Spencer: For a series about literal gods, The Wicked + The Divine has spent very little time exploring the idea of “belief.” I suppose that makes sense — these gods exist whether you believe in them or not, and probably care little either way. Issue 19 doesn’t change that, but it does explore belief in an entirely different context. With the Pantheon now split into two warring camps, each member’s loyalties seem to depend on which figurehead’s story they believe the most. Fascinatingly, though, writer Kieron Gillen seems to be hinting that neither Ananke nor Persephone can be trusted — or, at the least, both are hiding something big. Trying to discern the truth adds a lot of depth to this (already exciting) storyline.
The Wicked + The Divine 19 is all leading up to Minerva being captured by the gods still loyal to Ananke, but it takes a lot of convincing for both parties to reach that point. As I mentioned last month, Ananke is an expert at manipulation and at twisting ideas to her advantage — Minerva points out that she won’t even let her followers talk to Persephone, a classic censorship tactic if there ever was one — but Persephone’s group has given her a lot of ammunition as well.
Persephone should have a lot of allies within the Pantheon — Amateratsu was Laura’s friend, and Baal her lover — but Ananke is able to turn them against her with the slightest of suggestions. In this case, her accusation is seemingly true — Persephone has indeed allied herself with Inanna’s murderer, and that’s enough evidence to turn Baal against her.
In fact, the very nature of Persephone’s team works against them. While going over the case, Baphomet points out that their “evidence” won’t mean much to the courts (although it seems foolish to try to take Pantheon matters to court to begin with) because at least one of their “eyewitnesses” is a wanted criminal. No matter how truthful he’s being, nobody is ever going to believe Baphomet, as he discovers when he tries to convince Baal that he didn’t kill Inanna, Ananke did. I’m actually curious how true this is myself — it appeared as if Baphomet did the deed, so perhaps Bap’s lying, or maybe he’s trying to say that Ananke’s responsible because she manipulated him into doing it? Then again, Ananke also speaks of the demands of ritual when she discusses the four gods she needs to kill (more on that later), so perhaps she somehow did steal that kill away from Baphomet? If so, she did a fantastic job of framing him.
Persephone faces similar difficulties herself. Although it’s never brought up in dialogue this month, Ananke’s (true) accusation that Persephone slept with Baphomet is clearly still hanging in the air, as the Morrigan’s evil glares towards Persephone throughout the issue prove. Even more concerning, though, is the true nature of Persephone/Laura Wilson.
On the next page, meanwhile, Ananke goes on to say that Laura isn’t alive. Is Persephone physically/mentally not Laura, or has godhood and death simply changed her too much for her to be recognized as Laura anymore? Either way, there’s enough mystery surrounding Persephone to make her motives/accusations a bit suspect (Dionysus is right to question her), and that’s not helping her cause.
Of course, even if the “worst case scenario” is true, even if Persephone/Laura is somehow the Destroyer, how do we know that’s truly a bad thing? Ananke seems to genuinely fear the Destroyer, but only because it poses a threat to the status quo.
Ananke has sacrificed three of her charges and is about to sacrifice a fourth — the youngest and most innocent — in order to uphold ritual, tradition, and, I assume, the cycle of reoccurrence as a whole. I guess the question we should be asking is: is maintaining the Pantheon just as they are worth all the death, worth all the sacrifice? Or perhaps the Pantheon changing with with times would be better — or perhaps the world would do just as well without their gods at all? I absolutely, 100% believe that Ananke believes her actions, horrific as they are, to be justified, but I’m not so sure myself.
Ultimately, it’s hard to tell who’s right and who’s wrong without knowing the full story. Ananke’s actions are horrific, but there’s still so little we know about her and about the reoccurences as a whole that it seems likely Gillen could throw a us a curveball in that respect; meanwhile, while Persephone’s side seems just, there’s enough treachery amongst her ranks to give me pause. Much like the members of the Pantheon, each reader has to choose their side based on who they believe the most, but with more and more vital information being revealed every month, we can only have so much confidence in our choices. Each new reveal has the potential to be game-changing, and that’s absolutely thrilling.
Patrick, it’s been a while since we’ve talked about WicDiv together, and I’m curious to see what you think about the direction the story’s taken in this new arc and about all the new information we’ve learned since it began. Also: this is yet another phenomenal issue for artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson. I love every choice they make here, from the ways colors clash and interact throughout the fight scenes to the way McKelvie takes advantage of his layouts (be it his usual grids or the moments where he breaks them or abandons them entirely) to control pacing and emphasize action. Were there any aspects of the art you wanted to talk about specifically?
Shane: Patrick: Oh, I think my favorite McKelvie tricks are always going to come down to how he uses repetition. We’ve seen a lot of talking head-style scenes that focus on a single character’s face, staying locked at a single angle for multiple panels, and I’m always amazing how that achieves the same uneasy intimacy of actually staring into another human being’s face. It’s a like a combination of comfort and discomfort that I’m not quite sure I know how to describe. There aren’t any of those in this issue, but we do start with a set of panels that will be familiar to anyone that was just catching up with The Wicked + The Divine (me!), and saw this exact same set-up in the previous issue.
Same layout, same angle, same lighting, the Minerva hologram is even disturbed in the exact same panel. That should make this one of the more familiar and comforting pages in the book, but the differences are immediately that much more disturbing – I don’t trust Ananke on a good day, but when McKelvie draws her mask-up and swooping in with that billowy dress, it’s hard to see her as anything but a supervillain. I mean, look – she’s visually replaced Minerva’s kind, loving parents.
Which, I guess probably clues you in to which side I’m on in The Wicked + The Divine‘s own private Civil War. But unlike Marvel’s Civil War (and that’s really any incarnation of it – original comic, movie, new comic) there doesn’t appear to be any concrete idea at the heart of the conflict. Spencer, you mentioned how mysterious the conflict is at this point: we literally don’t know what either Persephone or Ananke are trying to achieve right now. We understand that a child’s life is at stake, so I suppose we automatically sign up for Team Persephone (#TeamPersephone), but there’s no underlying ideology that separates one side from the other. Ultimately, that may end up being one of the story’s bigger strengths, as “superheroes punching each other to prove political points” is never quite as meaningful as their stories suggest. That philosophy ends up being a pretext for forcing two heroes to fight. Gillen and McKelvie minimize this pretext and focus on the graphic appeal of having these bright, magical characters brawling in the Underground.
Actually, that’s a great pivot to my favorite point in the issue, which also point back to what I was talking about earlier. This moment that Owly finds Minerva is unbelievably cool-looking. Our heroes have spent a couple pages in the dark, and Wilson’s colors have shifted to a dark blue palette to match. Meanwhile, we cut over to Ananke and Woden’s lair, we’re bathed in aggressive amounts of white and neons. So when the darkness is pierced at Persephone’s camp, the effect is immediately unsettling.
This is another example of McKelvie holding the same camera angle, and it even loops back to image of the owl from the first page. Like those talking-heads scenes, this is immediately comforting and disturbing at the same time. As well it should be, because our robotic owl friend portends some comic book action.
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?