Tag Archives: Persephone

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #33

“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

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #32

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson continue to sometimes literally slice and dice The Wicked + the Divine’s status quo in the last few issues of “Imperial Phase Part 2”, and issue 32 is certainly no exception. The comic manages to pack Dio’s last stand, Woden’s (thankfully premature) moment of Kanye quoting glory, Sakhmet vs. the world, and even Minerva crossing a line. All the while, Persephone plays the punch pulling, sometimes carelessly cruel wild card and gets confronted for this fact by Urdr, who still cares about Laura and even gets to kick it critic style for a little bit. All the gods appear in WicDiv #32, which gives McKelvie and Wilson a veritable playground of styles to throw at the reader with some subtle visual callbacks to big scenes in the series like WicDiv #8’s rave issue, the “superhero” style battles of Rising Action” and at the end of “Faust Act”, and an unexpected character playing the role of Ananke the mercy killer.

If you’ve read my reviews of WicDiv up to this point, you know that I love both the character of Dionysus, the original Greek god, and forgiving one’s cares on the dance floor. That is why I was glad that Dio got one last rave in WicDiv #32 with symmetrical layouts from McKelvie, heroic sentiment caption boxes from Gillen, and of course, color palettes to end all color palettes from Wilson and his flatter Dee Cunniffe. And it all starts out with an icky lime green color for Woden’s mind control that Dionysus fights back against in the “rave” panels. He takes a beating, but persists because he truly cares about every individual on the dance floor even if it means sacrificing his own life. For the most part, McKelvie draws flexible, silhouette figures before occasionally going for more detail to show how much of a beating Dio has taken after the whole thing where he sat in the dark with Baphomet and then promptly got his hive mind powers stolen. It is definitely sad to see the most decent member of the Pantheon take a curtain call, but Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson truly collaborate to give him a perfect, empathetic ending with intense colors, blazing speed lines, and the repeated line “One more time” like bass line of “Blue Monday”.

Along with Dio, Woden, and the revenge of the Norns (Matt Wilson makes Urdr’s black and white scheme look very frightening as she charges at Woden and the Valkyries.), Gillen and McKelvie also put the seal on Sakhmet’s storyline beginning with the first page where she and Persephone take the murder of someone considered to be a friend quite casually. But, of course, Persephone is a super secret agent for Baal and Minerva, and the look of betrayal on Sakhmet’s face is quite painful even if she is a killer. Persephone’s flat was a sanctuary for her restless, ravenous soul, and now it is yet another battleground. McKelvie and Wilson go big and bombastic with Persephone, Baal, and Sakhmet’s powers with exploding greens and purples everywhere before toning down the color mix and flailing bodies and going for sheer emotion at the fight’s conclusion. A silent panel is a great way to wrap up these pretty noisy scenes, and the poses and space between the remaining characters nails their attitudes toward and relationships with each other. Also, during the fight, Gillen does some masterful multi-plotting and sets up a possible vine tendriling, crow pecking showdown between Persephone and Morrigan in the “Imperial Phase Part 2” finale with a quiet conversational scene between the fisticuffs.

Urdr is the bridge between Sakhmet/Dionysus last stand storylines along with being the only character who now gives a shit about the Woden machine/MacGuffin plot in WicDiv #32. Gillen and McKelvie show her range, and she slips into a variety of roles, including the ultimate critic, vengeful goddess, extremely disappointed friend, and maybe even grieving lover. Gillen crafts some of his most incisive dialogue, and McKelvie draws some intense as Urdr speaks for a good portion of the WicDiv fanbase when she says that Persephone was better of being Laura. And she can’t help but still be a critic and call Persephone’s shows “middlebrow”. This leads to some hurling of unkind words, an almost fight, and an ambiguous ending. It also reminds readers that Laura wanted to be a goddess during the first two storylines of WicDiv and has done nothing really inspirational with her divine powers. That could change as the colossal story developments and rocking of the proverbial Pantheon boat hints at Persephone totally being more of the Destroyer than an ascended fangirl.

WicDiv #32 is a true companion to the universe shattering, plot demolishing WicDiv #31, but Kieron Gillen either tapers off or adds elements to character arcs to go with Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson’s fireworks or quiet artistic moments. With the deaths of Dionysus and Sakhmet, a lot of rage and serenity has exited the building along with WicDiv‘s respective superego and id, but my excitement for the “Imperial Phase Part 2” conclusion has definitely increased.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.4  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #31

The Wicked + the Divine #31 is the best the series has been in a long time as writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson hit a sorrowful groove as “Imperial Phase Part II” draws to a close. This is a memorable issue that will be dissected, oohed and aahed at, sobbed over, and yes, screamed at just like WicDiv #5, #8, #11, #13, and #18, which have been my favorite regular issues of the series to date. With these superlatives out of the way, WicDiv #31 features momentous events, like the Norns, Woden, and Dionysus finally turning on Ananke’s machine to the tune of a glorious Wilson color palette, Persephone coming clean, and some sort of real talk about Dio and Urdr’s feelings for each other. Plus a tragic twist.

