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Review: The Wicked + the Divine #45

“At every occasion, I’ll be ready for the funeral.”-Band of Horses

The Wicked + the Divine #45

Like the David Bowie song, five years is all we got with The Wicked + the Divine, and writer Kieron Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, and colorist Matthew Wilson go out on top in WicDiv #45, which is set 40 years after the events of the previous issue. It’s a thoughtful issue in the vein of The Sandman “The Wake” and is a fantastic character study as Gillen and McKelvie show what happens when the Pantheon grows old beginning with the much guarded secret of the final cover.

The entire issue happens at Cassandra’s funeral and wake so it’s fitting that the first big reveal is that she and Laura ended up married after a relationship with Eleanor. Speaking of Eleanor, it is so strange to see Lucifer as a senior citizen, and McKelvie does a fantastic job with all the wrinkles, crow’s feet, and other accoutrements of age for a group of characters that I, at least, thought would all flame out in their twenties. But, no, they get to live and reflect on life and relationships beneath the eaves of Valhalla, which has been turned into a National Trust site. There is continuity in the earlier Daft Punk/futuristic elements of Valhalla, but Wilson uses a more muted color palette in keeping with the somber occasion.

One of the most beautiful elements of WicDiv #45 is the interweaving, naturalistic conversations about the characters’ relationships as Gillen and McKelvie do a more graceful version of “Where are they now” with a good mix of grid layouts and wider panels. We get the last word on Zahid and Valentine with the brief return of Baal’s Nathan Fairbairn colored fresco as Zahid wistfully talks about how they have never been or will be with such a force like Baal. It all comes to a climax with Cassandra giving her own eulogy hologram-style, and what, in lesser creative hands, could be a pop-joke about the exploitation of Tupac or Prince turned into a wonderful final analysis of the Pantheon from the sharp, yet loving mind of a journalist turned goddess turned mortal.

The Wicked + the Divine #45

Although there are remarks about Laura being Cassandra’s “vice”, Cass’ final speech shows that she has become a little sweeter in her old age and that the conflict and drama of the two years of the Pantheon didn’t even matter to the end. When she calls Umar, who was feeling pretty down in his dialogue and missing Cameron something fierce, the best person she had known, it resonates emotionally because she isn’t the kind of character to hand out compliments willy nilly. She even gives Eleanor, one of the people she detested the most, the kudos for basically going hard and being the best embodiment she should ever be. Luci was the catalyst for me taking a Milton seminar in undergrad and, by extension, writing about comics academically so that series of panels landed hard.

After remarks on all the remaining Pantheon members, Kieron Gillen flexes his writing muscles and Jamie McKelvie’s flexes his facial expression and gesture ones for a poignant monologue on aging, which is honestly what WicDiv #45 is all about. There was the high energy, passion, action, and fandom of the early arcs supplemented by the greater context of the specials and “Mothering Invention” finally culminating in the Pantheon realizing that they could opt out of the millennia-long cycle of death and rebirth as ordinary humans. (Except Aruna can play the fuck out of a double neck guitar.) This issue shows the product of this mortality and has some awesome group hugs as the death of Cassandra causes surviving, former Pantheon members to come to terms with their mortality.

And because of how much Gillen and McKelvie have fleshed out this cast of characters over five years, The Wicked + the Divine #45 is an easy comic to self-identity with, especially when Laura faces the reader, does a final 1-2-3-4, and there’s a fade to white. Getting old is something that both scares me and is something I’m in denial of, and seeing characters that I felt like I grew up with wrinkles, long happy marriages, and stories of the past makes it a little more palatable. For a series that had a fairly large body count and had some dark relationship dynamics, this happy ending is a delight and an ode to building relationships and craft your own destiny and story to get a little bit meta.

