Once again we return, one last time. Welcome back to “Wicked Intervention” your page by page deep dive into “The Wicked + The Divine.”And this is truly the end of the road. The last issue. We’re done. I have to imagine if you’re reading a detailed breakdown of the final issue of a series well… I’m thinking that this is as emotional for you as it’s been for me. I’m right there with you, and I know you’re here with me. The series is over, but together I think it’s gonna be ‘Okay.’
Cover: When they originally teased the mystery cover for the final issue, my mind went to some pretty weird places. Would the final headshot be someone we recognized? Would it somehow be a mirror? Would it be someone dead? Well, the biggest twist of all is that it is someone alive. Laura Wilson started the series as a kid, she never thought she’d live past her twenties, and now here she is, having lived a rich life.
Recap: I love this issue, but this is the one page that brings up some things that didn’t sit well with me. Ananke’s plan was sweeping, deliberate, and executed over millennia. But there were so many twists and turns and red herrings that it can be a little hard to piece together, well, a coherent narrative. This page sort of acknowledges that. It opens with the premise of the series, one we’ve all repeated hundreds of times, and then simply dismisses it as “lies.” The future isn’t inevitable, nothing happens because of necessity. The only certain thing is that people will live, until they don’t.
Page 1: 40 years later, Laura Wilson rides in a driverless car, alone. If my math is right, she is 61 years old. The way Jamie ages her is incredible, channeling all his talent for trendy young fashion into something old and sophisticated. That feels like a metaphor for how far he’s come as an artist. “Phonogram” is a beautiful comic, and character design has always been Jamie’s strength, but in this issue, he consistently does his best work. I can’t think of another comic where he’s had to design so many old people, and the fact that we knew them as young people gives enormous narrative weight to everything that’s familiar and everything that is different.
Another strength of this issue is the use of ambiguity. What sort of future is this? What’s technology like? How about society? Does England still exist? Has it sunk into the sea? We get our first hints by seeing what Laura’s vehicle looks like: very different from anything in 2015. We also see things that are the same: Valhalla is still standing.
Page 2: We see sexagenarian Eleanor (Lucifer) and she looks fabulous. That’s the great thing about glam style, it’s timeless, ageless. We learn a couple of key facts on this page. The first is that Valhalla has become a museum and park, looking back at the pantheon and the recurrence. And that Laura and Eleanor did not end up together. Immediately, this bombshell cues us in to how this issue is going to precede. These characters didn’t land in stasis when we left them last issue. That’s the point. They didn’t die. They got to live. And living means that those 40 years are full of story, things that will only be implied over the next dozen and a half pages before our imaginations are going to have to fill in the rest.
Page 3: The first two panels look almost identical, giving you a beat to react to where everyone is. The all-black outfits hinted at a funeral, but now we can see, it’s the funeral of Cassandra Igarashi. On my copy, the program is blurry; I had to squint to read it. Not sure if that’s intentional or just my copy. Despite appearances, the two panels are not totally identical (right?). Eleanor’s smile shrinks just so, and the lines in her face grow a little deeper.Continued below
It hasn’t been stated outright, but it is becoming clear that Laura and Cassandra had a special relationship. The way Eleanor apologizes to Laura, the way Laura is framed alone in the car. The foreshadowing is maddeningly clear: these two ended up together as a couple.
Page 4: “In Memoriam, 16 July 2055.” A funeral is where we remember a person’s life. This issue is where we remember the life of this series. For some of us, this series was a very important part of our lives. For all of the creators, it was an extremely important part of their lives. This issue is a funeral for the people we all were for the last five years, as we all become someone new.
Page 5: Valhalla is beautiful. Woden’s harsh Tron sensibilities have been softened a bit. The walls are still sterile, but Matt colors them in soft grays instead of harsh whites. They stand out strongly against the beautifully textured grass of the park. Laura crosses the grass to greet another old friend, Zahid (Innana). Notably, Laura uses neutral pronouns for the person who once was a boy and a goddess at the same time. Zahid has also lived 40 years of story.