I am really enjoying Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson’s focus on the character of Dionysus throughout “Imperial Phase Part II”, and WicDiv #31 is no exception. In his first appearance, McKelvie draws lines on Dio’s usual smooth face and gives his eyes a hazy spaced out look, which is to be expected after he spent all of the previous issue sitting in the dark and pleading with Baphomet to leave his abusive relationship with Morrigan. McKelvie depicts Dionysus as a husk of his rave inducing self with basically bad selfie lighting from Wilson, but his wholesome spirit hasn’t faded.

He has a conversation with Urdr, who is a little on edge about the turning on Ananke’s machine thing because Woden is sketchy and Dionysus is tired, plus there’s the whole crush thing. But, even though Urdr and Dionysus don’t directly talk about their feelings for each other, Dio kind of nails how relationships and friendships should work. He basically says that emotions, especially love are important, but they shouldn’t get in the way of caring and supporting a friendship. This is really freaking selfless and par for the course for a man, who admits that his key motivation in life is making other people happy. Dionysus’ smiling face or crowd surfing body should definitely be in the dictionary next to mudita, a kind of happiness that comes from other people’s happiness. However, this ends up being his downfall as Woden uses his abilities in a more toxic way turning a happy party into a hive mind, worship into a cult. But, before everything gets fuzzy, Gillen and McKelvie give us a character defining moment of Urdr looking up and perhaps for the first time, realizing the effect the Pantheon has on other people and admiring those Eisner winning Matthew Wilson colors.

But Woden’s hijacking of Dio’s power isn’t just a simple “Dionysus is a cinnamon roll too good for this world” plot point, it actually takes WicDiv #31 back into the musical realm. Woden and Dionysus’ actions at Valhalla support my theory that, in the end, there are two kinds of dance floors: one filled with light, energy, fantastic music, and camaraderie and another one that is crowded, filled with groping straight men, and plays the Chainsmokers. Dionysus represents the first as evidenced by the immortal WicDiv #8, and Woden represents the second with misogyny, objectification of women, and general fuckboy attitude and spinelessness. Dionysus is about people having a good time and forgetting their troubles for a night and maybe having fond memories of waving their arms and dancing to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with gods while sitting in their poorly lit cubicles. Woden is all about metaphorically (and probably) getting off the power of the patriarchy to rob women (And people in general in this issue) of their agency. It’s selfishness versus selflessness, and unfortunately, it looks like selfishness has the upper hand in 2017. But Dionysus’ nice little grape Pantheon icon isn’t a skull just yet so there might still be some hope for this beautiful, emotionally honest, and soulful man. I’m probably the naive one in this case.

Dio, Urdr, Woden, Amaterasu, and Sakhmet play the “active” roles in WicDiv #31, but Gillen and McKelvie don’t neglect their heroine, Persephone, who finally kind of does the right thing by telling Baal and the Outsiders that Sakhmet is lurking at one of her favorite haunts: the Egyptian wing of the British Museum. When Sakhmet is out, Persephone starts by lounging in her deliciously foreshadow-y skull and rose pattern leggings with McKelvie nailing her apathy before swinging into a bit of anger when she talks to her ex Baal on the phone. Plotwise, Gillen has her as a wild card, but that’s likely to change after she learns Amaterasu’s fate. Annoying problematicness aside, an Amaterasu gig back in WicDiv #1 was Persephone’s entry to the world of the Pantheon so it should have a major effect on her demeanor going forward. This issue also shows that Persephone has a bit of a conscience and is starting to maybe realize that chaos wasn’t the best decision.

Yes, chaos ends up in death: the death of Amaterasu to be particular as she goes to the British Museum to soothe the sharp teeth and claw toes of Sakhmet with her abilities instead of calling Baal for some muscle like he provided against Luci in the first arc. Amaterasu has a “nice” personality, but is supremely self-absorbed, and her little monologue about the glories of the British Empire’s treasures in the British Museum and family causes her to drop her guard around Sakhmet. It’s also a final nod towards her cultural appropriation as she has turned the Japanese Shinto faith into her own white girl ShinTwo cult, and sad, if poetic that she dies destroying the artifacts that the U.K. took from their old colony of Egypt. McKelvie frames it like a slasher flick with plenty of gore and killer/victim juxtaposition shot although this death feels earned and is also a product of stupid decisions. One thing I love about WicDiv on a macro level is that characters who make not-the-smartest-decisions like going against a bloodthirsty murderer without backup or teaming up with Woden get consequences. It’s like the early seasons of Game of Thrones where behaving nobly, yet stupidly led to death or negative consequences versus the current one starring Jon Snow of House Plot Armor.

