Spencer: Back in 2012 I was supposed to go to the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games with a group of friends, but I ended up getting tickets to a different theater by accident. Rather than go by myself, I roped a friend who wasn’t a fan of franchise into going with me by playing up the movie’s violence and making it sound like something it wasn’t. He wasn’t happy with the movie, and I knew up front he wouldn’t be, but at the time I didn’t care — I just wanted him to come with me. I couldn’t help but to remember that anecdote while reading The Wicked + The Divine 16; The Morrigan’s inviting Baphomet into the Pantheon is equally selfish, if much more destructive in the long run than my boneheaded move.
(For the record, I did apologize, and he’s made me watch much worse)
Most WicDiv readers had probably already put together the broad strokes of the Morrigan and Baphomet’s (formerly Marian and Cameron) backstory, but the devil is (quite literally) in the details of their complicated, possibly codependent relationship. I may not understand every nuance of the games Marian and Cameron play, but I can recognize the way they use their interests to insulate themselves from a cruel world — it’s dangerously close to why I read comics myself. Their relationship follows the same principles; Marian is the only thing keeping Cameron from falling into a completely suicidal pit of nihilism (and vice versa), but it’s a precarious balance, with Marian’s (possibly?) unrequited crush always tipping the balance of power.
In the end, it isn’t enough to keep Cameron from “falling into the pit.” I can’t pretend to understand that level of self-loathing, but I can certainly understand the Morrigan’s decision to bring Cameron into the Pantheon. In many ways it’s as selfish as anything Cameron does; Ananke warns the Morrigan that trouble lies ahead for her and all she shares her gift with (a claim perhaps substantiated by the vision of death pre-Pantheon Dionysus sees on his recording of the Morrigan’s performance in Jamie McKelvie’s back-up story), but hey, she’s going to die in two years anyway, so there’s no point in trying to be “good” anymore. At least she’s upfront about it.
This is the Morrigan admitting that she and Cameron are deliberately falling into the pit they worked together to avoid for so long. Cameron appears receptive at the time, but his actions as Baphomet shows that he may be regretting the decision. The Morrigan certainly does, even if Baal won’t let her do anything to make it right.
The Wicked + The Divine has always been a series that uses Gods as a metaphor for creators and the famous, but in issue 16 writer Kieron Gillen puts that aside a bit to dial in on experiences and relationships that could belong to anyone. The Morrigan and Baphomet could make a great couple if circumstances and their own dysfunctions and insecurities didn’t constantly get in the way, and there’s got to be more than a few of us who’ve had a “could have been” relationship like that — and probably even more of us who have a story of selfishness like the Morrigan (or myself).
That new focus on the mundane humanity of these Gods’ previous lives makes Leila Del Luca (and colorist Mat Lopes) the perfect guest artists. I’ve long said that Jamie McKelvie draws the most attractive characters in comics, but that sometimes means that even his human characters can look as good as the Pantheon. Del Luca is no slouch when it comes to gorgeous characters — just look at how majestic the Morrigan is in the first image I posted — but for the most part, she and Lopes embrace a much more mundane, down to Earth take on these characters.
Lopes uses dingy, faded colors throughout the entire flashback, even when portraying the Morrigan’s divine abilities, seemingly just to drive home the mundanity of her former life. Ananke still has her regal stance, but she doesn’t stand out the way she often does under McKelvie’s pen — she’s less God and more ‘eccentric old lady.’ Perhaps most significantly, this is the first time the audience doesn’t get to witness the full-page process of becoming a God from their perspective — instead, we’re kept at a distance, seeing the transformation as any Johnny-on-the-street might.
Some of Del Luca’s choices skip right past general mundanity and instead work to bring the readers into Marian and Cameron’s doldrum world specifically. Just look at how she interprets the funeral of Cameron’s parents.
Appropriately enough, it’s the dreariest page in the issue, but my favorite choice here is the way Del Luca doesn’t draw faces on just about any mourner who isn’t Cameron or Marian. They attended the funeral and attempted to console Cameron, but they might as well be faceless peons for all the good they do. Marian and Cameron are the only people who really matter in each other’s lives, and this’s the perfect visual representation of why their relationship was so magnetic, but also so dysfunctional.
I don’t know about you, Patrick, but this issue also reignited my curiosity about a major piece of WicDiv mythology. Ever since Laura became the 13th God, I’ve wondered whether these kids were truly reincarnated Gods, or if Ananke has the ability to make anyone a God if it suits her purposes; the Morrigan being able to “draft” Baphomet into the pantheon certainly leans towards the latter interpretation. Likewise, Marian and Cameron’s goth personas certainly foreshadowed their eventual identities, but is that destiny at play, or simply Ananke playing to their strengths? The more I learn about these characters, the less I trust anything I’ve learned from Ananke, that’s for sure. Patrick, any thoughts? Or maybe you just want to talk about Bap-O-Meat? I must admit, that brought back some warm, fuzzy memories of the halcyon days of Kid Loki for me.
Patrick: Oh man, Bap-O-Meat is a welcome silly coda to an otherwise dark dark story.
That’s some inspired lunacy right there.
And while an astral projection target drawn in ketchup may seem like an idea perfectly at-home in this series, it does seem out-of-place in this story. Marian and Cameron’s story is so overwhelmingly drab that the color black becomes a major theme of their backstory: Cameron points out their clothes making sense at a funeral; Marian suggests a black undercoating when they’re painting figurines; even Cameron’s phone rings with the introduction to that My Chemical Romance song “Black Parade.” Black black black black black.
So what does blackness mean in the context of Morrigan and Baphomet’s backstory? I’m not sure. Is it self destruction? Cameron takes up smoking and cheats on Marian, and she’s quick to condemn him for both of these behaviors. But she chooses him to become Baphomet anyway. Which actually begs the question: whose self-destructive behavior are we witnessing in the flashback? Gillen and Del Luca make this question explicit right before Marian runs off on her own, unknowingly to meet Ananke.
This is their entire relationship dynamic in miniature. Cameron carelessly does something harmful — throwing a lit cigarette into a garbage can. Marian sees his mistake, admonishes him for it and then tries to take action to right his wrongs. But in so doing, she sorta makes it worse. Instead of a impotently burning trash can, there’s flaming garbage spilling out all over the sidewalk (notice that some of it even seems to scorch Cam’s shoes.
It actually makes me wonder about what exactly Marian’s deal is. Cameron almost makes more sense – he is consistently a deary fuck up, muddling his way through life. But Marian seems to be actively making the choice to seek out the fuck up. Think about how weirdly she abandons the LARPing game they’re playing (I’d guess Vampire, but I’m out of my depth on this subject). In the very first panel of the scene, she seems to be way into it, acting the hell out of whatever scenario their DM has cooked up for them. Cameron bashes the DM game as “very bad,” and rather than stick up for the activity she was clearly enjoying, Marian fucks Cameron right then and there.
Which all adds up to me being nervous for The Morrigan in her god-proof cage. The last thing she needs is access to the boyfriend who doesn’t even need to work to be a terrible influence on her.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?