Review: The Wicked + the Divine #35
In The Wicked + the Divine #35, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson begin to gleefully tear down the elaborate story castle they have been constructing for almost four years. The story begins with a flashback to 1923, and by extension, the actual WicDiv #1 as the 1920s Pantheon says its au revoirs, and I had a mini panic attack that But then McKelvie and Wilson lay down an explosion with clashing colors, and the book’s structure of 12 gods, every 2 years, Ananke being into necessity, and warding off the Great Darkness is called into question.
Throughout the two issues of the “Mothering Invention” arc, Gillen and McKelvie have really made Minerva earn her stripes as the goddess of wisdom and craft. Especially after WicDiv #35, you could see her as the strategist who bankrolled Odysseus’ wiliness and had enough of a petty side to turn one of her rivals into a nasty little spider. Minerva’s portrayal, both in 1923 and the present day, hits a sweet spot between innocent and malevolent. The vapid lush Susanoo of “a drink or forty” fame thinks she’s too afraid to participate in the apocalypse cancelling mass suicide, but she’s really just being manipulative and a tender hug turns into a head explosion/”teleporty” thing. McKelvie’s art in the flashback matches the excess of the age of flappers and philosophers with eyeballs flying out of Ananke’s head and plenty of blood and gore. And there’s plenty of red and orange flames from Wilson, which made this comic pair nicely with fever symptoms.
Even if it might get lost under the Jazz Age inferno, the Woden holding a gun to Minerva’s head thing, and definitely the third act Baal thing, Gillen and McKelvie cleverly connect present Minerva to her previous incarnation. They also use the relatable anxiety of someone typing for a long time on a text message to build suspense. Minerva has played the innocent, bun wearer for too long, but finally her hair is down (Nice ombre, by the way.) and her scheming self is beginning to kick into high gear as she plays a game of mutual blackmail with Woden and another game of witholding information with Urdr. However, Persephone still underestimates Minerva and decides to go solo into Baal’s secret room. The duality of Minerva’s nature (Aged plotter, innocent child) is summed up in a great panel of her with lines and a frustrated expression on her that looks like maybe she could be thousands of years old as Woden continues to mess with her plan.
Even while it’s paying off plot lines from issues and years back in dramatic fashion, WicDiv #35 still doesn’t neglect human side of things. Kieron Gillen finds time for introspection via caption boxes revealing Persephone’s inner thoughts as she tries to piece her relationships back together after deciding to basically fuck off, embrace anarchy, and sleep with a murderer. However, these thoughts keep getting cut off by Woden chasing the Norns, who have the talking head of his son, Jon. Maybe, the former friendship between Laura and Cassandra can be rekindled by Persephone and Urdr mutually escaping. At least, we get to see Skuld and Verdandi’s abilities to get the spotlight for a brief moment with the help of a beautiful green palette from Matthew Wilson.
However, the real relationship that gets pushed to the breaking point in WicDiv #35 is the complicated one between Baal and Persephone, and it ends up getting intertwined with main plot and cliffhanger. Baal’s fresco from WicDiv #4 makes a muted return and is drawn more like a self-loathing Kanye slow jam from 808s and Heartbreak than a well-lit, triumphant bit of baroque glory from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or swaggering hubris from Yeezus. It’s just a facade like the lightning chain he wears on his neck to claim that he’s the powerful death and rebirth Baal and not the child sacrifice cult one.
In a nice bit of craft, McKelvie takes his time with six panels, six unkind cuts to Persephone and readers’ hearts instead of doing an explosive splash. This gives readers a moment alone with her to sum up their connection that went from fangirl to romantic couple to enemies and lot of stops in between. Then, the issue ends in all fire and frenzy with Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson harnessing the energy that has made WicDiv such a visual delight. The reveal of Baal’s secret room is such a big deal that he goes into full Heisman Trophy winning running back mode and stiff arms Minerva while going to the scene of his, well, crimes. The pose that McKelvie chooses for Baal is so powerful and is a memorable image before he and Gillen cut to another flashback as Persephone does the proverbial math in her head about her ex-fangirl crush/boyfriend/complicated leader of another Pantheon faction. It’s one hell of a way to end an issue, and May can’t come soon enough.
WicDiv #35 shows that Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson can play the long game with the best of them while still crafting a story that is a strong on an artistic and emotional level. The Baal and Minerva twists work because readers have had the chance to connect with them and see them form relationships with other characters (And each other). I still don’t know how a man who could have such a tender relationship with the now-talking-head Inanna could be such a monster, but it’s one of many great questions raised by this comic that have me hooked until the end of the line.
Your fave will always end up being problematic…
Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review