REVIEW: The Wicked + The Divine 34- “The Crone, The Mother, The Maiden”

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #34 / Writer: Kieron Gillen / Artist: Jamie McKelvie / Colorist: Matthew Wilson / Letterer: Clayton Cowles / Image Comics / March 7th, 2018

Be Warned, There Be Spoilers Ahead

The Wicked + The Divine #34 kicks off the penultimate arc of the series, “Mothering Intervention”. For me personally, The Wicked + The Divine is the best book on stands, month in and month out. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson are my favorite creative team, bar none, and The Wicked + The Divine is their magnum opus. The series does not limit itself into one or two fields of expertise quite in the same way Phonogram (Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson) works within the field of music. Instead it goes broader, diving into several schools of thought with bombastic force. On the surface level, I love what the series has to say about social tendency  to idolize others as Gods. And when you begin to dive into the creative genius behind the choice of Gods or how a murder mystery is actually a conversation around high vs low art between modernist thinkers, you see a series that is so well executed, on every level, it can blow your mind with the snap of a finger.

“Mothering Intervention” is set around the figure of Ananke, the crone who watches over the twelve Gods who are reincarnated every 90 years. It is an interesting choice to have the central character of the arc be the departed Ananke, who has been KIA since TW+TD #22. However, the issue opens with an encounter between the first Ananke and Persephone, which reaffirms that Ananke has a second avatar in the God pantheon in the form of young Minerva; the mystery of the Crone, The Mother, and The Maiden trio nears resolution. If we accept that the Crone is Ananke and the Maiden is Minerva, then it stands to reason that Persephone is the Mother. In the past, we met Persephone’s grandson, who is warned that Ananke will try to kill him. In the present, Persephone is the last God to enter the pantheon and inhabits the body of Laura, the protagonist of the first couple arcs. Persephone has a secret that will bring about the Great Darkness and given her role in the trio and the fact she has slept with most of the Gods, I would hazard her secret is pregnancy. And if I had to guess who the father and the child are, based off the series and the many specials, I would hazard Lucifer is the father and the child is the Great Darkness. Lucifer is the first God Laura sleeps with, and despite being a female in the 2014 Pantheon, the gender fluidity indicated throughout the specials (Lucifer is the only God that appears in every special alongside Ananke) muddies the waters around sexual reproduction of the Gods.

Kieron Gillen promises that “Mothering Invention” will deliver answers. To this regard, the rest of the issue is focused around the Blake family, after the revelation that Wōden is not in fact a god, but the father of a pantheon member. Wōden’s son, a child named Jon Blake, is the God Mímir, and lives on as a head. The heads of certain Gods are needed to ward off the Great Darkness (Lucifer, Tara, and Innana are revealed to be 3 of the 4 needed) and so the Gods live on as disembodied heads for a period. Mímir explains the how and whys of his father’s betrayal, explaining Wōden has been in cahoots with Ananke since the beginning and is siphoning off his son’s powers to become a God. Persephone and Urðr reflect on the ways in which Wōden manipulated them as David Blake. While we spend time exploring David Blake’s history, he becomes the first of the Gods to realize Ananke is not as dead as expected.

Jamie McKelvie is the perfect partner in crime for Gillen’s quirks and when they build worlds together, it is something magical to behold.  This first chapter is light on creative panels and action, but his cinematic camera angles and establishing shots do a lot to liven up the page. McKelvie is a master of creating environments complex enough to contain the larger than life personas of the series. McKelvie wears his musical mastery on his sleeve when he develops the characters; Wōden is clearly inspired by Daft Punk while Lucifer is a gender-swapped David Bowie. Wōden’s design in particular allows McKelvie to do a ton of interesting work with reflection, but he can even make a scene between two old women talking dynamic with spectacular facial work, powerful lighting, and emotive body language. McKelvie is one of those rare artists that can make a figure with heavy line work appear crisp.

Matthew Wilson is an essential part of this team and The Wicked + The Divine does a lot to play up Wilson’s colors. There is a lot of work in the series around the color of one’s eyes and whether or not we even see the character’s faces. Because of the focus on Wōden this chapter, there is a lot of bright technological wonders and Wilson does a good job of contrasting these sources so they do not blur together on the page. There is a lot done with the flatness of colors too, so that the facial paint of our Gods do not pop in quite the same way as the tech.

Clayton Cowles fascinates me as a letterer. When he works for the Big Two, often times he can turn in a sub-par lettering job, probably linked to the amount of work and time given to do said work. But whenever he is doing creator-owned titles, his letters are fantastic. He distinguishes emphasized intonation, whispering, and yelling through a variety of enhancements such as shrinking the letters down a size or italics. He distinguishes God speech (even between the different Gods) and technological speech not just through letters, but also the shapes of the word bubbles. His tech based bubbles are given rigid edges that make them more like squares.

The Wicked + The Divine #34 does a lot of hand holding in regards to answers, but in doing so becomes another chapter that redefines how the series will be re-read. It is not the best issue of the series, but even the worst issue of this series is miles ahead of your average comic series. With just eleven issues and a couple specials left, I find myself on the edge of my seat every issue. This issue leaves the reader with the sense The Wicked + The Divine’s end-game is just around the corner.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 Talking Heads

Shaun Martineau is a young Canadian father and undergraduate with a BA in Cultural Theory and Creative Writing. He has reviewed Marvel titles for nine years but broke away in 2017 to focus more on smaller publishers like Aftershock, Black Mask, and Action Lab.

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