Published on August 8th, 2015 | by Dapper Dan0
The Wicked + The Divine 13 – Comic Review
Once again, we return… As always, here be spoilers.
The Wicked + The Divine is back with the second chapter in their ominously titled “Commercial Suicide” arc. Following the same format as last issue, we get a main feature with a guest artist, and an addendum one page strip from series co-creator Jamie McKelvie.
This issue of The Wicked + The Divine has beautiful art by Tula Lotay, who you should recognise from her work with Warren Ellis on Supreme: Blue Rose. Lotay colours her own work with a hazy, layered style that reminds me of a cleaner version of Jock’s work on Wytches. There’s hints of manga influences here too, as there were in Kate Brown’s issue, so following her turn on the book doesn’t create too jarring a visual change for the readers. If there’s anything that could be seen as a negative, it’s that Tara’s statuesque, superhero-esque height isn’t actually clear until she’s stood next to Baal. In a group of gods, Tara is the one who seems to most embody the notion of godly physical perfection so far. I do wonder if Woden’s Valkyries are influenced by an infatuation with Tara, to some degree.
In a series full of jaw-dropping moments and emotional gut-punches, this issue of The Wicked + The Divine has the biggest hit so far. There is a lot to unpack in this issue, from the story implications, to reader reactions, to the realisation that this is the payoff to something that has been brewing since issue 1. Kieron Gillen has made the readers complicit in what happens here. That’s some meta stuff right there.
We finally meet Tara (Fucking Tara, right?) after 12 issues of snide comments by the rest of the cast and a poster on the London Underground. Nice of the princess to deign to grace us with her presence, right? Only, no, it isn’t. From the very start we are shown that Tara is far from the haughty, stuck-up character the rest of the Pantheon paint her as. The other members of the Pantheon have embraced their godhood and see it as something more than what, and who, they were before meeting Ananke. Tara, on the other hand, saw it as the platform to perform she always wanted, but has been bitterly disappointed by the reaction she’s received. It’s worth noting the symbolism of the mask, she initially adopts at her first performance to draw attention away from her appearance and encourage the audience to focus on her art. She keeps this mask after her ascension and still uses it as a shield. They can’t see you cry behind the mask. That mask also provides the target for people to aim their criticism and insults at. They don’t see Tara as a person, only as a character. It’s easy to be venomous to someone when you’re not face to face.
More than Luci’s murder, more than Laura’s, THIS issue is more upsetting and carries more emotional heft to me. Maybe it’s the fact Tara’s flashbacks to her pre-ascension treatment are real. This stuff happens, and it crucifies people. Tara seems trapped by everyone else’s preconceptions of her. First it’s her physical attributes that seem to colour people’s reaction to her, then later her “fans” are solely interested in her as a goddess, not an artist. This is where “Fucking Tara” comes from, the inexplicable sense of entitlement that fans have the world over. Produce what they believe they deserve, or more accurately what you owe them, and you’re cheered. The moment you start producing for yourself, you’re despised. You’ve betrayed them and their support. How dare you? It’s an awful attitude, but so many of us have been guilty of it to a greater or lesser degree. I can think of bands who are decried as having “lost it” when fans hear their more personally satisfying, experimental albums. Or comic creators who walk away from their best-selling books at major publishers, to create their own books. (Yes, I’m fully aware of what I’ve just said.)
The team behind The Wicked + The Divine are well known for being very active on social media, interacting with fans and critics alike, and they are just as well known for being very switched-on when it comes to harassment and negative social mores. The double page spread of tweets about Tara makes for awful reading, all the more so because we all know people who’ve been through that. I’m not going to mention the particular group of trolls that springs to mind, but you can surely fill in the blanks. Ever since issue 1 dropped, Team WicDiv have been using the “Fucking Tara” line in the book, and we as readers have picked up on it and used it online, again and again. “When’s fucking Tara going to show up?”, “Why hasn’t fucking Tara done anything so far?”, etc. Isn’t it scary how easily you can be lured into a hate-mob, without even realising it?
Tara’s fate is tragic beyond Luci’s or Laura’s. Luci was always going to rebel, Laura got what she wanted albeit momentarily. Tara wants this, having finally been worn down by a world that tells her she’s never good enough. Tara could have been so much more than one of Ananke’s pawns, but can’t fight the never-ending struggle any longer. She’s been broken and can’t see any way to fix herself. Poor fucking Tara.
McKelvie’s epilogue page is paraphrasing what every Hollywood actress goes through at premieres and press junkets. Inappropriate, offensive, irrelevant questions about their looks. Tara gives the inquiring journalist the treatment they deserve and walks away without saying a word. They wouldn’t treat Baal like that.
Read the back cover re-iterating Woden’s line when Tara arrives in the issue. Feel that? That’s guilt telling you what a shit you were for joining in with the “Fucking Tara” gag all along. That’s guilt telling you you should say something when someone’s superficial comments are making someone else uncomfortable. Yes, this issue moves the plot of The Wicked + The Divine along, but that’s not the takeaway you should have. This is the issue that should remind you to be kind; you have no idea what anyone else is going through.