Page 6: And yo, Zahid’s lipstick game is on point. They’re definitely older, maybe a little jowly, but they look fine as hell. Laura and Zahid have such a casual report that I can’t help but smile. This isn’t a reunion between old friends who haven’t talked in years. This is the comfortable interaction of old friends who have kept in touch, who have continued to share so much. The way they talk about Jon (Mimir) makes it clear that they all continued to be there for each other. This is also the page where it is definitively confirmed, Cassandra was Laura’s wife.
Page 7: Baal (Valentine) is immortalized in that stupid mural. Great face work from Jamie here, as Zahid relives their heartbreak and anger over Valentine’s decision to kill Ananke and himself. You can feel that Zahid has done a lot of healing over the 40 years, but trauma isn’t something you get rid of. You just learn to live with it. And Zahid is a lovely and loving person, I’m sure they loved again, but they never stopped loving Valentine. There’s getting over it and there’s getting over it. Zahid only managed to do one of those things.
Page 8: Their conversation continues to be so heartbreaking. All of the pantheon survivors have spent a lot of time thinking about the ones they’ve lost. Laura and Cassandra spent a lot of time thinking about Valentine’s sense of morality and justice. Zahid spent a lot of time thinking about him naked. But then Laura asks how often Zahid thinks about Valentine. “Every time it rains,” they answer. Holy shit. Cameron would have been proud. None more goth.
Page 9: Wow! We meet up with the most mundane and most outlandish members of the pantheon survivors: Jon and Aruna (Tara). I say mundane, because Jon has grown up to be a slight, balding man and I say outlandish because Aruna is an elegant head on a robot body made of twisting tubes. I’m really quite moved. Whatever combination of self-hatred and dysmorphia she was dealing with, Aruna got an artisinal body that made her feel like herself. That’s really the dream. Based on her report with Jon, they clearly have grown close. They bicker like a married couple. And Jon is still so eager to please, in this case, eager to please someone who’s not even alive. He just wants to do right by Cassandra because that’s who Jon is, a kindhearted, pathological people-pleaser. He’s like the giving tree of humans.
Page 10: The funeral room is beautiful, perfectly in line with the sweeping clean lines of the rest of the facility, and with a tree to represent the nature that’s been allowed to overtake it. In the background we see figures who we will soon discover are Umar (Dionysus), Meredith and Zoe (the Norns). There’s also a floating robot serving drinks. The robot’s head calls back to Woden’s helmet, but the rest of the design is a dead ringer for Unit, an antagonist that appeared in Kieron Gillen’s “S.W.O.R.D.” series and later in his “X-Men.” I wonder who’s idea it was to call back on that design.
“She was… hard to love,” Laura admits of her late wife. “You found a way though,” Eleanor says earnestly, “well done.” While not exactly the strongest theme of the series, that sentiment totally captures its ethos. Loving is a hard thing to do for some people. Being loved is hard for some people. Everyone deserves love. The people who manage to work hard at loving difficult people are brave. Heroic even. That’s why we all respect Laura. She managed to love each and every one of these difficult, wonderful people.
Page 11: I always felt like I had missed the scene where we find out the names of the other two Norns, but upon investigation, this is the first time they are named on page. That really captures the series’ sensibilities, often holding back information for the sake of mysteriousness, and trusting the reader to figure out what they needed to know. It’s a feeling that was often infuriating, but did a lot to make the mechanical movement of the plot feel sensual. The story isn’t something you know, it’s something you feel.
Zoe and Meredith feel like they are on the outside of the core group, and who can blame them? Their situation was weird and ambiguous. The simplest part of their lives was their queer BDSM polyamorous relationship. Once you start factoring in the magical hive mind stuff, it gets pretty weird. And while everyone else was having melodramatic freakouts, these two were enjoying coffee and each others company. Even 40 years later, they don’t know if they are part of the group. “You were always us,” Laura assures them. That can mean a lot of things, but it feels right.
Page 12: We see Umar’s face and damn, dude is a stone cold silver fox. Easily the best aged of the bunch. He’s been bald since he was a teenager, but the big beard and old man eyebrows are working for him. He looks so debonair in his funeral blacks, but true to character he has a tiny happy face button on his lapel. Even a funeral, Umar wants people to remember that it’s OK to smile. And he’s so wise, even beyond the dope-ass wizard beard. He sincerely apologizes to Laura for not being there when Cassandra passed, even though Laura was out of the room when it happened. And he’s got some experience with traumatic hospital rooms, he’s just the sort of strong, friendly, intelligent friend you want to see in trying times. I also spot a wedding ring on his finger. This wonderful, powerful, compassionate, asexual man got married! Someone is so lucky.
