Review: The Wicked + the Divine #29

WicDiv29CoverDysfunctional relationships are the bread and butter of The Wicked + The Div ine#29, which kicks off “Imperial Phase Part 2” in cringeworthy fashion with Persephone waking up next to a Luci look-alike. Jamie McKelvie‘s art is sultry, and colorist Matthew Wilson trots out a dusky palette for the underworld goddess, but then writer Kieron Gillen’s dialogue fills in the awkwardness that Persephone feels and the total embarrassment of the moment. It’s also a little tragic and toxic too, which is the tone of WicDiv as a series and much of issue 29, which manages to be relationship driven while driving the arc’s plot ahead in the hunt for Sakhmet.

The most intoxicating thing about WicDiv #29 are the pairings and groupings of Pantheon members that Gillen and McKelvie put on display throughout the issue that evoke various emotions. There’s the cut from Laura fangirling at a Baal gig back in the halcyon days of 2013 (or the first arc of WicDiv) to Baal training Minerva to be a killer. He fits into the Pantheon dad role very well giving everyone (Except Persephone) nicknames and coordinating everyone from Persephone to Woden. Baal seems like more of a general than a pop star, and his regimented training exercises and walk and talk style are the complete opposite of the raw energy of the flashback with its pixelated colors from Matthew Wilson and the easy swagger of his movements drawn by Jamie McKelvie. However, no one can really control Persephone as a London cop remarks after he asks her some questions about Sakhmet’s disappearance.

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Persephone slinks into her destined Destroyer role throughout WicDiv #29 mostly through lying to everyone and using her abilities to presumably cover up these lies. The big reveal of the issue is that Sakhmet is holed up in Persephone’s flat yet she lies to the police, Baal, and Urdr about the kitten themed murderer’s whereabouts and throws in yet another deception to Urdr when she says she’s going home, but then gets a sad club montage. The reason for sheltering Sakhmet is pretty evident: Persephone loves her. In a conversation with Urdr, she even says that Sakhmet was her girlfriend. In this panel, McKelvie lifts the hard, chthonic goddess facade, and Persephone is Laura again pining over the woman she cares about and happens to make terrible decisions. Love definitely makes you do the wacky, including harboring fugitives, and Gillen gets this out in some of the dialogue where Persephone flat out tells Baal that she can’t fight Sakhmet.

Visually, the scene stealer of WicDiv #29 is Morrigan as Persephone, Urdr, and Dionysus return to the Underground. Because of Baphomet’s affair with Persephone, Dionysus ends up taking point and getting an audience with the goddess, who McKelvie and Wilson imbue with a dark majesty. There is only light in the Underground because Morrigan wills it, and McKelvie and Wilson obscure a lot of the characters’ faces and bodies in this scene. With Persephone taking more of an antagonistic role by helping Sakhmet, Morrigan is the new wild card. She knows that Sakhmet is a threat to everyone, including herself, and says so in her usual, flowery dialogue. However, she isn’t a fan of the Pantheon prying into her abusive relationship with Baphomet, especially Dionysus, who stays in the Underground until he sees Baphomet. Dionysus using his empathy and kind heart more actively has been one of the highlights of both parts of “Imperial Phase” although I fear that Badb may rip the dance floor god to pieces down the road.

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Toxic relationships are the main theme of WicDiv #29, and “Imperial Phase 2” starting out. At this point, Persephone isn’t a physical Destroyer, but a metaphorical one to her former friendships. Baal can barely look at her and walks away after he’s sent her on a mission to the Underground. She is dealing with Sakhmet’s actions by sleeping with someone who looks like her first “bad girl” crush Luci and lying to everyone. It’s tough to see this bright eyed fangirl become such a trainwreck, and Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson rub salt in the wound by including that flashback of her at Baal and Sakhmet’s first gig.

With a dollop of dark energy and pinch of sadness in Jamie McKelvie’s art and Matthew Wilson’s colors, WicDiv #29 continues to chronicle Persephone’s development into the Destroyer as Kieron Gillen throws away the seemingly beautiful apple that was the Pantheon’s relationships and exposes its rotten core, black as Morrigan’s wardrobe.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review