Review: The Wicked + the Divine #43

Writer Kieron Gillen alluded to this on Twitter, but there is very much an Avengers Endgame feeling of one last adventure before calling an era of generation, or at least this reviewer, shaping storytelling quits to WicDiv #43. The remaining Pantheon members and a de-divinitied Laura confront Minerva/Ananke, and Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson lay out the real source of their powers and the origin of 12 teenagers in a more resonant flashback than anything in “Mothering Invention”. There are lots of big ideas on the board in this issue like mortality, belief, and storytelling, and belief leading to physical powers and general coolness gives this issue a real Grant Morrison vibe in a similar way to WicDiv #1 quoting Invisibles #1.

But, before characters get confessional about their status as gods in anti-Pantheon transformation sequence, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson whip together a big action scene. And Laura’s perceptive narration shows that it’s meant to illustrate the emptiness of such scenes and scuffles even though McKelvie and Wilson outdo themselves with giant Tara punching a Valkyrie and various streams of energy and poses. It’s a single page, gets the point across, and leads to another great Dionysus character beat as he uses his second chance at life for good and to free the fans/Valkyries from Minerva’s control. We get some infrared colors from Wilson and a burst of flame, and yeah, no one wants to have anything to do with mind control machine using, strangely young looking immortals.

WicDiv #43 is all about stripping down, breaking up, and breaking free, and none of these things in a romantic context. But, first, there must be a narrative or ritual to be liberated from like an underlying mechanism or a plot in a story to get meta. (And Gillen does.) We see the first “Kllk” as Ananke and her sister create fire, and then their powers get more complex with the creation of the ideas of godhood and its manifestations starting with green tendrils. Ananke plays on each Pantheon’s flaws and pride to end in their deaths and sacrifice as evidenced in the main series and the historical specials.

It’s primal storytelling from Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson with flat colors and fantastic character acting to go with the dark, tendril-y panel borders that represent the mind meld between Minerva and Persephone. The flashback (Which functions better than a wall of exposition)gives the characters of WicDiv a peek behind the curtain and their own powers. They have to interrogate why they want to be gods, and this is the powerful last act of the comic before a devilish cliffhanger.

And this interrogation leads to liberation beginning with the aforementioned Valkyrie/fan flight. Owing to their gentler, more symbiotic relationship, Gillen and McKelvie have Urdr wrap up her time with the other Norns with a kiss and a promise that they’ll live. These plot beats are a prelude to the Pantheon members following Laura’s lead in the previous issue and renouncing their godhood in rhythmic, almost liturgical six panel grids from McKelvie. They realize that they were pawns in a millennia long story and now seek to erase themselves from the narrative in a positive way.

But WicDiv #43 isn’t the final or even the penultimate issue of the series so it’s not that easy, and the final page is dynamic and a reminder of with whom and why I fell in love with the series five years ago as I took a leap of faith and signed up for that John Milton elective class.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.6 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review