WicDiv #31 is a smorgasbord of visual storytelling delights, like Matthew Wilson’s color palette for Dionysus’ (hopefully not) final performance) and Amaterasu’s last foray as a superpower or the weathering on Dio’s face from Jamie McKelvie, and quotable insights about friendships and relationships and even asexuality and aromanticism from Kieron Gillen via Dionysus, but it’s a big downer moment for the series even if Urdr gets her most uplifting panel yet. After the conversations, arguments, and tiptoeing around, this is the plunge after the deep breath. WicDiv #31 is the guns a-blazing after the Mexican standoff or conversations about Bible passages and American hamburgers in Paris.

To not end this review on a glib Pulp Fiction reference, WicDiv #31 (Especially the Amaterasu scenes) pairs nicely with “Rabbit Heart” by Florence + the Machine , which is one of the first tracks on Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + the Divine playlist. It’ll break your ginger sun goddess loving heart.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #29

WicDiv29CoverDysfunctional relationships are the bread and butter of The Wicked + The Div ine#29, which kicks off “Imperial Phase Part 2” in cringeworthy fashion with Persephone waking up next to a Luci look-alike. Jamie McKelvie‘s art is sultry, and colorist Matthew Wilson trots out a dusky palette for the underworld goddess, but then writer Kieron Gillen’s dialogue fills in the awkwardness that Persephone feels and the total embarrassment of the moment. It’s also a little tragic and toxic too, which is the tone of WicDiv as a series and much of issue 29, which manages to be relationship driven while driving the arc’s plot ahead in the hunt for Sakhmet.

The most intoxicating thing about WicDiv #29 are the pairings and groupings of Pantheon members that Gillen and McKelvie put on display throughout the issue that evoke various emotions. There’s the cut from Laura fangirling at a Baal gig back in the halcyon days of 2013 (or the first arc of WicDiv) to Baal training Minerva to be a killer. He fits into the Pantheon dad role very well giving everyone (Except Persephone) nicknames and coordinating everyone from Persephone to Woden. Baal seems like more of a general than a pop star, and his regimented training exercises and walk and talk style are the complete opposite of the raw energy of the flashback with its pixelated colors from Matthew Wilson and the easy swagger of his movements drawn by Jamie McKelvie. However, no one can really control Persephone as a London cop remarks after he asks her some questions about Sakhmet’s disappearance.

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Persephone slinks into her destined Destroyer role throughout WicDiv #29 mostly through lying to everyone and using her abilities to presumably cover up these lies. The big reveal of the issue is that Sakhmet is holed up in Persephone’s flat yet she lies to the police, Baal, and Urdr about the kitten themed murderer’s whereabouts and throws in yet another deception to Urdr when she says she’s going home, but then gets a sad club montage. The reason for sheltering Sakhmet is pretty evident: Persephone loves her. In a conversation with Urdr, she even says that Sakhmet was her girlfriend. In this panel, McKelvie lifts the hard, chthonic goddess facade, and Persephone is Laura again pining over the woman she cares about and happens to make terrible decisions. Love definitely makes you do the wacky, including harboring fugitives, and Gillen gets this out in some of the dialogue where Persephone flat out tells Baal that she can’t fight Sakhmet.

Visually, the scene stealer of WicDiv #29 is Morrigan as Persephone, Urdr, and Dionysus return to the Underground. Because of Baphomet’s affair with Persephone, Dionysus ends up taking point and getting an audience with the goddess, who McKelvie and Wilson imbue with a dark majesty. There is only light in the Underground because Morrigan wills it, and McKelvie and Wilson obscure a lot of the characters’ faces and bodies in this scene. With Persephone taking more of an antagonistic role by helping Sakhmet, Morrigan is the new wild card. She knows that Sakhmet is a threat to everyone, including herself, and says so in her usual, flowery dialogue. However, she isn’t a fan of the Pantheon prying into her abusive relationship with Baphomet, especially Dionysus, who stays in the Underground until he sees Baphomet. Dionysus using his empathy and kind heart more actively has been one of the highlights of both parts of “Imperial Phase” although I fear that Badb may rip the dance floor god to pieces down the road.

