Once again we return! Welcome back to “Wicked Intervention” your page by page deep dive into “The Wicked + The Divine.” This is it friends. The end of the story, but not the end of the road. Let’s go page by page, and savor what we’ve got left. Then we’ll come back together one last time to look at the epilogue, and to truly determine whether or not everything will be ‘Okay.’
Page 1- Every ninety years etc. etc. You know the score. It’s the recap page, and probably the last one we’re going to get that looks like this. By my count there are six dead gods, and eight who are alive. At the top of the page it claims that in two years, they are all dead. So actually, this is a better ratio than I expected. That’s not the most notable change though. Take a look at the names. You either die with your god name, or you live with your human name. Everyone who died as a god is listed with the final name they went by. So the man once called Cameron and then Baphomet is here as Nergal. But Laura is back to being Laura, and Cassandra is using her real name as well. Same goes for Jon, Umar, Valentine, Zahid, and Aruna. The only exception in fact, is Lucifer, who we last left cackling maniacally. It was a good look on her. Hell, every look is a good look on her. Let’s check in and see how she’s doing.
Page 2- Okay, not right away. First we’ve got to see what’s up with Beth, Robin, and Toni. They are getting arrested. This page is almost comically mundane next to the high concept magical shenanigans happening on the roof. Pay close attention to the lighting in this scene, which not only sets the cinematic tone, it’s the one millionth reminder of the combined powers of Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson. These two are so good at working together; you wouldn’t be able to see such effective lights and shadows if the artist and colorist weren’t working together so well.
Page 3- All of the icons are skulls right now except for Lucifer. But not all of them are dead! It’s interesting that the loss of divine powers is essentially equated here with death, almost like the icons themselves don’t care much for the humans behind the god guises. That makes sense, they’re icons. They care about iconography, not feelings.
We all know the cliché that its better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don’t. And obviously Kieron Gillen won’t allow himself to use a cliché- but he’ll happily allude to it from level back. What would be even better is no devil at all. Of course, that’s not true, we’re all very worried about Luci.
Page 4- Of course, the most striking image on this page is Luci herself. McKelvie draws like, really beautiful people. I once saw him try to draw what was allegedly an ugly person, and she was still alarmingly pretty. You can feel Jamie’s excitement at drawing fan-favorite character Lucifer again in all her splendor, and though he’s usually tight lipped about such questions, I’d venture one of his favorite characters as well.
It’s interesting that here, Luci is embracing her god identity to the point of incoherence. She’s just crowing a villainous monologue at this point. Hell, she’s talking in the third person. Normally, this level of heightened drama would draw an eye roll, but here it’s kind of brilliant character work. Luci is talking like Dr. Doom because she’s desperate to be Dr. Doom.
Also, her flame powers here tie nicely to the distant fire on the first page! Awesome visual continuity.
Page 5- If this is to be our last magical battle, at least it’s a good one. We get all the classics. Finger snapping, impossibly huge bouts of flame, abstractions of transcendent musical experiences. This series worked hard to create a visual language, and here at the end we can lean back and enjoy it.Continued below
Page 6- At this point, Lucifer is really just posturing. Talking about how she’s been in this game so much longer than Laura!? It was a couple of months! And Laura battled in the Pantheon: Civil War while Lucifer was taking her decapitation vacation. Which incidentally, is going to be the opening track on her new album, right after she murders all her friends.
Page 7- Obviously, this page mirrors the ascension of mortals to gods. In actuality, it’s the reverse. Laura is climbing through the melting faces of what looks like the many versions of Ananke. It’s almost like she’s got to pull Luci out, away from her influence.
Page 8- When she first saw the ending of Return of the Jedi late in life, my girlfriend was shocked that Luke didn’t kill his dad, but tried to redeem him. Years of action flicks and Marvel movies had conditioned her to believe that in action fantasy stories, the hero has to kill the villain. Luci is certainly not the villain of this series, but here she’s completely turned to the dark side, embracing the temptation of fame, happy to be burned by it. My point is that the best stories don’t end with a hero triumphing over the villain, but by a big redemption. That makes this the best story, and I guess it makes Laura Wilson a hero. I wouldn’t have assumed that last thing to be the case a few years ago.
