Tag Archives: Ananke

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #34

Wow, there’s a lot to unpack in The Wicked + the Divine #34. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson kick things off with an extended trip back in time to the first Pantheon where the rules are made, gods created, and children killed in the name of necessity. It’s a violent tone poem with a dying light palette from Wilson and a rhythmic grid layout from McKelvie, who depict the original Ananke and her sister with age lines from love and war. These sequence is also the proverbial face has launched a thousand fan theories. Until the final series of juxtaposed images (A comic within a comic, hmm.), nothing in the issue quite reaches the heights of WicDiv #34, and that’s okay as Gillen is engaged in a game of putting the pieces scattered across the board together for one last battle royale a la the finale of this series.

From what I’ve put together, it seems like the opening scene is a Seventh Seal chess game between Ananke and the Destroyer, or Persephone. (Minerva aka the new Ananke might be involved as well, and even if she doesn’t appear in the comic, her presence affects the present day scenes greatly.) On a metafictional level, it could also be read as Gillen and McKelvie setting up the rules, themes, and characters for their new world and then murdering their new creations in brutal full page manner with cool magical effects from Wilson. To get a little less mythical and a little more political, this conversation represents aging conservatives consumed by greed and doing whatever they can to prolong their lives and comfort at the expense of future generations. It is a fantastic sequence craft-wise especially with different effects and hues that Matthew Wilson pulls off in his color palette and acts as a creation myth for WicDiv, its own Music of the Ainur.

Most of the present is Persephone, Urdr (Who has stripped her fellow Norns of their power because she is easily the Beyonce to their Kelly and Michelle in a great gag from Gillen.), and Jon trying to sort out their current situation and by extension, the current status quo in the series. Gillen and McKelvie also use this time to let readers know a little more about the Jon, the poor erudite boy whose abilities were used and abused by his father in the ultimate stage parent move. He is fairly chilled out and erudite with dialogue like “Change is just change. It’s neither good nor bad. It simply is” that definitely needed a beat panel of Persephone and Urdr scratching their heads after it. Jon is also there to deliver the exposition about the talking god heads and Luci’s murder, and everything is all messed up and extremely awkward between Persephone and Urdr.

Kieron Gillen seems to be writing Persephone a lot like Laura in WicDiv #34 with her fangirl side all but eroded thanks to events of the series general. Unlike the situation with her and Sakhmet, Persephone is a straight shooter and tells Urdr that she thinks something is off with Minerva even if the journalist-turned-face palming, former triplicate goddess doesn’t act on this. The enclosed space has turned her more honest and kind, and McKelvie even shows a subtle trace of nostalgia on her face when she thinks about Luci being a talking head and beyond a shadow of a doubt not being a murderer. Maybe, she will end up being the flawed heroine we deserve, or maybe I’m just being a naive fan.

With a symphonic prologue, WicDiv #34 cascades to its endgame, and Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson place the series in sharp, big picture contrast before starting to unravel an overarching plot that is entering year four (Oh god, I’ve been writing about this book for almost four years.) But, along the way, they never lose sight of their flawed, well-sketched characters, or Persephone and Urdr in this case.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 7.7 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.3  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine 455 AD

Using an even more twisted version of Lucifer from the Pantheon as an object lesson, writer Kieron Gillen, guest artist Andre Araujo (Avengers A.I.), and colorist Matthew Wilson tell the story of Rome in a single narrative that begins with a glorious literal burst of triumph before denigrating into senseless, violence, hubris, and death. The story is set in 455 AD, and the Roman Empire is on its last legs as Geiseric and the Vandals threaten to destroy Rome once and for all. But Lucifer casts aside his name and takes on the mantle of “Julius Caesar” because he thinks he can save the Roman Empire all by himself and not be the 5th century version of Caligula or Nero. He and his boyfriend, Bacchus (The Roman version of Dionysus) get decidedly mixed results from this little escapade.

Andre Araujo and Matthew Wilson are the perfect art team for capturing the gorgeous heights and the farcical lows of the Roman Empire in WicDiv #455. Araujo can handle the detailed crowd shots like Lucifer’s “triumph” and the flame and gore filled environs of his fall into becoming an imitation of Nero, but he also is a wonderful artist of gestures and facial expressions. Ananke is a hated character in the main WicDiv series, but Araujo makes her a vulnerable, almost pathetic figure, who pleads for her life before a power hungry Lucifer. She’s not necessity or the creator of the Pantheon in that situation, but just an old woman. However, there’s a glimpse of the Ananke we know and hate at the end as she makes jokes about Vandals and covers world history’s collective asses. Wilson’s colors accents Lucifer’s powers with red and golds worthy of an emperor as he shuns the slave saying “Memento mori” and rides into the Forum like a wannabe Julius Caesar even though he’s just won a relatively minor victory.

On a deeper level, Gillen and Araujo show that the Pantheon being their era’s version of pop stars might not lead to them being worshiped and treated like celebrities In Rome, actors were seen as immoral, and homophobic slurs were often hurled at them. (There was a reason that Ovid was exiled, and Augustus was deified.) Sure, everyone went to see Plautus’ comedies, occasionally Seneca’s dark tragedies, and of course, the gladiator games, but these people didn’t have the greatest reputations. Gillen and Araujo riff off on this idea through speeches about Nero being ridiculed for being interested in music and poetry instead of being a statesman, and then images of Lucifer literally playing the bodies of senators like a harp instead of using them to help him rule Rome. But there are even more layers to this provocative image, like the inevitability of the Roman republic’s turn to authoritarianism or the parade of weak, adolescent emperors from Caligula to Elagabalus and beyond. Lucifer should be a metaphorical intern or have an entry level position at the most and not be the “CEO” of one of the world’s greatest empires.

