Published on August 21st, 2014 | by Dapper Dan0
The Wicked + The Divine 3 – Review
The Wicked + The Divine 3 dropped this week, so welcome back, you dirty-deity obsessed people. I trust you all found the wait for issue 3 as tortuous as a spell in Tartarus?
This issue of Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine included quite an info-dump about the characters and a stark reminder why I found the goth scene such a bloody pain in the backside when I was at university. (O/T: honestly, having a fling with your campus’ goth princess while you’re a dance & indie clubber was like Romeo and Juliet. Albeit with far more eyeliner…)
After issue 2’s rather shocking cliffhanger, I think we were all eager to find out if we’d suffered out first deicide among the modern day pantheon. The latest reveal on the Godwheel, Baphomet, ended that issue holding the severed head of the Morrigan.
Would The Wicked + The Divine be recruiting a new member of the Godwheel so soon? Ultimately no, they wouldn’t. The cut looked too neat on the Morrigan’s neck last issue; it didn’t look visceral enough to be genuine. As expected, we find this is a fake out and part of the petty games between Baphomet and the triple goddess Morrigan. Their exchanges take up the first chunk of the book and were pretty grating, if I’m being honest. I suspect that’s the point though; playing up the overblown and ridiculous image many people have of goth subculture. That, or the writer is being self-indulgent to the point of parody. Morrigan/Badb is all corsetry, feathers and extravangance. Baphomet is barechested, leather-clad and swaggering. He’s reminiscent of Daimon Hellstrom in Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery run.
McKelvie goes all out for this sequence’s double-page spread; Badb entering the tunnel amid a murder of crows, which was impressive but also surprised me. The creative team had previously said they wouldn’t do any more double page spreads after Young Avengers. They felt that spreads didn’t work so well for their increasingly digital-consumer readers. It’s true that the double-page spread is awkward when reading digitally, and they’re becoming increasingly rare these days, but it’s nice to see one used so well.
Our narrator, Laura, realises that investigating who might have framed Luci in issue 1 will prove to be harder than she first thought. There’s a moment where Laura goes from dreading the police arriving to being desperate for them to show up. It’s a wonderful reminder that she’s still caught between childhood and adulthood, trying to balance the bravado of youth with the fear of being out of her depth. As much as Gillen has said The Wicked + The Divine is about creating art, it’s equally about transitioning: Transitioning from adolescence into adulthood, from mortality into divinity, from consumer into artist, and more yet to come.
As Badb and Baphomet escalate their nihilistic None More Goth game of one-upmanship, Laura’s hopes of an intervention are fulfilled when the police arrive. We get another moment of Matt Wilson’s colouring brilliance with a Lichtenstein-influenced panel as Baphomet sets one of the police officers on fire. After the poor officer expires, the final part of the Morrigan’s three-in-one is revealed; Gentle Annie. This aspect is stark contrast to Badb. Where she was angry, Annie is kinder and heals the immolated officer. Given how frequently the three-in-one goddess occurs across different pantheons, I really hope The Wicked + The Divine plays with this concept and explores it over the course of the series.
While Morrigan and Badb were of a similar aesthetic to each other; Gentle Annie is equal parts Destiny from Sandman and Jack/Subject Zero from the Mass Effect universe. She retains the crow theme though, along with the cheek piercings, so you know she’s an aspect of the same. As I’ve mentioned before; so much work has gone into the look of each character in the book that you almost expect the inevitable graphic novel to include stylesheets and clothing guidelines at the back.
The latter half of the book plays out at a quieter pace, with Laura and Cassandra comparing notes. Further details are revealed about the members of the pantheon we’ve heard of to date. Mostly about their sexual proclivities, but that’s what you get when Luci’s your main source of information. Remember kids, Lucifer lies.
With Baal’s appearance on the cover for issue 4, it’s not a huge surprise to meet him in the flesh at the end of the issue. There have been numerous gods using the name over the millennia, and this comes up during Cassandra’s discussion with Laura. It culminates in a far more low-key final page than issues 1 or 2, but still a good hook to bring you back for more.
I’m increasingly convinced that Amaterasu is somehow involved not least because, if my theory on the Godwheel is correct, she’s not due to return in the next cycle. A gap on the wheel, caused by another god dying or being removed from the wheel, might allow her an earlier return. Luci says that she tries to bait Amaterasu but it’s impossible to make her jealous. Think back to issue 1 of The Wicked + The Divine where Amaterasu snaps at Luci for interrupting her interview with Cassandra “Me time, not Luci time!” and the magic bullet that curves around her, the only shot in that panel that doesn’t travel in a straight trajectory. Am I reading too much into things? Possibly, but it’s good fun trying to work it all out.
Issue 3 of The Wicked + The Divine is a very different beast to issues 1 & 2. Where they had slow starts building to intense finales, this flips that pattern and starts with the big action moment and slows the pace down. It’s effective as a chapter because this is a long-form story being played out; it’s just a bit unsatisfying for a monthly instalment. Not as much happens here as before, after the pace was set so high in the first two issues. This is probably a minor gripe; The Wicked + The Divine continues to be an impressive book with so much going on beneath the surface, you have to read it with one eye on Wikipedia. Everyone’s going to get an A-Level in TRS by the end of this.
I’ll give issue 3 of The Wicked + The Divine 4 crows out of 5. The desperately intense gothness of it all was rather trying and, while I suspect that was the intention, detracted from the ongoing story for me. Your mileage may vary. I’m looking forward to finding out more about Baal next issue, and maybe an appearance from one of the other as-yet-unseen incarnations?