This is a bit obvious to those of you who have been following me on my WicDiv reading/reviewing/interviewing, and yes, living journey the past five years, but The Wicked + the Divine is my favorite comic of all time. Sure, Sandman and The Invisibles are up there, but with WicDiv, I got to go on the journey each single issue, or step, of the way and theorize, weep, celebrate, and even build friendships along the way. It’s a book that’s always been about the big ideas like life, death, the creative act, but always had time for the little things that make life great like puns, pops, literary allusions, and fantastic costume design from Jamie McKelvie.

Even though I’ve been in denial since Monday when I read the final issue, The Wicked + the Divine #45 is the perfect ending to the series with Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson’s carefully crafted words and visuals on aging, looking back, and looking to the future. This is a comic that has engaged both my head and heart. Like Ananke, and in this issue, Cassandra say, “I love you. I love you all. I’ll miss you.” This comic will always have a beloved place in my heart, and I look forward to rereading, reminiscing, and recommending it into the decades to come even as I begin to look like the characters in this issue.

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

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + The Divine #44

The Wicked + the Divine #44

*This review contains full spoilers for The Wicked + The Divine #44*

With its skull on the first page of issue one, None More Goth visual trappings, and high body count, The Wicked + the Divine sometimes seems to be a book about death. However, it’s really about life and growing up and discovering your true identity, and stuff that sounds like self-help, hippy dippy bullshit. The Wicked + The Divine #44 is executed in a beautiful way by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson. Even though there’s one issue left of WicDiv, this The Wicked + The Divine #44 ends the series’ main plot and the tale of godlike teenagers, Ananke and Persephone, and best of all, Luci and Laura, the relationship between mad, bad, and dangerous to know and shy, innocent fangirl that hooked me on the series and evolved well beyond that.

The amazing cliffhanger of WicDiv #43 brought Luci back to the forefront of the narrative and the general limelight just before the end. Gillen has her call herself “the whole world’s dream girlfriend”, and McKelvie and Wilson oblige with some rockstar poses and a side of hellfire. Her new costume is one of my favorite McKelvie designs of the series and gives her the swagger of a person who is only herself when she’s performing in some way. She’s Lord Byron, Bowie, Jagger, and most of all, the Adversary. Luci desires to create chaos and enjoy life with her new lease on it, doesn’t want to relinquish her powers like the other Pantheon members, and would definitely rather reign in Hell.

This is where some writers would have a big punch-up, Miracleman #15 style, with Luci being full of hubris and wrecking London. However, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie definitely “zag” away from this path and do something a little more life-affirming with Luci and Laura. In a red and black, near farce of the Pantheon transformation sequence and using third-person narration, Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson sort through the pain that Laura has gone through the past two years, and how much she cared for Luci even when she was on trial for murder back in “Faust Act”.

It all culminates in one of the most touching sequences of the series (And we’re only on page 8.) where Luci simply says, “I’m Eleanor”, kisses Laura, and becomes human again. This series of pages is a wonderful inversion of the other Pantheon transformation sequences throughout the series, and the moments after are raw, filled with tears, and the formerly sharp-tongued Lucifer having almost nothing to say. It expertly combines the lofty themes of identity, godhood, and immortality with two estranged friends hugging it out as Laura demonstrates growth by choosing reconciliation over alienation.

The Wicked + the Divine #44

I could probably write this whole review about Luci and Laura, but hey, there are other characters and storylines in The Wicked + The Divine #44 all connected to the throughline of simply living even if it doesn’t mean being a god with worshipers or pop star with fans. With Luci returned to mortality, the situation with Minerva/Ananke is the last big plot thread on the table, and there’s a debate over what to do with her. Laura wants to kill her, but she’s growing as a person and defers to Cassandra’s sensible solution of using Mimir’s plot device engine one last time. (Cass’ reaction is priceless.) But Baal just wants to kill her and be the embodiment of toxic masculinity. His last interactions with Inanna are tragic and are a reminder of how great this series was at exploring queerness and gender performance.