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Toxic relationships are the main theme of WicDiv #29, and “Imperial Phase 2” starting out. At this point, Persephone isn’t a physical Destroyer, but a metaphorical one to her former friendships. Baal can barely look at her and walks away after he’s sent her on a mission to the Underground. She is dealing with Sakhmet’s actions by sleeping with someone who looks like her first “bad girl” crush Luci and lying to everyone. It’s tough to see this bright eyed fangirl become such a trainwreck, and Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson rub salt in the wound by including that flashback of her at Baal and Sakhmet’s first gig.

With a dollop of dark energy and pinch of sadness in Jamie McKelvie’s art and Matthew Wilson’s colors, WicDiv #29 continues to chronicle Persephone’s development into the Destroyer as Kieron Gillen throws away the seemingly beautiful apple that was the Pantheon’s relationships and exposes its rotten core, black as Morrigan’s wardrobe.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #28

To steal a phrase from the great Hunter S. Thompson, The Wicked + the Divine #28 (and the end of the “Imperial Phase” arc) is decadent and depraved. There’s cocaine, an orgy, and even some cannibalism in store as writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson show once and for all that the members of the Pantheon are terrible people for the most part. I’ll still vouch for Dionysus and Urdr, but I’m probably being naive. Also, Urdr is kind of an asshole in this issue. The comic is centered around a party once again as Amaterasu thinks she is the actual Shinto goddess Amaterasu even though she is a white girl from England and throws a soiree for her “worshipers”. She goes from a favorite to beyond problematic in just a couple painful pages. Choosing anarchy has taken a real toll on the Pantheon, and after an incident like what happens in this issue, they won’t be much of a match for the Great Darkness.

McKelvie and Wilson’s visual stylings for WicDiv #28 are EDM meets hot lava, especially when Amaterasu gets angry at the always skeptical  Urdr, and her usual kind mannerisms turns orange and rage filled. However, the plot and tone of the issue felt a lot like the end of Brit Pop in 1997 when Oasis was focusing on cocaine and hanging out on 10 Downing Street more than music and releasing nine minute long tracks with multiple key changes that really should have been a four minute pop rock song. Their key rival band Blur was more self-aware releasing tracks like “Death of a Party” and sounding like an American alternative band and later experimenting with hip hop and world music.

Amaterasu, Sakhmet, Woden, and to a certain extent, Persephone, are Oasis in this case and have given up on fighting the Great Darkness or being artists to basically party and use mortals to make themselves feel better instead of inspiring humanity like the Pantheons supposedly did in the past. Like Oasis, they are caught making the same album over and over again and coasting on the fact that they once played a gig to 250,000 people. (Thankfully, Liam Gallagher never ate anyone.) WicDiv #28 is self-indulgence at its peak giving readers a dose of the old sex, drugs, and ultraviolence, and there is going to be one hell of a hangover once “Imperial Phase Part II” kicks off. And this decadence extends to Jamie McKelvie’s clothing choices, especially Sakhmet’s drop dead gorgeous dress, which gets a full establishing panel and sets her up for a major role in the plot of this issue.

The cast of WicDiv has been pretty well-established, but a character, who has been on the margins, ends up kicking off WicDiv #28 with some real emotions. It’s David Blake, who is a scholar of the Pantheon and Recurrences, and is revealed to be Woden’s father. McKelvie draws him as tired, yet angry as he quickly snatches a family picture out of Urdr’s hands complete with a speed line. Gillen’s dialogue for David is full of regrets even as he openly admits being proud of his son, who is at a “finishing school”. With all the battles, motorcycle rides, and non-stop hivemind parties in “Imperial Phase”, it’s nice to have a reminder than the Pantheon members are human beings with parents and families beneath their divine trappings. Also, Woden has an Oedipus complex because the Valkyries remind him of his Asian mother. It’s pathetic, really, but Gillen and McKelvie don’t make a big deal about it and “reveal” it only in a background picture in David’s flat.

WicDiv #28 is so draining that an epilogue featuring an Ananke flashback actually comes as a comfort. She writes about how difficult this particular era is, and in an age of Trump, Brexit, missile strikes on Syria, concentration camps for gay men in Chechnya, and corporate airlines physically dragging paying customers off their flights, this rings true. 2017 is scary and difficult, and Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson reflect this in WicDiv through the metaphors of youth and divinity.

Everyone is just fucked up in WicDiv #28 as Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson show the unraveling of relationships as conversation turns to violent threats and actual violence in shades of red and black. These stylish characters have been stripped down to their ugly essences with Sakhmet’s bloodstained mouth representing most of the Pantheon, who have been utterly consumed by fame and power, that they are inspiring absolutely no one and could end up leading to the end of the world.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 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.)

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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.

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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.)

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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

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