Woden’s Wisdom, Persephone’s Hell, and a Talking Head… Or Four (The Wicked + The Divine #33 Review)

Woden’s secret lair is revealed. A new god has been discovered. Ananke’s quest to avert the Great Darkness has not yet ended.

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Cover Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Publisher: Image Comics

What You Need to Know:

Every 90 years the gods come back as young people in what is called an “Occurrence”. In 2014’s Occurrence, they have come back as pop stars performing for their fans. Despite being led by a 10,000-year-old god named Ananke, nobody knows why they return, or why they die after only two years. A mysterious thirteenth god, Persephone, dubbed “The Destroyer” by Ananke, has also appeared. After discovering that Ananke has been killing the Gods in every Occurrence to avert what she calls “The Great Darkness,” Persephone kills Ananke.

While trying to figure out their purpose, if they are actually doomed to die, or if The Great Darkness is actually just Ananke’s excuse to kill the gods for some other unknown reason, the Pantheon is slowly going mad, becoming more and more unstable and erratic. In the previous issue, Minerva killed Sakhmet for her murder of a room full of party goers and the goddess Amaterasu. Urðr has been busy trying to divine the purpose of Ananke’s machine, which was intended to kill Minerva, in hopes it would give some answers. Urðr has enlisted the help of David Blake, a Pantheon expert who believes that this generation does not deserve an Occurrence. Woden betrays the gods during a performance in order to replicate Dionysus’ power, leaving Dio braindead. Upon Woden’s defeat, he quickly flees. In the aftermath of Woden’s betrayal, Urðr and Persephone find a false wall in Woden’s lab.

What You’ll Find Out:

Urðr and Persephone have found Woden has been keeping a “secret lair.” In this lair, he is holding another pantheon god who has secretly been the brains behind all of Woden’s machines. The god is bound to a chair and reveals he had slipped the “beep machine” plans in with Woden and Ananke’s other requests in hopes that the other gods would find him. Upon entering the cage to release the unknown prisoner, Woden returns, unmasked, revealing he is actually David Blake. Persephone quickly tries to attack David, but he has created a cage that nullifies her power.

In a flashback, it is revealed that Jon Blake, David’s son, was of the Pantheon. Quickly after Ananke awakens him to be the god Mimir, his father attacks him and makes a deal with Ananke to mask as the “new god,” Woden. Ananke agrees under the condition he builds machines under the direction of Mimir as she commands. She believes David will be easier to work with than the boy.

Back in the present, David explains he believed he was entitled to steal the Pantheon position from his son just as his son had stolen the best years of his life from him. Persephone threatens David, who in turn pulls a gun on her. He believes Urðr will be useful to him, but Persephone was a surplus. Mimir pleads with him not to kill Persephone and offers information on what Ananke’s machine, originally thought to be intended for Minerva’s death, actually does. David says he doesn’t believe Mimir knows what it does and that he only produced the structural plans as ordered, but Mimir claims to have figured it out. David decides not to kill Persephone and exits.

Persephone pouts that Mimir should have let David shoot her. Urðr loses her composure and begins to berate Persephone, but quickly regains herself and asks Persephone why she has been so self-destructive. Persephone reveals the guilt she’s felt due to the death of her family, correlating her desire to do anything to become a god with their death. She believes got everything she wished for, and her family was the price.

Laura's Confession

Urðr apologizes for her blindness to Persephone’s feelings and apologizes for not being there for her. The two share a moment and Persephone leans in for a kiss, but Urðr quickly pulls away and tells Persephone this cycle of behavior is exactly her problem. She encourages Persephone to be the superstar she was meant to be, instead of just burning anyone who gets too close.

Mimir interrupts, stating he doesn’t mean to eavesdrop but would like to join the conversation. Urðr apologizes and Persephone tries to free him. Urðr tries to remember who Mimir was in Norse mythology as Persephone pops open the collar around Mimir’s neck and pulls his head free from his body, while he admits his discovery is that Ananke’s machine actually does nothing at all.

In a dark cavern, the top half of Sakhmet’s head, removed by Minerva, lies on the ground. An upset Minerva inspects it, stating what a waste it was. She laments that she should have let Sakhmet kill Persephone, but that she still needs another head to avert the Great Darkness. A voice off-panel comforts Minerva saying all this was probably easier when she was working with Ananke. Minerva quickly calls the comforting voice an idiot and reveals that she doesn’t work with Ananke. She IS Ananke.

The off-panel voice is revealed to be the severed head of Lucifer, who sits in a sacrificial shrine with the disembodied heads of Inanna and Tara. All still very much alive.

What Just Happened?

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have once again proved their mastery of ending a story arc. While revealing expectation subverting secrets, they find a way to lead themselves into the next arc with excitement and hunger. With the revelation of Woden’s true identity and Minerva’s confession of her true name, there are so many more questions than answers.  

Persephone has finally had some major, character-revealing, development since her time as Laura. She has spent the last two arcs in a downward spiral after her murder of Ananke. She has hopped from partner to partner, torn apart plans and lied to the Pantheon to protect herself and Sakhmet. Her tearful confession of her inhabiting the “destroyer” role because of her guilt over her family’s death is both heartbreaking and haunting. Watching her rectify her past identity as Laura Wilson with her current identity as Persephone ties into the themes of identity constantly explored throughout the titles run. It’s easy to forget these characters are young people, none of which being any more than twenty years old. But this intimate moment reminds us that young girl has lost her family and endures grief and responsibility associated with it.

The clever inclusion of Mimir, a figure in Norse mythology who was beheaded and subsequently carried around by Woden, is a perfect example of Gillen’s commitment to the mythologies of many diverse cultures. Imbuing these characters with storylines parallel to that of their ancient stories implies Gillen has carefully crafted the entirety of the story, and that he’s known its ending upon the book’s inception.

While there is still much to discover, it is clear The Wicked + The Divine will be a roller coaster of expectation-shattering storytelling. There is nothing in previous story arcs that allow us to believe we will ever figure out the trajectory of the story until we have reached its conclusion. But it will be a wild ride.

Rating: 9.5/10

Final Thought: The end of this arc proves, once again, while new questions are constantly raised and never answered, Kieron Gillen, has a masterful plan that will take turns never imagined. Beginning the issue with a twist that defies expectations, an even bigger reveal in its final pages inspires a dumbfounded awe. The execution through McKelvie’s art is breathtaking. The book is never boring, and always sexy. This time is no different.

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