“Are you a demon or a fucked up girl?” is the question posed by Urdr to Persephone in a pivotal scene in The Wicked + the Divine #33, and in true WicDiv/real life fashion, there is no clear answer to this query. The “Imperial Phase” comes to a close in with a flashback/plot twist, a harrowing conversation that doubles as a character defining moment for both Urdr and Persephone, and let’s just say, one hell of an ending. Visually, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson continue to embrace the shadows and show another Pantheon transformation sequence with an eight bit twist. In his writing, Kieron Gillen does a “Once more we return” and dives into the connection between fans, artists, and fame with a healthy helping of death and sacrifice
Unlike certain formerly-known-as-prestige TV shows, Gillen connects both his twists and character deaths to WicDiv‘s overall themes. David Blake is one of the few non-Pantheon members, who has stuck around/lived throughout the series, and it makes so much sense that he has been Woden all along. He is also the ultimate fanboy of the Pantheon and willing to do whatever it takes to be connected to that power including his own, honestly super nice and curious son as both a free labor force and a power battery. There are shades of manipulative stage parents, like Joe Jackson, Joe Simpson, and in the sports world, Lavar Ball, in the way that Woden is disappointed in Jon while using him to have the kind of power and fame to be in a very exclusive club that he’s always wanted to be in. Gillen goes deep cut with Norse mythology and makes Jon, Mimir, a god whose head that Odin carries around to see other realms and get wisdom. Mimir’s Well is located by the World Tree Yggdrasil so hence the weird connection between Urdr and Woden.
The fan/artist/power conflict also extends to Persephone whose conversation with Urdr while Jon is basically hanging is the heart of WicDiv #33. Persephone has been all action, recklessness, and rebellion in year 3 of WicDiv and in some ways is trying to forcibly be the Destroyer. But she’s really wracked with guilt about her family’s death, which she blames on her desire to get anything to be in the Pantheon. Jamie McKelvie’s talents as an artist of empathy and character acting comes in handy during this sequence. He depicts Persephone from the side holding her knees as she tries to process what has happened to her during the past few arcs and uses a lot of close-ups in subsequent panels. McKelvie’s take on Urdr has a lot of anxiety as she swings from being afraid of the possibly Destroyer, Persephone and trying to be a good friend to the young fangirl, Laura. This is WicDiv so their conversation doesn’t end in hugs and reunions, but with an aphorism type line from Urdr and a little side head turn from Persephone. It’s a real of point of no return moment when Urdr calls her Persephone and not Laura, which results in tears and a tense beat panel.
In the context of the whole series, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson codify sacrifice again as a big theme of WicDiv. Instead of the old preying on the young like Ananke killing Luci, Inanna, and Tara in previous issues or more recently, Woden completely draining Dionysus: a young person is the one making the sacrifices. Minerva has been through some shit throughout “Rising Action” and “Imperial Phase”, and her new role as the head removing Ananke is sad, yet wonderful payoff for her character as she looks to take a more active role in the series going into its fourth year. She understands the idea of “necessity” in warding off the Great Darkness even if that means the death of someone close to her. But it is incredibly sad to see the one, real innocent member of the Pantheon be corrupted like this.
In the spirit of Urdr, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson get to the truth about who Woden is and the Great Darkness in WicDiv #33 using the shadows and claustrophobic spaces of Valhalla with splashes of eight bit menace to provide an emotionally draining reading experience. There are a decent amount of cards still on the table, but the chess board has turned into a pit of hot lava lorded over by an entitled abusive fanboy as Gillen and McKelvie cross the proverbial Rubicon and make Woden the literal patriarchy.
Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.2 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review