Lucifer/Caesar’s key character trait in WicDiv 455 is childishness, which is honestly one she shared with her present day Pantheon counterpart, who enjoyed mouthing off to government officials and chain smoking. (She would have mocked the actual Chainsmokers though if she was alive to see them.) The 455 version of Lucifer is pretty fucking petulant and doesn’t have 2014’s gift for song quote or barbed one-liners. Gillen and Araujo get the macabre humor beneath his classic Rome fanboy veneer from the opening pages where the genre quickly switches from pastoral to epic, and Wilson’s palette goes from green to red. Lucifer could have had a nice life cuddling with his boyfriend Dionysus and playing songs in fields, but that would be a pretty dull story. Lucifer sees himself as the hero of an epic, but he’s really just a fifth act victim in one of Seneca’s overlong tragedies that Shakespeare and Marlowe added more wordplay and energy to while keeping the body count. And Andre Araujo makes him pull the silliest of faces while attempting to kill Ananke or lecturing to the Senate that wouldn’t be out of place in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Or a grim and gritty reboot of Asterix and Obelix.) if it wasn’t for the serious tone of the story and the general use of red in the background.

WicDiv 455 melds the trashy, lavish, and violent aesthetic of the late period Roman Empire with the thought and creativity of the Augustan Age, and there’s (maybe) no possibility of it being used as propaganda like the Aeneid. Like a passage from the Satyricon, Kieron Gillen, Andre Araujo, and Matthew Wilson meld humanity’s basest desires for sex and violence with our highest urges for glory and legacy into a comic book feast that will have you begging for seconds and looking up Emperor Tiberius’ recipe for roasted dormouse on Pinterest between rereads.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Andre Araujo Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.5  Art: 10 Overall: 9.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + The Divine #19

WicDiv19hotWicDiv #19 reads like the first skirmish in an epic war, but it’s an amusing skirmish indeed as writer Kieron Gillen provides a little more insight into the characters of Minerva and especially Dionysus, who gets his first substantial panel time since WicDiv #8. (What with him being a 24/7/365 dance floor.) His worshipers/ravers are so connected to him that even when he takes a five minute break for a soda and fries, they got wild so it’s safe to say that he’s a little irritated when Baphomet draws him into a battle between the Sky gods and Underground ones. Gillen writes him as peaceful in the mode of the late Inanna while artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson show that he is less than apt in the art of combat thanks to this pacifist nature.

WicDiv #19 doesn’t end on any “WTF” cliffhangers like #17 or #18, but it’s nice to see the sides set in the battle between the two factions of the Pantheon with Ananke turning into a full bore, unapologetic, and unsympathetic monster when Minerva’s special owl catches a recording of her talking about sacrificing Minerva to prevent the “great darkness”, or the end of the Pantheon cycles that was hinted at back in Ananke’s solo issue. Supposedly, Persephone is connected to the great darkness as the “destroyer figure”, but the jury is still out on this fact as Persephone is more force of nature than teen fangirl with superpowers as she silently brings green tendrils from the Earth to knock off

The action is really the best part of WicDiv #19 as well as McKelvie’s mindboggling ability to switch from Morrigan to Badb and even Gentle Annie (Who gets an incredibly pleasing character voice from Gillen.) through gestures and body language. Gentle Annie comes off as a laidback and maybe a little stoned with relaxed posture while Badb is all rage and expletives. Wilson’s colors play a big part in her transformation from subtle shifts in shadows to bigger switches from light grey to crimson as Gentle Annie immediately turns into Badb. McKelvie and Wilson let her go full death/war goddess in the issue’s best composition, which is a full page spread of her transforming into a horrific crow that even takes Baphomet by surprise. (Also, with his wild lightsaber, er, flaming sword arcs and general evil douchelord behavior, Baph and Kylo Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens would totally be frenemies.) This follows a full page splash of Baal generally crashing the party and being a badass with his beard and lightning with Wilson’s purples continuing to show that the only reason he gives a shit about this Pantheon civil war is because Baphomet killed Inanna. (Except Baphomet is saying Ananke did it. It will be interesting to see his justification for lying like this probably because Ananke is the terrible mother figure he wished he didn’t have.)

BadbUnleashed

Morrigan and Baal are the powerhouses of their respective factions whereas Sakhmet is more fluid leaping from panel to panel and talking trash while doing it. The characterization doesn’t stop during the fight sequences, but these physical battles actually enhance them with Amaterasu not taking any action against the Underground deities (Who she somewhat considers friends, especially Persephone.) and just zipping in like Superman to get Minerva to “safety”. She is the opposite of the destructive Morrigan and has the precision of one of Cyclops’ optic blast (Because Gillen used to write Uncanny X-Men.) as McKelvie cuts to her always on-point eye makeup, and she grabs Minerva without harming a soul. Wilson uses a solar yellow to show her purity and kindness. It’s pretty sad to see her in the service of a murderer and possible future child killer.

AmaterasuSuperman

WicDiv #19 deepens the evil of Ananke and the characters of Minerva and Dionysus while having some pyrotechnics-filled god battles from artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson. Writer Kieron Gillen also starts to hint at Persephone not being the heroic, divine upgrade of Laura that fans expected as both the sky and underground Pantheon are cast in a net of lies, strained relationships, and volatile personalities. Morrigan and Baal are definitely the proverbial water and oil mixture (Or Yeezy/Nightwish mashup I never knew I wanted.) after this issue despite not interacting too much before.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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.)

BaalHeadbuttBaph

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