The Wicked and The Divine # 39
Another flashback scene between Ananke and Not-Ananke (aka Minerva) reveals yet another piece of the endgame between these two dueling sister-gods-primordial-beings. Meanwhile, Persephone gives up a couple of really important things and yet another FURTHER flashback shows that Ananke’s game has layers and layers we have yet to plumb.
It’s hard to properly review an issue of long-running ongoing series that’s developed in leaps and bounds like The Wicked and the Divine has. The story has (delightfully) evolved significantly from its conception into something deeper and more wonderfully nuanced. BUT, I am looking at AN issue, SO I’ll try to evaluate this issue’s merits on its own while trying to place it in the larger context of the series’ ongoing storyline.
All along, one of WicDiv’s strengths as a series is how it provides enough resolution and payoff while not giving up all of the story’s cards entirely. This allows Gillen to play with the characters’ and readers’ expectations in a fun way, a virtue that’s on spectacular display in this installment. We have Minerva (or not-Ananke) thinking she’s playing by one set of rules. Laura/Persephone doesn’t know that she’s the key player in that game. From the reader’s perspective, she goes on to play that game badly, and thus breaking our hearts in more ways than one. Finally, we get Ananke, in another flashback, finally telling us that the rules she introduced (or will introduce?) aren’t the rules, but that Persephone may have won the game we thought she (we?) lost. WHEW. The fact that Gillen manages to convey all this in a short span without confusing me too much and STILL managing to insert some nice character work into the issue, particularly in Persephone’s encounter with Woden’s new squad and it’s aftermath, is a testament to his talents as a writer.
The delicate handling of Laura’s trip to the abortion clinic was poignant and very well written. I especially appreciated how it put her in control of her in control of her narrative. The scene near the end of the issue where she declares her distrust of anyone who tries to tell her what she is and her rejection of all the previous labels/roles she was given in the course of the story so far is a nice callback to an earlier issue in the series. During the “Commercial Suicide” arc, another deity Tara seemingly committed suicide after letting everyone else try to define what she should be. Laura’s choice to reject the notion of adapting and internalizing those externally-imposed labels and identities is a nice thematic callback to Tara’s tragic ending. It’s a nice story beat that puts Tara’s earlier story in a more interesting context and shows how deftly this book can tackle such important, contemporary issues without being overly preachy and NOT breaking the fiction and fantasy of the world the characters inhabit.
While being satisfying on a character and social relevance context, Laura’s decision not to have her baby sort of leaves us on a lurch about the larger conflict being played out in the book. Laura having the baby would have fixed things and lead to Not-Ananke/Minerva’s defeat…BUT apparently, that wasn’t the way out that Ananke had in mind anyway. There’s another layer to this intricate puzzle. Could this final answer be whatever Laura IS now? She isn’t a god anymore, both by her own admission and because Woden’s techno device didn’t identify her as such. So what is she now, really? Clearly, not just human, as shown by that final fire inducing finger snap. It’s this give and take that made the issue a lot of fun and one that has me impatient for the next installment.
A loud shout out needs to be given to the hilarious bit where Woden’s new minions try to apprehend Laura. It’s a nice bit of ‘meta’ that contrasts where the story/characters are now in comparison to where they started. ‘We’re superheroes meet pop stars’. Indeed. Of course, they are. Of course, they are.
There isn’t much left to say about McKelvie’s and Wilson’s wonderful art and colors on this series after 39 amazing issues. Suffice it to say, it’s as fantastic as it has been since the series’ debut. I will focus on one thing, and that is the wonderful look/design they gave ‘de-deified’ Laura. It’s a great design choice that offers something new and reflective of where the character is at now that’s a sharp contrast to the way the character has looked in the book since the beginning. It’s a starkly different look for the character but one that doesn’t veer too wildly to the point that she becomes unrecognizable or weirdly out of character. ‘Plain’ Laura is just that, sort of a stripped-down look that reflects the inner-purging she just went through herself. But, it’s also a look that hints at hidden strength, one that feels more genuine and more powerful than the other personas and identities she’s had before. Laura’s appearance now hints at hidden strengths and newfound power both because this new iteration of her self is the most genuine she’s been and also because it may finally be the key to ending this cycle of death and rebirth and defeating Minerva-Not-Ananke.
A fantastic twisty-turny installment. The WicDiv folks keep us guessing as the rug gets pulled out from under our feet more than once in a fun way that doesn’t make me mind falling on my butt at all. Also, yey ‘new’ Laura!
The Wicked and The Divine #39: Cons and EVEN Longer Cons
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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