The Wicked + the Divine #44

He’s done this throughout the series, but I would like to draw attention to how Jamie McKelvie draws panels with multiple figures in WicDiv #44. He doesn’t just focus on reader eye level, but in the spirit of the old film adage “acting is reacting”, imbues each figure with a small story of their own. A good example of this is the first reaction panel after the deaths of Baal and Minerva. Laura furrowing her brow and figuring what to do with two dead bodies and a SWAT on the way is the focus of the panel.

But McKelvie reminds us of the deep pain that Inanna feels about the death of his former lover and the empathy and friendship Dionysus has for him through his detailed work with them. All of this is with no words; just visuals. Also, Wilson uses a lot of black to give the panel and page a real funereal feel for the literal characters, Baal and Minerva as well as all of Ananke’s machinations and the concept of the Pantheon. There is also a slight glow in the background, which connects to the spotlights used by the cops throughout the issue and symbolizes that the ex-Pantheon members have to deal with the harsh light of reality as mortals from now on. (See the courthouse scene.)

With its opening words and repeated mantra “Once again we return” as well as the revelation of the eternal conflict between Ananke and her sister, WicDiv has been a study of cycles of life and death. This beautiful symmetry pays off big time in WicDiv #43 whose final page is not just an homage to the ending of its predecessor, Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, but the first page of WicDiv #1 with the visual of a living head instead of a skull. It’s also like the ending of John Milton’s Paradise Lost where Adam and Eve lost a chance of immortality in an utopia, but gained the ability to choose “their [own] place of rest”. Laura might not be a goddess any more and is still in hot water for killing Ananke, but she gets to live life as a human being untethered to any rituals or schemes.

I’ve spent the last five years living, regressing, and sometimes growing alongside these characters expertly crafted by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson so emotions definitely run high in The Wicked + The Divine #44 especially in regards to Luci and Laura and Baal and Inanna. But it is one of the most life-affirming comics I’ve ever read, and I’m glad that we (hopefully) get to see a peek of the lives of Laura and company in the final issue of the series. (That final cover reveal, y’all!!)

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

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Godscast Issue 10 Are You Ready to Ragnarock!?

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #10, Ragnarock is finally here. The show to end all shows promises to be a lovely experience for all the gods…wait. Oh noes! Jamie and Matt have drawn Baphomet drenched in blood on the cover. What a hilarious internal communication error.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 9 A Private Audience with Anake

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #9, it’s time for a private audience with Anake, she who has protected and judged the Pantheon for thousands of years. Yes, it’s time for an interview… with an umpire. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Also: Baphomet being all goth and having a nice little mope.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in The People’s History of the Marvel Universe for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #41

The Wicked + the Divine #41

Beginning with Laura’s exciting escape from Baal’s attempted “sacrifice” at the O2 Arena and filled with rescues, big plans, and emotional reunions, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson construct The Wicked + the Divine #41 like both an exciting thriller and a love letter to the fans. And Gillen lines up so many great character development moments like a skilled pool player setting up his shots and then sinking them before concluding the game with a (freaky) eight ball of a final page.

Before digging into the big plot point, WicDiv #41 tonally is an exciting book. There are explosions gamely colored by Wilson to go with McKelvie’s big panel compositions and great sense of movement in the first five pages. Even though her Pantheon powers aren’t at 100%, Laura is straining herself to save the Norns and the talking heads and make sure Baal’s sacrifice and Minerva/Ananke’s master plan doesn’t come to fruition. She herself has a plan, it’s a little crazy, and honestly, she pulls it off for the most part in this issue.

