Published on March 26th, 2015 | by Dapper Dan0
The Wicked + The Divine 9 – Review
Once again, we return. The Wicked + The Divine is back this week with a strong, yet subdued, issue. Given Kieron Gillen’s penchant for amazing/terrible (delete as appropriate) pop-culture puns I’m amazed this wasn’t called “My Dinner With Ananke”
It’s going to be damn near impossible to discuss this issue of The Wicked + The Divine without giving some spoilers. This is arguably the most important issue in terms of the book’s overall plot since issue 5. So *please* read the issue before reading this or, at the very least, be aware that I will be discussing the content and giving you some theories as to what might be happening here.
Last issue’s Dionysian rave ended with Laura going home with Baal. For those of you expecting this issue to pick up the morning after, you’re going to be disappointed. Team WicDiv have pulled a bait & switch here, wholly moving on from that night without comment and with five weeks having passed. Laura herself is barely in this issue, focusing as it does Baphomet, Cassandra and the enigmatic Ananke.
We check in on Laura via her parents voicing their concerns about her and the Pantheon then move the spotlight over to Valhalla, the Pantheon’s “clubhouse” previously shown during The Faust Act. Ananke is there comforting an upset Minerva.
Poor Mimi; we’ve barely got to know her but we already know she’s the youngest god in this cycle, she’s being exploited by her parents and she’s horrified by the effect her attack had had Brunhilde. At least the other members of the Pantheon had some chance at enjoying being an adult, before and after their ascension. Mimi’s going to die before her 15th birthday. Minerva lashes out at Baphomet’s snark and upsets him. This is the most vulnerable he’s been all series, and I’m including when he got shot. The Wicked + The Divine continues to show that these might be gods, but they are far more than the casual stereotypes that pop-culture often casts them as.
Dismissed by Ananke, Minerva leaves and Baphomet takes the spotlight. This is an important exchange between Ananke and Baphomet where she gives him, and us, vital information about who can and can’t gain the gods’ divinity. This is a curious exchange, as Gillen’s not usually one for exposition for exposition’s sake. There’s a very good reason why this information is being revealed now, by her, to him. I’ve put my thoughts on this at the end of the article below spoiler warnings. It DID remind me of Father Ted, when Dougal was told not to press the big red button.
I’m sure that Gillen has a specific voice in his head for the character, but I can’t help but read Ananke’s speech bubbles in Dame Diana Rigg’s voice. That mix of gravitas and gentle care, with steel beneath the surface, reminds me of Olenna Tyrell in Game Of Thrones.
Baphomet is a bit of an interesting case. On his first swaggering. posturing appearance he was incredibly annoying and instantly dislikeable. But since then, when he’s not being his on-stage persona, he’s actually shown more humanity than many of the other gods. I couldn’t possibly comment on why the revelation that he’s a vulnerable, terrified man hiding behind a mask of confidence and sarcasm appeals to me. (Looks to camera )
Cassandra interrupts in typically irritating fashion, dealing out the same type of snark to Baphomet as he did to Minerva earlier on. Karma, eh?
It turns out that THIS is what Woden was discussing with Cassandra last issue; Ananke wanted to offer Cassandra an interview, although quite who is interviewing who isn’t as clear. I’ve found Cassandra very hard to like so far. I enjoy reading her scenes, but I just don’t like her. She seems to go out of her way to be critical of everyone she comes into contact with, whether they’re gods or mortals. I doubt she even realises she does it most of the time. Given her history there’s a good chance she’s been marginalised, mocked and harassed before, so developing an “attack before you’re attacked” mentality would be understandable. She does admit to liking China Mieville though, which puts me at odds with her. (I’m not a fan)
It’s an issue of infodump as Ananke tells Cassandra one explanation of the Pantheon and the regular manifestations. I note the suggestion that they might only believe they are the gods, rather than actually being them. I applaud anyone who’s brave enough to try and wade through Graves The White Goddess as I attempted to read I, Claudius once and found it impenetrably dense. There’s a gloriously 4th wall-breaking moment here on the difference between criticism and being a critic:
SUPER EPIC MEGA SPOILERS (Don’t say you weren’t warned)
The real reason behind Ananke allowing Cassandra to interview her was that she is Urdr, the final member of the Pantheon and the missing symbol on the Godwheel. Her assistants making up the remaining Norns was just as surprising. Laura joining the Godwheel seemed too obvious, so I’m glad she didn’t ascend. It’ll be interesting to watch her and Cassandra now. Suspect there’ll be some resentment at the non-believer getting the opportunity denied the fan.
Baphomet, having just been warned in a terribly stage-whisper way to not kill any other members of the Pantheon, seems to be considering sending Urdr on her way. Oh dear, this can’t end well
Then as suddenly as we meet the final god, we jump back to Laura, who is distraught but not sure why. She’s clearly connected to the events of the Pantheon now, likely due to her close relationship with Luci. If her insistence that “Everything’s gone wrong” is accurate and not hyperbole, one could argue she’s doomsaying, much like the mythological Cassandra did.
Art-wise, this issue lets Jamie McKelvie really go for it with emotions and facial expressions. This has always been one the strongest elements of his style, but even among an already gloriously emotive series, this issue really stands out. Look at Cassandra during the interview scene, there’s vulnerability and honest uncertainty alongside her usual bullish attitude. We might not see the broadest range of characters this issue, but we certainly see the broadest range of emotions since issue 5. I do note that Ananke is wearing her least elaborate mask to date, in her most extensive appearance. Drawing her usual style of beaded face-curtains would have been a nightmare in this issue!
The flashbacks shown during Ananke’s explanations are an interesting change of style and have a suitably pre-historic feel. I’m glad they opted for this rather than show them in McKelvie’s usual style as it really pushes home how long this has been going on. If Ananke is telling us the truth, of course…
Finally, I need to evangelise about Matthew Wilson’s colours. I know, I know; I rave about these every month but take a good look at the interview scenes again, look at the way the sunlight falls across everything, the shadows, it’s gorgeous. Colourists are the new comic rock stars.
WicDiv Theories & Thoughts:
Ananke knew that Luci would rebel. It was *always* her destiny to be the great rebel. Ananke has just told a scared Baphomet that if he killed another member of the Pantheon, he could buy himself a little more life. Ananke does seem more manipulative than benevolent here, doesn’t she? Why tell Baphomet that in the first place? He’d never have come to that conclusion on his own, surely?
Then the way Ananke tells Baphomet how he might extend his life, then humiliatingly dismisses him in front of the person she knows to be the remaining member of the Pantheon smacks of manipulation. Ananke is not as benevolent as she’d like to claim.
Urdr. When the final icon was revealed to be a tree, I did wonder if there was anyone associated with Yggdrasil, and Urdr does fit the bill. Here’s the ultimate non-believer cast in the role of one who decides the fate of gods. Was she always going to become Urdr, or was she chosen by Ananke? Eleanor was a loner and craved the freedom to do her own thing, then Ananke appears and says *poof!* you’re Lucifer, the great rebel. Now Cassandra the non-believer is given the power to decide the fate of the gods. I think what I’m getting at is; are the hosts showing characteristics of the gods because they are about to ascend into them, or do they ascend into specific gods because they suit their own characteristics?
The period between each manifestation of the Pantheon is referred to as a saeculum by Ananke. This is a term that can mean the length of time it roughly takes to replace the world’s population. No real theory here, just bit of info.
So, what do you think is happening? Is Ananke manipulating the Pantheon? Will Baphomet do the one thing that he shouldn’t do? How do you feel about Cassandra being the final member of the Godwheel? Let us know in the comments!