Page 13: You can see the cracks though. Umar is “not happily anything.” When Laura asks him if he’s okay, he kind of goes into a little tailspin. But he is. In his writer’s notes for issue #44, Kieron mentioned how difficult the nuances of the word ‘okay’ are. It has connotations of neutrality, but also somehow optimism. Happy is a tough concept for Umar. He’s so empathetic, and been through so much. He’s thinking of his friend Cameron who gave his life so Umar could live. I don’t know if Umar is ever going to live in a lasting state one could describe as “happy.” But I would venture that he is, and will continue to be, okay. Hey, that’s the name of the story!
Page 14: “Coda, 16 July 2055.” We spent the first section of the issue with our cast of characters, remembering past lives that we are never going to see. Now that we’ve reached the funeral proper, it’s time for a coda, a final statement on the story, themes, and characters of “The Wicked + The Divine.”Continued below
Page 15: “At first I hated her,” Laura admits, confirming something that I think most people suspected for the whole run of the series. But then they were best friends, a transition we got to see happen on the page. Then they became something else, and that’s something that will have to live on in our imagination. But obviously a goth genius like Cassandra planned the hell out of her funeral and used it to clown on all her loved ones one last time. A true critic.
Page 16: That was a fabulous intro Laura, but Cassandra is delivering her own eulogy via hologram. Classic Cassandra.
I wonder how the WicDiv team feels that the ending of the highest grossing movie of all time stole their idea a few mere months before they got to. Whatever, it’s way better here. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Avengers 3000, but I love WicDiv 5000. At least.
Page 17: This is a classic structure for an ending. After some gentle teasing, Cassandra goes through each and every cast member with a special message. They are about her relationships with every character, but they are also about our relationships with every character.
We start with Aruna, and the second pun about her head made in this issue. Aruna remained a performer and Cassnadra eventually became a fan. She calls Aruna “a constant inspiration.” Kieron started his career as a critic, and you can’t help but feel like this is about his feelings towards his greatest inspirations. Jon is acknowledged for his hard work and how much he’s given to the world. This continues the heavy implications that he built Aruna’s robot body, and I’d go so far to say that he’s been an important inventor to the world at large. Even after their status as gods was removed from them, Aruna and Jon continued to shape the world with their gifts.
Page 18: Next is Zahid. Cassandra points out that between issues #1-44, the two of them hardly interacted at all. Now she considers them to be one of their closest friends. This is again, decades of story we’re never going to see on the page, but that I vividly see in my mind. Cassandra doesn’t have kind words for Eleanor exactly, but the sort of paradoxical wordplay that she loves. “Nobody did worse better than you,” she says. Eleanor looks uncomfortable. I wonder if she’s grown so far past her Lucifer persona that calling back to it is painful.
For Umar though the praise is effervescent. Cassandra claims she’s going to hit him with some brutal honesty, and then she does: “You were the best person I ever met.” To Meredith and Zoe though, her compliments are even more meaningful. “You left me speechless,” she says. And the core of Cassandra’s identity was always having something to say. But understandably, to the loves of her young life, she’s at a loss.
It’s an incredible economy of comic book storytelling. The page is an 8-panel grid, cutting from each friend to Cassandra’s hologram. Each reverse-eulogy is done in two panels. The characters, their faces, their reactions, the writing, is all incredibly tight. It has to be. There’s not much space left in the issue.
Page 19: Laura seems like she’s going to get her own page. “You were never my type,” Cassandra’s hologram says to her wife, “Until you were.” But that’s all there is to say on the subject. Because then Cassandra turns to her shared experiences with this group of people and really, that’s obviously what brought them all together. If they hadn’t become gods, it’s likely none of them would have been friends.
