The Wicked + The Divine #40

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Colourist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Flatter: Dee Cunniffe
Editor: Chrissy Williams
Publisher: Image

Review by Christoph Staffl

Sometimes I wonder how detailed writers and creators plan certain parts of their stories. In the last arc, Kieron Gillen took us 6000 years back to where it all began: with a feud between two sisters, which offered yet another meaning and the origin of “1, 2, 3, 4.”

Regarding the current events, we learned the true power of Baal and what a heavy burden he carries. Being the first god to appear, means also you have to sacrifice children, to hold the Darkness at bay. Or at least that is what Ananke told him. So far we don’t know who or what the Darkness is.

Even Ananke’s ritual which requires four heads as a sacrifice in each incarnation may still be a distraction — something to kickstart the next iteration of the cycle. Or it serves as some barrier, to keep Persephone in line or protect Ananke. We don’t know. We also don’t know what Persephone is. She was able to give up her powers, but still has the spark Lucifer gave her in the beginning? Did the abortion nullify her powers or vice versa? Why? When?

Though there are a lot of questions still unanswered, the creative team slowly puts the pieces together. It is incredible to watch several seemingly separate parts of the story fall in line, forming a complete narrative. The seventh arc also added to the already astonishing artwork and style and design of the series. There is no sign of this series slowing down.

Now, let’s talk about the beginning of the end.

The 40th issue is a fascinating one from a storytelling perspective. If you read through the first page, which contains the obligatory description of the gods, you get to the first page of the actual story. It provides one line and summarizes everything that happens in this issue. It is not about the ending, but about the journey: how we get there.

Style has always been something I associate with this series because it presents a key feature of it — not just the design of the characters themselves and the comic as a whole, but also the design of how the story is structured. The design is an intricate part of the storytelling, which you can see perfectly in an earlier issue when we first meet Dionysus. The Wicked + The Divine, for me, only works in comics. There is no way you could put it into a movie format. At least not the way it is. The beats are unique to the comic medium, and if you were to adapt it, it would be something different entirely.

However, that does not mean that The Wicked + The Divine cannot borrow from other mediums and genres. The 40th issue is the comic-book equivalent of a found footage movie. The reader witnesses a specific happening through the eyes of fans and fanatics. Though some of the gods show up — on the cameras Woden put up, I guess — the creative team mostly shows a different perspective.

What is it like to experience the gods perform? How do they influence the lives of their followers? How much of what we as the readers know leaked into public knowledge? These questions are not necessarily those you would have asked at the end of the last arc, but they are important nevertheless.

The artwork shines in this issue as well as in previous issues. Jamie McKelvie can captures the essence that makes a found footage movie and transforms it, so it works in this medium. Add the colors and effects, and you get another extraordinary and unique issue of The Wicked + The Divine.

The Verdict: Buy it.

To paraphrase The Dark Knight: The beginning of the final arc of The Wicked + The Divine might not be the issue we wanted, but it is the issue we need. The creative team finds yet another way to tell a dense story, answering questions about the other side of the entertainment industry that is the Pantheon — at least on the surface. At the same time, Gillen offers a glimpse into the agenda of Ananke/Minerva and shows a bit more about the nature of our characters, which brings us back to stories as a concept and how they are used in The Wicked + The Divine to manipulate and misguide. Every god has to figure out by themselves which truth they are fighting for sooner or later. And now I am just left wondering how the creative team will be able to wrap things up in just five more issues.

Christoph Staffl

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