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