luci was in prison, but there’s one last surprise for her from the ultimate trickster: Luci’s last cigarette, lighting at the click of a finger.
Remember that for all their godly power, the Pantheon are still teenagers struggling with becoming adults, let alone actual gods. Rebellion is built into all of them right now, Luci is just the first one we see take it to a conclusion. One down, eleven to go…
You might remember some months back I posited that the Godwheel turns one slot with every incarnation, which would suggest the god currently at midnight will not be part of the next iteration, unless there is some form of intervention. In this instance, that would be Amatersau. Let us not forget she is the only person who had bullets go around them during the sniper attack in issue 1. After Kieron gave a talk on Watchmen at the Nine Worlds convention in August, and what it meant to him as a reader as much as a writer, I couldn’t help but notice parallels between Watchmen‘s recurring doomsday clock motif and the Godwheel of The Wicked + The Divine. Ozymandias was the brightest of the Minutemen and ultimately the villain, maybe the sun goddess Amaterasu will be the same.
The writer’s notes at the back of every issue show that this book is a project that Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie feel passionately about, arguably producing the best work of their collaborations to date. If you’ve been on the fence about picking up The Wicked + The Divine then the first collection is due out shortly, with a signing at Gosh! Comics in London on 12th November at 19:00, and I heartily recommend you go along.
I’ll give The Wicked + The Divine 5, a resounding five magic cigarettes out of five. “It isn’t over”, indeed.
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