“We were killing ourselves to become something worth believing in,” Laura says. “You were a great Lucifer. But you were a great Lucifer.” Luci is great, but not because of magical devil powers. She’s great because the girl wielding them is Eleanor who is fun and smart and sexy. And she’s lost herself in all the power. She thinks that she’s happy now, and she’s worried that she’ll never be this happy again. How dark is that? To spend your happy moments worried about the sad moments after? And thinking that even with those feelings of anxiety, that is what happiness is? That makes me so sad for Luci.
Page 9- They kiss.
Page 10- Eleanor got to embody the devil because of who she was, not because of who Lucifer was. Similarly, Laura’s power wasn’t godly in the end. It was her power as a girl that let her save the day. She’s a cool, soulful, lovable person, worthy of love, and in earning that love she saves Eleanor from temptation. It’s a simple thing right? The redemptive power of love. But this is it. This is what that looks like.
Page 11- Laura considers killing Ananke, again, once and for all. I’ve grown so weary of the moral discussion of when it is permissible to take a life, a conversation we’re constantly having in superhero comics. This is not that. Because this is an emotional consideration of what would happen if you killed someone. We’ve already seen what happened to Laura, it was really bad. That was ‘Imperial Phase.’ She spiraled, she hated herself, she lost control. And that’s what’s at stake here. Not turning into a villain, or crossing the one line we must never cross. Laura’s friends don’t want her to kill this magical scumbag because it will damage Laura psychologically. And I love Laura too. I don’t want to see that happen to her. That’s a conversation that I’m really invested in.
Page 12- To be perfectly honest, I’m still frustrated with Ananke. Her plan didn’t tie into the themes of the story in a satisfying way. She elevated her fandom (for the gods) into the grandest performance in all of human history. But all of this murder, this symbolism, these rituals? They’re really just a tantrum thrown by a greedy person, who wants to horde time on Earth. She’s the villain, but her motivation is never given effective closure.
That being said, her conversation with Dio (I mean Umar) is powerful stuff. He’s been braindead and it wasn’t all that scary. Ananke’s 90 year mystical hibernation or whatever? Not really death. “When death comes?” Umar says. “It’s okay.” Hey, that’s the name of the arc!Continued below
Page 13- So here we consider a solution to the problem of Ananke. It makes a lot of sense, build a magical machine that will remove her mystic powers. But it would be really narratively unsatisfying. This isn’t a story about magical machines, it’s a story about fame, and sacrifice, and consequences, and the fragility of precious life. If the story just ended with “and then the cosmic serial killer lost her powers and lived on as a really terrible child,” that’d be a disaster. But…
Page 14- It’s been increasingly obvious that Baal (I mean Valentine) was going to need some serious redemption. He’s a good guy in his heart, but he’s been lied to so thoroughly that he’s not acting like it. The scary thing is that it’s the same lie we’re all told every single day. That men have to be strong leaders who make the tough decisions that weaker men can’t face. And believing that fundamental lie has made Valentine into someone that he hates. “I would love to live with you,” he says to the love of his young life, “but that would mean living with me.”
It all comes together here. WicDiv is all about performances, and Valentine was doing his long before he became a god. He was performing the role of a “big man,” only in his heart, he wanted to be gentle and kind. Maybe even passive. He was so desperate to be led, but he feared he could only earn love by being a leader. And that turned into self hatred, which is really hard to see. His friends love him. Zahid loves him. I love him. But he doesn’t love himself, and that’s the most important thing in the goddamn world. Case in point…
Page 15- “It’s not worth it,” are his final words. But what he’s really saying is “I’m not worth it.” Which sucks. Really messed up to here. But what’s even more messed up is the conviction in his eyes. He knows that in his final moments, he’s performing his chosen role really well. He’s the big man who takes care of the problems that others flinch away from.
Conversely, look at Ananke’s eyes. It’s a combination of terror and acceptance. She looks like a cat. You know when you’ve got to grab a cat to do something they don’t want to do, but they’ve gotta? Go to the vet, take a bath, clip their nails, something like that? At first they fight, but then they get this look in their eyes where they accept that the struggle will get them nowhere. That’s Ananke right here. In the end, this powerful immortal is just a cat who really doesn’t want to have to take a bath.
Page 16- Only McKelvie could make a disturbing murder/suicide so eerie and beautiful. The halo of blood around them leaves no question that they are both really dead. But there’s something about the little splash of color on the white and grey pavement that’s kind of gorgeous? And when the cops arrive, we get that striking light effect from the first page. What an upsetting page. What a beautifully drawn, upsetting page. None more goth.