Honestly, the highlight of WicDiv #41 is getting new Kieron Gillen penned dialogue for Luci, Inanna, and Tara in the present day. Luci’s first sentence is priceless, and Jamie McKelvie especially makes the Laura/Luci reunion memorable with a big time weak to go with Gillen’s caption box of guilt. Even though Luci was pretty messed up ethically, she, Inanna, and Tara were characters who died tragically, but represent a relatively more innocent time for WicDiv. For example, Inanna asks questions about Baal’s wellbeing because he is unaware he’s a masked murderer. Gillen has done a great job laying out the bread crumbs for these character’s return, and it pays off in this issue with the help of some great design choices from McKelvie and lyrical nine panel grids.

The nine panel grids in the Underground, which is where Laura, the Norns, and the heads of Mimir, Luci, Inanna, and Tara flee to are a wonderful visual representation of the conclusion to the romantic, doomed, and at times, abusive relationship between Baphomet and the late Morrigan. They allow for a bit of fearful symmetry when Baphomet makes his final goodbyes and also let the conversation between him and Laura about change and not being stuck in his past ways breathe a little bit.

Baphomet has grown as a person and character, and McKelvie has given him a wardrobe to match. He’s gone from douche Goth to pensive, perceptive Goth, or from young Nick Cave to slightly older Nick Cave as Gillen puts it in the backmatter. Baphomet doesn’t have to consumed by Morrigan making him a god, or sacrificing herself to resurrect him in the previous. He can move on and devote his energies to more productive things like rallying an army of talking heads to fight Minerva/Ananke.

WicDiv #41 is a sterling example of how pleasurable a story pay-off in the final arc of a comic can be. Forget guns, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson have put all kinds of kooky items on their proverbial story wall, and now they’re starting to go off. The machine plotline, the heads, and even Baphomet’s moping and conflicts with Morrigan in the previous all flow into the bigger picture and makes for rewarding reading. This is along with all the character reunions, Laura becoming a kind of hero, and Urdr being hopeful for once.

However, this hope could all die in a moment. But, at least, we got to hear from Luci and Inanna (And fucking Tara!) before the end so be sure to drop the needle or hit the play button on a Bowie or Prince album while reading this comic.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.3  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + The Divine #40

It’s crazy to think that we’ve almost reached the end of the saga of the ascended, then descended  and part of a millennia cycle of goddesses killing each other fangirl, but it’s true. And Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson are in beautiful form in The Wicked + the Divine #40 that centers around Baal’s final gig at the O2 Arena where he hopes to summon and defeat the Great Darkness with the help of some Dio-esque (RIP) hive mind shenanigans and human sacrifice. It’s a little complicated.

But WicDiv #40’s strength is that Gillen and McKelvie don’t get caught up in plot mechanics and use both the in-story and real world time gap between the rise of the Pantheon and their swan song to brilliant effect. With the exception of some diagram/specs pages, until the literally explosive end of issue climax, McKelvie and Wilson keep the visuals dialed down. The comic is presented like a handheld documentary film or more appropriately a YouTube vlog with close-up’s and awkward angles intermingled with moments of truth and self-awareness. The comic opens with fanboys, Tom and Nathan, doing an “unboxing video” for their Baal gig tickets, and you can almost hear the obnoxious tones of their voices in McKelvie’s loud facial expressions.

But the over-the-top Gen Z parody gets replaced with real emotion as the comic progresses, and you get to know them, especially Tom. He gets more self-aware and successfully reads a situation where his former crush is getting hit on by some strangers and also has a profound understanding on who Persephone/Laura is. Not a destroyer, but a human being. (And so are you.) This empathetic tone flows throughout WicDiv #40 (Except when scheming Minerva has her little long con asides while still playing the child victim.) from Baal struggling to balance the deaths of 20,000 people with the destruction of the entire universe, including his family, and inspiration in general to little fan vignettes of worshipers at Baal’s gig before they “go under”. These scenes return to WicDiv ‘s initial exploration of the relationship between fan and artist/performer although the critic (i.e. Urdr) is not present. The comic begins with the more materialistic side of fandom (expensive tickets, waiting in line) before turning to its inspirational side right before Gillen’s plot hits the big moments.

