Once again we return! Welcome back to “Wicked Intervention” your page by page deep dive into “The Wicked + The Divine.” Only a few issues left now, but join me in my deep analysis of every page and image in every issue of ‘Okay.’
Cover: Cool throwback to that first set of headshots. Wait… headshot? Well that word takes on a macabre new meaning when it comes to Mimir. And it’s a pun? Goddamnit, we know who to blame for this Kieron.
Recap page: While the technical details don’t get resolved by the end of this issue we do get this helpful note: Laura gave up her divinity, still has powers. “Huh?” the recap lampshades. We’ll take that as an assurance that the creators know that’s weird and they at least know what’s going on.
Page 1: It is so hard to see Baal comfort his siblings for the loss of their mom- because he’s responsible! The middle bottom panel continues McKelvie’s masterful work in capturing Baal’s inner turmoil. His face is stone cold, but you can just feel him screaming from behind the facade.
This is the only page we spend with the three “villains” this issue. And that’s fine. There is so much stunning comic in this comic and we’ve gotta get going!
Page 2: The Difficult Sophomore Album. A concept that obsesses music journalists. Recently there’s been a push to prove that Difficult Sophomore Album Syndrome (DSAS) exists by using data and Metacritic and such. I don’t know who exactly in the comic is on their second album though. Ananke is on her 6000th. Probably Laura Wilson? This is more like her third album though. She’s been reborn twice in the series so far. By the end of the issue, a number of characters get a second lease on life. I guess the ambiguity is further proof that DSAS is bullshit.
Page 3: This jailbreak sequence is the only part of the issue that takes place in the “real world” before descending into the Underground. The bursts of Valkyrie light do a great job at setting the unique WicDiv tone. Here’s a real building, assaulted by technicolor neon magic.
Page 4: McKelvie crushes it as usual, so let’s talk about Matt Wilson and Clayton Cowles. I can’t imagine what the script said, but the art team needed to convey Laura’s diminished powers in a single panel. The whole team works together and again proves that WicDiv is operating on a technical level above most other comics. The empty word balloon filled with purple static- try to picture what that would look like in a movie. Not nearly as effective as this image. It’s not flashy, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, but that word balloon is some serious design and does real narrative heavy lifting.
Page 5: “Laura Fucking Wilson!” Cassandra cries out. The tone of her voice is irrelevant. The two of them have found their weird groove. And together, they are probably unstoppable.
Laura’s “Uh huh” is a little thing, but one filled meaning. Her life hasn’t calmed down. If anything, it’s only amped up the crazy. But she’s returned to the wants-to-prove-how-casually-she-doesn’t-care Laura Wilson we first met 40 issues ago and I missed her. But more than that, the heightened circumstances show some real growth. She can be true to herself, even while magically springing her friends from laser jail.
Page 6: Before you have time to process your excitement at mecha-Mimir, we get to maybe the biggest moment in the series.
Looking back, there are lots of worthy contenders for favorite part of WicDiv but way back when it started, most everybody stayed for one reason. Lucifer was a wonderful character and her relationship with Laura was the soul of the book. So of course she gets ripped away from us by the end of the first arc and leaves us lost without compass. When we learned she was still around as a severed head, all of the gravity of the series focused in on her reunion with Laura. And here it is, almost off-handedly at the bottom of page 6. The world doesn’t stop. No one is singing. It’s almost a disappointment. Then again, finding your friend as an abused severed head is probably something of a disappointment too. It’s shocking, and takes your breath away.Continued below
Page 7: I can only imagine how much thought went into getting the rhythm of these panels just right. Luci’s wink amid all these horror is why we love her, and why Laura loves her. Giving us the page turn to let us ponder how terrible things have gotten and a long panel for Laura to panic makes her wink perfectly disarming. Luci’s transition back into the book is effortlessly cool.
Page 8: BOOM! Some version of the script probably had a big fight scene here, but it’s unnecessary and wise that they skipped it. Cassandra is pissed and ready to explode some Valkyries. At this point, the only person who has more beef with Woden is Mimir, and he’s just a severed head. The half-page magical explosion, and its aftermath are another tour de force in light and color from Matt Wilson. Wilson colors a LOT of comics and always does great work, but I’m confident in saying that WicDiv is the all-time greatest showcase of his talents.
