Review: The Wicked + The Divine #38

As The Wicked + the Divine #38 begins,the cast of characters that Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson has dwindled down, and they’re mostly bad eggs. And the good ones are irreparably damaged either physically or in spirit. Like every issue of this arc, WicDiv #38 begins with a flashback to the 1940s and 1950s where British poet and classicist Robert Graves is inspired by Ananke to write his seminal work The White Goddess about how goddess worship leads to inspiration, poetry, and is the “mother of all invention”. It’s very in much in keeping with the spirit of WicDiv as Gillen and McKelvie uncover more of the inner workings of the Pantheon, Ananke, Minerva, and the world of their story. With its juxtaposition of storytelling mechanics and intense character psyche burrowing, WicDiv  #38 is a pretty strong middle issue, and the the varied color schemes by Wilson are a nice treat.

In WicDiv #38, Minerva has blossomed into a fantastic villain maneuvering plots and manipulations in a manner that would make Ananke crack a smile from beyond the grave. Despite everything going to hell in a hand basket, Woden thinks he’s still in control because he has the Norns in the jail and thinks that he can do whatever he wants. For example, he makes a video of out of context moments of WicDiv painting Urdr as a dangerous rabble rouser just like her old name’s mythological equivalent, Cassandra. But this is definitely not the case as Woden sees the graffiti heavy and disfigured heads of the Pantheon members and freaks out while McKelvie draws Minerva in another panel with a shit eating grin as she knows exactly what is going on. She hides her plans for the endgame behind surprised expressions, childlike wonder, and two face dialogue that Woden won’t get even while he repeats his new favorite word, “subtext”.

Until a foreboding final line of dialogue on the last panel, Persephone and Baphomet’s scenes in the Underground might not seem as connected to the big ur-story of goddess vs. goddess, inspiration, and ritual sacrifice even if Persephone is the Destroyer and locked in eternal combat with Ananke. However, the quiet moments the once and future likable/not likable fans-turned-deities are the most human of WicDiv #38. Baphomet has really been the emotional carotid artery of this story arc and following Morrigan’s sacrificing herself for him after killing, there is definitely arterial spray. Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson finally get to descend into the deepest darkness with a blacker than black color palette and the tragic combined logo of a crow and pentagram and the even more tragic panel of Morrigan, Gentle Annie, and Badb lifelessly levitating in their temple. Although he was resurrected, Baphomet is crippled by grief and wants to stay in the shadows and not play an active role in the plot any more.

This listlessness extends to Persephone, who is pregnant and can’t really get anyone to empathize with her. Kieron Gillen goes full navel gazing, and McKelvie brings in a six panel grid to contain her thoughts and walk back to her and Sakhmet’s old crash pad. The real emotions comes when she picks up her old cracked and cellphone and thinks about how ridiculous Laura Wilson’s dream of godhood was. Her wish isn’t for righting wrongs or redemption, but just oblivion. This whole becoming a god thing wasn’t worth it, and perhaps walking down a dark, never ending tunnel that corresponds with McKelvie and Wilson’s all black panels is her retirement from divinity. Certainly, a panel on the final page echoes that idea, but Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson keep Persephone’s fate ambiguous: a sad, juicy hook for the arc finale.

WicDiv #38, and the whole “Mothering Invention” arc by extension, has been an exercise in looking at the biggest picture possible of Pantheons, past and present, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson. They show how the world works, establish innocents as villains, kill or incapacitate various darlings, and blur the lines between inspirational power and ritual sacrifice. There are lots of flashbacks, sure, but WicDiv #38’s sequences are more straightforward and connected to immediate plot and bigger themes of the series with some room for visual play with Wilson using a faded, almost monochromatic style for the Graves scenes that is like an old photograph.

And, most of all, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson don’t forget the characters we’ve cheered for, sneered at, and connected to a little too deeply even though it seems that everyone has lost their way. Minerva is great baddie, and in a weird fan crossover universe, is beating Young Avengers Kid Loki at his game over and over again like the eternal battle Persephone and Ananke were locked in.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 8 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.2  Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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