WicDiv #40 is also yet another opportunity for formal experimentation as Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson lay out the issue in the style of a confessional running the gamut from Shakespearean soliloquy (Baal before his performance) to vlog (The aforementioned Tom and Nathan show.) with reality show and person on the street thrown in for good measure. Even if all the gods, except for Baal and Minerva, are dead or appear on the margins of the story until the very end, McKelvie and Wilson’s visual adaptation of the confessional to the comic book medium allows for quick identification with characters and their emotions plus some honest and soul searching dialogue from Gillen, including a rare look at the interaction between male bisexuality and toxic masculinity. Ultra bi fanboy Tom has conversations about this topic and identity that I had five years ago, and it’s cool to see that reflected in fiction when male bisexual characters are either coded gay or straight except for a bit of innuendo, winking at another man, or a stray line of dialogue. (See most representations of John Constantine.)

Talking heads are usually the kiss of death in comics and are either a chance for the writer to go overboard with their dialogue skills or give an artist on a tight monthly schedule a breather. However, with Jamie McKelvie’s well-documented knack for facial acting and eye for interesting details like the ever shifting, cheap blue blanket that drapes Tom while he waits for the Baal show, they’re never dull. And as the story progresses to the actual Baal gig, Matthew Wilson plays with color strength and situation going from a complex palette when fans talk about their connection to members of the Pantheon to a flat one when the mind control takes hold. The light effect he gives the worshipers is quite “eerie” and spirals the narrative into hopelessness before it takes a turn for the unexpected. And Wilson also gets to play with bold, brash colors thanks to the central role that Baal takes in the narrative.

WicDiv #40 is part jaw dropping arena show and vulnerable singer song writer gig with Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson spending plenty of time developing and exploring the personalities of the fans of the Pantheon, and how the gods have an effect on their lives. With Minerva’s master plan subbing in for the murder mystery, it’s a throwback to the original arc where Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson slowly revealed the gods’ personalities and action through the POV of ultimate fangirl, Laura. There are murderous Minerva asides and heartfelt Baal self and family confessions, but WicDiv #40 gives a fresh non-insider perspective on the Pantheon before things get all opening sequence of recent Zack Snyder films. (This is not a complaint.)

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Clayton Cowles 

Story: 9.0 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Godscast Issue 8 The Dance Floor That Walks Like a Man


Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #8, now the eleventh god is here, it’s time to party. You’re invited. Everyone’s invited. We can sleep when we’re dead—but when you’ll be dead within two years, you may as well turn up in your pyjamas. After seven issues of egomaniacs, it’s time for an issue where the crowd is the star.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at “Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Godscast Issue 6 Welcome to Fandemonium

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + The Divine #6, THE FAUST ACT is over Welcome to FANDEMONIUM. The second arc begins in its traditional manner (i.e. a ludicrous pun.) We’d say something like “nothing will ever be the same again” but if you think about it, you can say that about literally everything, ever. Er…also some comic story. Probably.

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Godscast Issue 5 The Faust Act

Hosted by Steven Attewell and Chris Holcomb, Godscast takes you issues by issue through the hit comic series The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

In The Wicked + the Divine #5…. it’s showtime!

Steven writes about the intersection of history, politics, and pop culture in “The People’s History of the Marvel Universe” for Graphic Policy. In his day job, He teaches public policy at CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Labor Studies. He is the founder of Race for the Iron Throne.

Chris Holcomb podcasts about pop culture and where we went wrong in the 90s. You can listen to him at Unspoiled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #39

I check my look in the mirror. I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face…”- Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing in the Dark”

I have a confession to make. I don’t really read The Wicked + the Divine for the cycle of birth and death, Ananke/Minerva/Persephone, Woden machine, talking heads, Great Darkness overarching plot; I read it for Laura Wilson/Persephone’s personal journey, and these feelings have definitely intensified in the “Mothering Invention” arc and reached a fever pitch in WicDiv #39. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson personify character development as Laura rejects godhood (Or does she??.) in a story that visually and content-wise goes back to the salad days of its first two arcs, “Faust Act” and “Fandemonium”, especially the breathtaking final page.

