THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #35 / Writer: Kieron Gillen / Artist: Jamie McKelvie / Colorist: Matthew Wilson / Letterer: Clayton Cowles / Publisher: Image Comics / Published: April 4th, 2018
The Wicked + The Divine #35 is another important update that delivers more answers as the series heads towards the end game. As with the previous issue, the beginning of TW+TD #35 takes us back to another time period. In this issue, we return to 1923, shortly after the events of The Wicked + The Divine 1923 AD special. I had not read the special up until this review, but it is a stellar read the imagines the Gods as artists fighting for the future of art through ritual sacrifices of one another. It sees eight of the twelve Gods removed from the playing board, leaving only Amaterasu, Amon-Ra, Minerva, and Susanoo. TW + TD #35 opens with the Gods realizing they have to sacrifice themselves to prevent war from destroying the world, but given that Minerva is actually Ananke reborn in modern times, their sacrifice was not enough to stop the coming of World War 2. The other three Gods are actually caught in a complicated love triangle. Amaterasu, after having left Amon-Ra, and Susanoo find themselves in love with each other, despite being siblings. Though their human forms are unrelated, as Gods, they are brother and sister. Very little time is given in this issue to this development, but it is a fascinating sub-note around identity in the history of The Wicked + The Divine.
This issue shares two protagonists, both who serve as antagonists to each another. The first is Minerva, whose story takes place during flashbacks to 1923. We witness the process of how she becomes the Ananke of the 2014 Pantheon. The second is Laura/Persephone, who narrates the 2014 sequences. This issue uses each protagonist to explore the idea of your identity when you become the host of a reincarnated god. Are you the same God as you were before? Is the human you were gone, or can you fight your way back? These questions seem to be the driving force for both Persephone/Laura and Minerva/Ananke. As this arc progresses further and further and we learn of the selfish goals driving Ananke, more and more doubt is cast on everything she has shared thus far. At this point, I am not even sure if the Great Darkness is truly something terrible for anyone other than Minerva.
The other key player of The Wicked + The Divine #35 is Baal, and identity plays an equally important but different role for him. Baal is a God who frequently appears in different religions, causing his true identity to be concealed under a veil of multiplicity. The series revisits a key moment from the first story arc, truly revealing which of the multiple Baals the 2014 model is. It is a wonderfully chilling moment to conclude the issue. I cannot wait to see how next issue plays out.
Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles deliver another knock-out of an issue. The 1923 scenes are powerful in their brevity, leaving McKelvie to convey a lot of implicit things from the script. The body language of each of the 1923 Gods says more than anything coming out of their mouth. The way some of them sweat when they speak, the way their emotions are written plainly on their faces, the ways their eyes shift, all these and more convey a sense of uneasiness that affected them just before the curtain falls on the 1923 Pantheon. Wilson’s colors compliment McKelvie so perfectly. Shadows are the bread and butter of the 1923 sequence, and Wilson casts them across decor and figure alike. The shadows are cast thickest off the characters, hanging heavily off them. He also does a great job of coloring the violence so that is more than just hues of red; there are a lot of yellows and purples to be found, as well. The fact the Gods use their elements to kill one another also adds a splash of color to the action scenes. Clayton Cowles does a good job of lettering the snapping of fingers. Each snap, save for the one big dramatic snap, is given the same weight and sizing of letters, but they are differentiated with colors that ties each to a specific character.
I have only one complaint about the 1923 sequence. In The Wicked + The Divine 1923 AD, Lucifer is conned by Set into building a castle on a secluded island. This castle is described as both “a crown on the land” and “a series of spires that looked like horns”. Woden and Set use the castle to build a rough first draft of the 2014 Valhalla complex, including the machine that siphons a God’s power, imagined as a lighthouse in 1923. I am truly sad we never get to see McKelvie visualize this beautiful monstrosity.
There are two visual aspects that play a part in both timelines. The first is the symbolism of the Storm Gods, imagined as a silver lightning bolt in a variety of ways. In the 1923 era, we see them as Susanoo’s cuff links and tie clips. In the 2014 era, we see them as part of Baal’s aesthetic. This symbolism plays a big part in the final scene with Baal and ties into what I said earlier about identity being concealed behind multiplicity.
The second visual aspect is Minerva, who is without a doubt, the visual star of The Wicked + The Divine #35. We see her playing a role in both 1923 and 2014, the part of the innocent or helpless girl. McKelvie goes out of his way to enhance these features of Minerva, before flipping the script to reveal the true Minerva. This Minerva is defined by the color red. It stains her clothes. It streaks her hair, and she has a completely different visual demeanor than the actor Minerva. Watching her expressions as she tries to play with the others brings a lot of amusement to the series. It feels really great to watch Minerva in action now that we as readers are in on her big secret.
The Wicked + The Divine #35 is another great installment in my favorite series. In every issue, the bigger picture becomes clearer and clearer, but the creative team manages to make this a boon instead of a negative. I am already counting down the days until issue 36 drops.
VERDICT: 5 out of 5 Carthaginian Gods