Cassandra has powerful words, words that sound like they have a long lifetime of experience behind them. She acknowledges the flaws of their departed friends. “A better world would have caught them before they fell,” she says, and she’s talking about all of them, but most especially Valentine and Ananke, who literally fell. The kind of world Cassandra, the rest of the characters, and the creative team wants to see is one where people aren’t doomed by their mistakes. Where certain random parts of one person’s identity free them from consequences, while others are doomed from the moment they’re born.Continued below
She then mentions Ananke by name for the first time in the issue. Not only that, she refers to “people who think like her.” This far into their lives, Ananke isn’t one individual; she’s a vampire. She’s the kind of person who selfishly consumes lives, thinking that if only she had more time, she could escape from all consequences. And Cassandra gets that. I mean who doesn’t? It was never about immortality or fear of dying for Ananke, not really. It was about getting free from consequences. About undoing mistakes. About maybe one day being happy. But as Umar showed us earlier in the issue, happiness isn’t really something we can pursue. But maybe we can make our lives okay.
Page 20: Cassandra’s final words are a meditation on youth, but not in the traditional sense. For all of these people, people young was about wanting to burn it down. Maybe they wanted to burn themselves out in a torrent of pleasure, or burn down the people who had wronged them, or burn down the whole world. “We spent two years thinking we were matches,” Cassandra says. But to her, growing up is about the moment you get past that, and think about the slow process of growing something. “We end up as acorns.”
I think it’s notable that there’s no sign that any of these people ever had children. It’s possible some of them did, but there’s zero evidence of it. I point that out because I think it makes Cassandra’s words about acorns even more powerful. Aruna helped people grow by inspiring them. Jon made the world a better place with his inventions. Zahid loved people so much, it helped them grow. Eleanor challenged people, pushed them to face what they would rather not. Umar was a rock, supporting anyone who ever needed him. Meredith and Zoe were never pushy, but always welcoming. And Laura worked her hardest to love everyone, even when it was hard. All of them changed the world, whether on a large scale or a small one. All of them helped grow something. All of them did their best to make things more okay. And none of them created new people. That’s not the only way to bring life into the world.
Holo-Cassandra’s last words are a quote, said by the person who traumatized them all. “I love you. I love you all. I’ll miss you.”
Page 21: Aruna sings, and her robot body allows her to transcend what she would have been able to do with the body she was born with. She’s got four freaking hands! Everyone hugs. Eleanor and Laura hug. I’m so happy they can be here for each other.
Page 22: There’s writing on this penultimate page, but the most powerful image is of friends embracing. I’m blown away by these drawings. If you’ve ever been to a funeral, maybe you know about that moment that happens at the end, when everyone remembers that they are there for each other, and that they are not alone. It’s incredibly life affirming, and the looks on the faces of Laura, Umar, Zahid, Meredith, Zoe, and Eleanor evoke that feeling like I’m there with them. Laura looks up at the sun and though you can’t see her face, you don’t have to. You know she’s sad, and happy, part of her just died, but not all of her. She’s gonna be okay.
Page 23: Laura turns to us, the reader, for her final words. She looks so old, but her expressions haven’t changed a bit. She goes completely metatextual, and asks us to finish the story. She’s killing the authors, once and for all giving every person full permission to interpret “The Wicked + The Divine” in any way we want. She gives us one last four count, because what’s pop music without a four count?
“The future?” she says. “The future is a-” and then she snaps, one final time.Continued below
Page 24: A white page. Time to feel all your feelings.
Page 25: Another white page. You’ve still probably got feelings you need to process.
Page 26: Another white page. Maybe do some thinking. It was a good series, and there’s lots of good stuff to think about.
Page 27: Another white page. This series was everything for me. It really helped define an important era in my life. A lot changed for me.
Page 28: Another white page. But any era of your life is going to be marked by a lot of change.
Page 29: Another white page. The series is over. It’s really over. There’s never going to be any more. But also, it’s not really done. It’s dead, which means there’s no more story, but that also means that we can always go back and experience the story again. It will never be different. But it always will be there.
I want to take a quick moment to thank the whole WicDiv fandom, the people I know, the people I don’t, and the people who created the series (you guys are fans too!). Experiencing this comic series was a transcendent experience, full of grief and wonder. I’m sure there will be more series in the future that will move us just as deeply. Maybe we’ll meet up again one day over a new shared obsession. Maybe we’ll go off in different directions. Either way, we’ll always share this experience, and it was important to me. I think we’ll get over it. But in another way, I don’t think we ever will. But that’s okay.