Free will and freedom of choice is the refrain that rings out, or mostly hums, in WicDiv #39. Gillen doesn’t frame these big ideas in philosophical discourse or even witty banter, but in action. Laura chooses to no longer be a god, and she chooses to have an abortion. After latching onto almost every WicDiv cast member, either platonically, sexually, or romantically, she takes ownership of herself even if that means sitting in the dark. She changes. McKelvie draws her in an vulnerable way with a plain, shorn hairstyle, face with just a touch of shadow to it that signifies her status as the Destroyer. There’s a real humanity in this simplicity, and the even palette that Wilson chooses for her panels compared to the ostentation, guns, crazy pink colors, and EDM womp womp of Woden’s new Valkyries aka Beth and her fan army. (Wow, fuck nerd culture.)  They represent the empty show and lights of the Pantheon’s displays earlier in the series (i.e. the fights in “Rising Action”) while Laura is feeling and truth cutting to the quick like the sharp internal monologue that Gillen writes for her.

But WicDiv #39 isn’t about all the big ideas, it’s rooted in some big character development for Laura – arguably the most significant bit of her personal arc since WicDiv #11 when she became Persephone and was “murdered” by Ananke. The girl who dressed up like the gods and desperately wanted to be one and even took on the moniker of “ascended fangirl” rejected her godhood and chose a simple, desperate existence like the rest of the world even if that meant dancing, er,  sitting in the dark. But she’s not like that any more and chooses to opt out of the 39 or so issues of drama that has been her life with breaks for flashbacks. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie also handle her abortion with sensitivity and even have one of the Valkyries empathize with her. It’s a choice that Laura made for herself, she’s not ready to be a mom, and that’s that. Like the Tara story in WicDiv #13 that dealt with online harassment of women, the plot point doesn’t feel like a PSA, but something that is part of her character and respected as such.

Sure, WicDiv might have millennia spanning long cons, magical contraptions, and flame sprouting finger snapping, but this is still a story about young adults and the choices they make. And Gillen and McKelvie explore these choices in a non-condescending way and even poke a little bit of meta-fun at poor writers in the first pages where Minerva tries to unpack the middle aged man, Woden, pretending to be a teenager for the most of the series. Woden has been one of the creepiest characters in the series, and Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson find new ways to make him even creepier as the series progresses while keeping him fairly pathetic and not up to Big Bad status.

Speaking of Big Bad, WicDiv #39 is also the final transformation of Minerva into an amazing long con baddie complete with furtive glances drawn by Jamie McKelvie and using Woden and the Valkyries as the ultimate cannon fodder. (Even though Woden just thinks the Valkyries are cannon fodder.) She still looks young, but there’s something ancient in the facial expressions that she pulls after putting up with Woden, or to herself in the mirror as she reminds herself of her big, bad plan to knock out the rest of the gods, collect the final head, and continue the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. And Gillen writes her as quite genre-savvy (Living for thousands years is definitely a perk on this front.) as she never underestimates Laura although Woden just wants to snuff her out or leave her alone thinking she’s an emo nobody. The stage is definitely set for an all out showdown between them in the final arc like a present day incarnation of the eternal battle between them shown in previous issues of the arc.

In The Wicked + the Divine #39, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson go for the pivotal character moment over mass character slaughter (There aren’t many left.) and deliver callback heavy payoff for fans who have followed Laura Wilson/Persephone’s journey over the past four years. The closing moments where Laura muses on her decision to no longer be a god have some of Gillen’s most insightful writing, have simple, yet elegant visuals from McKelvie and Wilson, and are a reminder of why character growth is one of the biggest assets of a serial medium like comics.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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