There’s No Escaping History in The Wicked + The Divine 37

by Spencer Irwin

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

History is an intrinsic facet of The Wicked + The Divine in multiple ways. Its story — and deities — have existed for the majority of recorded human history, and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have gone to great lengths to accurately reflect that throughout the series. History is also a far more personal thing in WicDiv, though. There’s not a single character who can escape the pull of their own personal history, be it the baggage of Ananke/Minerva’s own six thousand year long existence, or the brief-yet-intense history behind the Morrigan and Baphomet/Marian and Cameron’s complex, tragic romance. Both tales reach inevitable — yet very different — climaxes in WicDiv 37.

Ananke/Minerva’s climax actually comes a few thousand years ago, when she botches her usual ritual by trying to use only three heads instead of four. It’s not clear whether Ananke actually dies and is then resurrected 90 years later, or if her consciousness is somehow trapped within darkness for all that time, but either way, Gillen and McKelvie make sure the audience can feel exactly how excruciating this period was for Ananke by launching us into ten full pages of darkness, a black panel for every single year lost. When Ananke/Minerva returns all she can say is “never again.” What before she may have treated as a game now has 90 years of history proving otherwise; the consequences if she loses are ghastly, and no doubt drive her increasingly driven, mad behavior as the centuries pass.

The fight — nay, the all-out war — that breaks out between Baphomet and the Morrigan is fueled by more recent history, but no less turbulent. Readers have watched this complex, often toxic relationship play out throughout WicDiv, so Gillen and McKelvie don’t feel the need to recap the whole thing. Instead, they just contrast the beginning of their relationship with its inevitable, violent end.

It’s more of Gillen and McKelvie’s trademark formal inventiveness, but also a stark contrast to the inventiveness they show in Ananke’s half of the issue, full of color, fire, and fury instead of nothingness and monotony. The panel borders shift from ravens to flames depending on which god has the upper hand at any given moment, while the beginning and the end of Baph and Morrigan’s relationship play out simultaneously throughout the sequence. This serves a dual purpose; it shows that this violent end was probably always inevitable, but also that the good things that brought these two together are still present, still in their minds even as they try to tear each other to pieces.

That last point is vital to the climax of this story. Badb ends up killing Baphomet, but it isn’t what her other two personalities wanted. A history of dysfunction, jealousy, and abuse may have lead them to this point, but the good times, the history of love and passion they shared, ultimately leads Gentle Annie to trade her life for Baphomet’s.

Besides their focus on history, both of WicDiv 37‘s plots share one more thing in common: Ananke/Minerva and the Morrigan’s reactions to the horror they faced.

I don’t really know what to make of these parallels yet, but they can’t be coincidental. If there’s one thing WicDiv has taught me, it’s that history tends to repeat itself, and it’s always, always significant when it does.

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

4 comments on “There’s No Escaping History in The Wicked + The Divine 37

  1. Annie’s “He’s not dead, he’s just sleeping” seems to be a reference to the Biblical story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus, which I suppose is apt.

    As much as I appreciate Gillen and McKelvie letting readers put things together at their own pace, I do hope they straight-up lay out what the deal with Ananke and Minerva is at some point, because I still feel kinda clueless about what’s happening with them. It looks like every recurrence Ananke grows old over 90 years, while Minerva appears and somehow ALSO becomes Ananke — I assume she transfers a part of her essence over at some point, but we’ve also definitely seen them both exist at one even after Minerva dropped her charade, I think in the 1920s recurrence. But then the ritual allows Minerva/Ananke to live past the two year expiration point until the next recurrence, when another Minerva will kill off the previous Ananke.

    But is there ever a real Minerva, or are they all Ananke from the start? And why Minerva at all, what’s the connection there?

  2. I was disappointed with the expanded number of pages. One of the great things about an all black page is how it represents lost real estate. Something could have been there, but there wasn’t. That feeling is what makes it so impactful. Which is why it is a shame that this was a longer issue. We could have felt the pain Anneke/Minerva felt (Spencer, I too hope for a section where Gillen straight up explains everything. There is enough there to understand emotionally at the moment, but there needs to be more explanation as we get closer to the climax. But I think thescene with the heads this issue is specifically about the need for further explanation in a later issue. The characters literally say what we have been given isn’t enough).

    Giving us more pages robs us of the true impact the pages could have had, even if I guess it is necessary to stop people getting angry for only being half a comic (you’d think after last issue, everyone would think half a comic is perfectly fair). The pages are amazing, some of McKelvie’s best work and a fantastic conclusion to their arcs. Change or Die really does sum up Morrigan and Baphomet’s arcs so well, and to show Morrigan’s greatest show of her shapechanging powers yet is a fantastic choice. Because Morrigan ultimately can’t change, which is why for all her shapechangijg, all she does is change into different versions of herself. The sequence was great, even if I wish we felt the impact of the sequence having to be shorter.

    If the medium is the message, this was an issue that could have used the constraints of the medium to fantastic effect, did they choose not to break the constraints

    • The funny thing is that, even with this expanded page count, people are STILL complaining about being shorted half an issue. McKelvie has been rather (rightly) pissed about it on twitter, calling out readers for not counting the pages before complaining, especially in actual reviews.

      • I know. Elizabeth Sandifer called one review “the worst and stupidest piece of comic writing I’ve read in a long time and the reviewer and site should feel actively bad for publishing it.”, because of that.

        And unfortunately, they act as proof of why Gillen and McKelvie can’t do things like really have 10 black pages for effect without giving ten more pages to make up for it. Because people will feel cheated anyway.

        It is sad that people will look at this issue and say it was twenty pages. It is the immaturity of indulgence to think that.

        Because this is a thirty page comic. The issue has 50% more pages than any other comic at that price. A third of those pages may not indulge you, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t fantastically crafted pages that are functional and achieve the intended goals almost perfectly. In fact, the only problem with those pages is that they are in a 30 page issue instead of a 20 page issue

        I hate how many people just want art to exist entirely to indulge. There is so much more that can be done when art chooses not to indulge us so that it can instead go in interesting directions

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