Review: The Wicked + The Divine #18

WicDiv18WicDiv #18 signals the beginning of the comic’s imperial phase with the triumphant return of artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson as they and writer Kieron Gillen drop the introspective character studies of the previous arc for some well-earned action sequences and magical musical explosions. It’s like when your favorite band stopped playing small clubs and intimate venues and started playing arena rock. But damn good arena rock, like Queen or Rush in the late 70s and early 80s, the Smashing Pumpkins on their Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album, or Muse in this millennium. (Before they started putting songs on Twilight soundtracks.)

But beneath the most creative use of divine powers since the death of Luci, WicDiv #18 is a comic about transformation. Somehow, Laura has survived being “killed” by Ananke after being transformed into the 13th Pantheon member, Persephone, and she is back with a vengeance playing gigs with black, oozing tendrils in the background as McKelvie and Wilson recreate the rhythmic dance floor layout in WicDiv #8 but paint it black this time. And her little bit of attitude that was kind of adorable in the previous issues has been exchanged for pure coolness as she performs feats that and is in pure sarcasm mode. The squeeing fangirl has become a goddess.

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However, through Ananke’s tense attitude and constant freaking out, Gillen reveals that Persephone is something called the “Destroyer” and sets the stage for a war between the underworld gods and sky gods. Think Civil War without the heavy handed political allegories and with more stylish outfits. (I hate to use this word, but Persephone is definitely on fleek when she faces off against Ananke, Woden, and Sakhmet.) The direction of the plot has gone from passive aggressive sniping and covert actions to all out war between hot headed young gods while their handler continues to manipulate them.

However, the big action beats on WicDiv #18 really hit home thanks to the more character focused direction of the previous arc as small moments, like Baphomet losing his parents in WicDiv #16 or Baal beating up Morrigan in WicDiv #12, have solid payoffs. For example, Morrigan reminds Baphomet of his own orphan status, and leads him to saving Minerva’s parents even if they don’t show up on panel. And Baal and Baphomet are really in a kind of “Bad Blood” situation as they face off physically twice in the course of this issue’s melee with some flame sword and fierce headbutting action. (Wilson really juices up the pastels when Baal headbutts Baphomet in a kind of testosterone fueled homage to Baal’s dead lover Inanna, which is the reason why he hates Baph so much.)

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Everyone is really angry in WicDiv #18 as McKelvie and Wilson turn up the bombast as divine energy and speed lines are flying everywhere. But it’s not mindless Hollywood destruction porn as the team puts the Pantheon members in clever or interesting situations, and Gillen is always ready with a timely quip written in each character’s distinct voice from Baphomet’s douchiness to Morrigan’s pretention and Badb’s plain rawness. Woden’s outburst of “Laura Fucking Wilson” when Persephone does some Earth-bending meets The Matrix with a side of Green Lantern stuff is the funniest moment of the issue. (And of course, Ananke gives him a chiding.) McKelvie takes familiar visual elements of Laura like her beaten up smartphone and again transforms them into weapons of war against Ananke and her supporters. And her “S’okay” expression from when she gave Baal the brush returns after she uses her Persephone abilities to create some kind of a portal from Valhalla to the Underworld, which has been impossible up to this point. Gillen and McKelvie consign decompression to the flames of Tartarus, and Persephone play an immediate, game changing role in the series’ plot while also starting to flesh out the differences between her and Laura.

After opening with a gorgeous full page spread of Persephone in all her glory and creating a parallel between Persephone losing her parents and Minerva still wanting to keep hers, WicDiv #18 dives right into the set pieces as the characters that Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson have been building off get to blow off some steam in an epic way. McKelvie truly makes Persephone the star of the show design-wise while making her simultaneously non-chalant and pissed off at Ananke, and Wilson’s color work for her is intoxicating with blacks for the underworld and pinks and greens for spring when she is using her abilities in Valhalla. WicDiv #18 is electrifying reading, and its more quiet final page really messes with the character dynamics and sets up a war, both physical and emotional. No one is going to be okay by time this arc wraps up.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.5  Art: 10 Overall: 9.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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