Page 17- Holy shit, Zahid. Thankfully, Umar is there. Nothing can fix what he just went through, but Umar’s hugs are the best thing in the world. This situation would be so much worse without them.
Page 18- Voluntaryism- a political belief that all human association should be voluntary. In London, there is a public policy of “police by consent,” which in theory is supposed to frame policing as something done by regular citizens working in law enforcement, and prevent the police from persecuting citizens who may have quietly committed victimless crimes. It’s a concept that probably interests politics nerds a lot more than your average Londoner, but McKelvie strikes me as something of a politics nerd. Anyway, these police are not here to carry out the “by consent” policy, because they are here about a bunch of murders, and they all have assault rifles. As we’ll see in a moment though, these mortal British citizens are about to get involved in their own justice.Continued below
Also, there are no icons left. There is only death.
Page 19- I talked about what a fantastic visual Laura’s new powers are in a previous entry, but it bears repeating. That text box is a glorious combination of script writing, illustration, coloring, and lettering. In one cool visual effect, the entire team gets to shine. You don’t often see that in time-crunched Big Two cape books.
Page 20- Laura disarms the police. I love this little sequence, because it’s (literally) quiet, it’s an important plot beat, and it carries a meaning beyond what’s literally happening. Yesterday, these kids were powerful gods, fearless. Now they’re a gaggle of twenty year olds. Two are white, but most are people of color. One is British-Japanese and trans. One is British-Indian, and also a living decapitated head. The point is, these kids have a pretty solid worry that if the police see a fire, a couple of dead bodies, and then a bunch of young people with brown faces, we’re not gonna want guns in their hands. This never gets discussed in dialogue, but is literally the meaning of the entire sequence. And wow.
Page 21- “Will someone fucking arrest us already?!” Cassandra gets the last word because she deserves the last word.
Page 22- Back in the courthouse! In many ways, Kieron is just as basic as the rest of us, and he likes things that go in full circles. The first issue ended in a courthouse and now this, the last issue of the story proper, ends in the courthouse too. Last time, no one knew what was going on and Lucifer’s freedom was at stake. Now, mysteries have come to light, everyone is trying to be open and honest, and it is Laura who’s in danger. Laura seems to facing her sentencing hearing alone, and her crimes are pretty severe. The judge sounds like he’s being reasonable, but this whole story is beyond reason, innit?
Page 23- Pause. Take a breath. Feel it. This is the last image, the last page of the story. Issue #45 is going to be an epilogue, but as we’ll discuss in a second, this is the end of the line for Laura Wilson as we know her. And how is Laura Wilson? She’s ended up in the same place where the love of her life, Luci was. Unlike Luci though, Laura is definitely facing justice for her own crimes. I think that’s not going to sit well for a lot of readers, but Laura’s story has always been about facing the consequences of her choices. When she killed Ananke, she tried to run from that, but you can’t escape the thing you hate when its yourself. When she immersed herself in drugs and booze and sex, she ended up pregnant. That’s when she stopped running. She got an abortion, gave up her divine powers, and started to stare her problems in the face. That’s not a case of “everyone needs to grow up and deal with things head on.” Many people- most people- never learn to do that. Those that do, it’s a heroic act. Laura’s become a hero not for saving the world, or even her friends. I mean she probably did her fair share of that too. But what makes her admirable, what elevates her from protagonist to bona fide hero, is her personal bravery, radical honesty, and her love. Love for her friends, her family, for Eleanor, but most of all for herself.
And how does Laura feel about this? She’s being sentenced, about to be put behind bars for murder, about to be taken away from her loved ones. And she’s… smiling? It’s not a wide grin, it’s a little lopsided Mona Lisa smile. But unlike the famous portrait, I think I know why she’s smiling. It’s the smile of someone who’s stopped running from themselves. It’s accomplishment, self actualization, a person understanding who they’re supposed to be and embracing it.
On the last page of the main story of “The Wicked + The Divine” Laura Wilson stopped performing a part. Finally, she’s learned to just be. And it’s only then that she can be truly happy.
How long is her sentence? Well…
Page 24- Life. Surrounded by skulls. Surrounded by death.