The Art of Doling Out Answers in The Wicked + The Divine 34

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There are some stories that fall apart once they start giving out answers. Maybe all it had going for it was its mysteries, or maybe the mythology ended up dull or nonsensical, or maybe they spelled everything out in a long, listless exposition drop — the point is, the spark’s gone once the story reveals its secrets. Thankfully, The Wicked + The Divine is not one of those stories. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie turn doling out answers into an art-form, finding ways to fascinate even when revealing truths to their cast that readers already know.

Oftentimes waiting for characters to discover what we as the audience already know can be excruciating, but half the fun of The Wicked + The Divine 34 is realizing how much we know that the characters don’t. For example, it never occurred to me that Laura didn’t know that Ananke framed Lucifer.

McKelvie, of course, makes the moment sing with that tragic look of realization on Laura’s face, but this entire page honestly impresses me. Gillen aces the dialogue and finds a nice rhythm between the characters, and he’s not just imparting information (to us or the cast) — he’s taking the time to show how what Laura and Cassandra are discovering affects them, and how their unique perspectives and thought processes help them uncover information in the first place.

It also helps that Gillen and McKelvie never make their answers too explicit. The audience is allowed to infer, come to conclusions, and theorize on their own, especially in the opening segment that backtracks 6000 years to reveal the origin of the Pantheon. It’s clear that the current rules of the Pantheon were established by Ananke and her divine sister after Ananke slaughtered many of the original gods in a bid for immortality, but there are so many details hidden in this scene that readers are allowed to discover on their own. My favorite may be the “origin” of the arc number four.

Four actually appears a few times throughout this sequence — the 12 gods are divisible by four, and Ananke needs four heads to complete her ritual and survive. Most important, though, is the four rules they establish for the Pantheon, which, for my money, appears to be the origin of the 1 2 3 4 rhythm that dictates their powers.

Perhaps most exciting, every bit of new information this scene reveals just creates new mysteries. Which god, exactly, is Ananke’s sister (it’s decided that she’ll be the last god to emerge in each recurrence, so she’s either a Norn or Persephone, right?)? Ananke here wears a horned skull, proves herself a betrayer, and lashes out with the power of a snake — could she perhaps be the original Lucifer? Hell, are Ananke and her sister the titular wicked and divine? God, the more I learn about this world the more intrigued I am. WicDiv in its endgame may just be my favorite mode for this series to operate in yet.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?


3 comments on “The Art of Doling Out Answers in The Wicked + The Divine 34

  1. After devouring the Imperial Phase volumes, decided I’m going to follow Wicked + the Divine by issues for the final stretch. And lots of interesting stuff happening here. I love how Anneke’s villainy is ultimately a hatred of criticism. If the gods are artists, Anneke is the one who rejects the idea of criticism. Ultiamtely obsessed with herself, and not caring for others response to her work.
    ANd I love how even back then, this Game foStories is built on stories. Anneke lays a trap by forcing the Triple Goddess (I’m interested in what that means. DOes that mean that the 12 GOds can be split into three groups representing each of the faces of the Triple Goddess? Is the fact that Anneke is both Madien and Crone mean the Pantheon is rigged to her advantage? Or does this have something to do with the Morrigan?
    And yeah, Persephone’s role is still very vague. This issue makes very clear that it has been 12 since the beginning, so how are there 13?

    But what I really love is that, despite all the abstract metafiction fantasy of the start, is how emotionally honest the comic always is. Despite everything, the characters are messed up characters and not superheroes. THe key, to me, is Laura confronting her self hatred, takingthe first steps out of the self destructive spiral she’s been trapped in by finally dealing with those issues. Because in the end, that’s the real important thing

    • I don’t think I’d call Ananke an artist at all, honestly. There’s a pretty clear distinction between Ananke, who wants immortality, and her sister, who knows that she’ll be immortal through her wondrous acts, her art. While Gods (artists) live to inspire others (even the most hedonistic of the pantheon put on performances that inspire others), Ananke only thinks of what she can gain herself. She manipulates artists, using their fame, work, power and influence to enrich herself, and throwing them away when she’s done with them.

      Ananke’s not an artist, she’s a manager — she’s Doctor Luke, or Lindsay Lohan’s mom, or any person of authority who has drained an artist dry for their own gain.

      • I probably would have agreed with you before, but not after this issue. First, she is a God, and God = Artist. But more importantly, she is shown specifically in an artistic role in this issue. Hell, she even coauthors a story – the Story of the Pantheon.

        And then look at some of the lines. ‘In my Grand Design, I will accept no criticism’ casts Ananke specifically as a creator. She isn’t manipulating or managing others here, she is creating her own ‘art’. Combine that with the specific word ‘criticism’, and it feels like we are supposed to read her as an artist here.
        Meanwhile, the mysterious god says ‘I have tatooed my work into reality. You have built on top of it, but you cannot change my fundamentals.’ The mysterious god is certainly an artist/creator. And notably, she says Ananke has built her own work on top. Hell, I read that line as calling Ananke a hack.

        You could say that Ananke is an exploitative producer to make up for their failings as a hack artist, but I think this issue makes clear that she is an artist.

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