This issue of The Wicked + The Divine concludes the “Rising Action” story arc. After an almost four month hiatus The Wicked + The Divine came back with a wink and a massacre and it was well worth the wait. Issue #22 finishes the arc with a bang and sets up infinite possibilities for where the story can go from here and what the Pantheon will do next.
In case you’re not a regular reader, I’ll give you the cliff notes version of four episodes that lead up to the God Battle Royal that takes place in Issue #22. So far , our “heroes” have weathered an apocalypse style music/murder concert, a coup, a trip to the underworld, a kidnapping from the underworld, “human” sacrifices, double crosses, some back story magic, a slew of pop culture references, a rave fight battle with glow sticks turned light saber, Ananke going straight up evil with monologing included. The wait between issues has been torturous because, every issue since the series returned from it’s four month hiatus, has been downright , I could see this in a movie, magic. It was like Marvel’s Civil War but, with the Pantheon and it got hella messy.
Instead of taking the easy path, Kieron Gillen doesn’t pick up his story in the obvious place. He makes us wait for it and starts out showing us the big picture before drawing us in to show us what we came for. Instead of Issue #22 picking up on the creepy and, downright ominous final panels of #21 where Ananke is standing over poor Mini’s body in front of a whole lot of fire, holding a knife, we pick up with the sun god, Amaterasu, hunting for reinforcements. We also got to watch Dionysus rave his way through a battle, and the warring sides join forces to save Mini from danger. It was an action packed beginning to a story that gets somber towards the end.
Laura/Persephone is back from the dead, she wants vengeance & she wants it Punisher style as payback for Ananke killing her family. This issue is where Kieron proves how great of a storyteller he is and why the hiatus was worth it. After saving Mini from the sacrifice attempt, the group takes Ananke prisoner so they can pump her for info. Laura/Persephone is not there to listen and her friends try and stop her from attacking by pleading to her humanity and her memories of her parents. Just when you think she’s taken her friends words to heart and is going to let Ananke live, Laura/Persephone thinks of her little sister and with a snap of her finger blows up Ananke’s head. It was real, it was visceral, it was beautiful and , it was exactly what the story needed. It reminded us that at the end of the day these “gods” are “human” and flawed. It makes the reader connect to the characters because you can relate.
This issue not only works as a wonderful conclusion to the “Rising Action” arc but, it works as a stand alone issue. You can figure out what happened before and what’s going on now thanks to stellar storytelling and, the amazing art work courtesy of. There is a panel in the beginning where there is a giant lady robot, a la Loki’s Destroyer , shooting LASERS out of her metal nipples while holding a sword and you can see the craft it took to show not only the Destroyer-bot but, some of the carnage. Every panel is rich with so much detail that it adds to the story, even when the characters have nothing to say. So much care went into every aspect of every panel in this issue that I forgot I was reading a comic and not watching a movie.
This issue hit all the marks of a great comic book, right down to the ending of this arc setting up what I’m sure will be yet another great story arc in this already stellar series. There are so many directions that this story can take next and all of them are equally promising. Is Laura/Persephone on the run? What is the ominous Darkness that would make Ananke spend eternities sacrificing four of her god proteges? Has the Darkness been abated or are we about to have some Hellmouth or Cabin in the Woods type action? What’s going to happen to Mini? Does Ananke count as a fourth sacrificial? Issue #23 can go anywhere and, thanks to the lure set in this issue, I can’t wait.
Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Story: 9.1 Art: 9.2 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review