Page 9: Again, such good visual storytelling. We don’t really know the minutia of the superpowers here, but the Norns are flying and carrying Laura with magical energy whips. That seems sorta in their wheelhouse yeah? In the background, the purple lightning bolts make me thing Baal just showed up and he’s pissed.
The broken gate at Kennington Station also tells a complicated action beat with just a quick image.
And then Luci finally gets to speak-
Page 10: You’ve got to be impressed with how easily Gillen slips back into Luci’s voice. “The pissy little streak of piss is Ananke,” is quintessential Luci.
There’s a lot of beats flying by real fast, but we get a quiet moment for Laura to realize that Sakhmet is really most sincerely dead. It’s heavy but none of us, characters or readers, can sit with these feelings.
Page 11: I’ve never had my lips stitched shut, but it’s been a legitimate fear of mine since seeing freaking Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus as a youth, so Tara reminding us that that shit hurts… makes me deeply uncomfortable. And impressed? Despite the agony, Luci found time for a sexy wink and then to warn Laura about Minerva/Ananke. Do you know how hard it is to make a wink sexy without needs stuck through your lips?
Then we get another heartbreaking beat where Inanna, kindly, slutty Inanna, reveals what he really cares about most in this world, and that’s Baal. It’s a flooring display of genuine deep love, but we again don’t have time for feelings because Laura is gonna get everyone new bodies. Wait, what?
Page 12: Oh no, not everyone. Luci, Inanna, Tara, and Mimir… one of them will have to remain a head. That’s when Tara, the god with the smallest presence in the series reminds us how deeply affecting her story is. “My body has been nothing but a horrorshow,” she says, “I can live without it.” I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt that way, but I definitely know people have. If you think about it, I guarantee that you do too. “I’m so sorry,” Inanna says, “it must be so terrible to feel like that.” Not only is that a wonderful beat reminding us of Inanna’s deep, radical kindness but it helps build a bridge of empathy for the reader (especially, I’d imagine, for male readers). Learn from Inanna and team WicDiv. If your friend feels shitty, even if their experience runs completely counter to your entire understanding to the world, make them feel heard and supported. Inanna is a good boy.
Page 13: I Hear You Calling. Canadian punk band Gob has this to say: “I hear you calling, calling for me out in the night/But it’s all bad and I know that/I hear you calling, calling for me out in the night/ But it’s all bad and I know that.”Continued below
Page 14: There’s a brief panel for the transition into Baphomet’s domain, but otherwise this is a two-page spread. This half of the spread is shrouded in mysterious shadows, acting as the set-up.
Page 15: And then there’s so much in the delivery that it’s almost overwhelming. Baphomet has been processing his grief by building a vast goth cathedral, preserving the three dead bodies of his girlfriend and levitating them at the alter. He’s also gone from cool young goth to sad, weird, latter-day Nick Cave. No longer are we in the tongue-in-cheek Murder Ballads era, we’ve moved into the more folksy and ponderous collaborations with Warren Ellis (sadly no, not that Warren Ellis). Short hair, neat suit, crushed soul.
Page 16: Let’s talk 9-panel grids. The good people over at the superhero Distinguished Competition are deep in a love affair with the dark comics of the 80s, and have been using 9-panel grids more than not. But why use them at all? There are lots of different motivations to do a page layout like this: the symmetry allows the artist to make and break patterns that are easy for the readers to catch and the simplicity of the design allows the team (and the reader!) to really zero in on the small details. Compare for example on this page, panels 1 and 3, panel 6, and panel 9. 1 and 3 are nearly identical. Baph looks shocked, grief-stricken, and lost, the only major different being that he’s snapping in panel 3. He’s snapping again in panel 6, but now he looks forlorn, with the dawning realization that he’s trapping himself in a sick, tragic limbo. Finally by panel 9, he’s defiant. He knows he’s setting himself up for misery, and he’s convinced he deserves it.
Also I love Ladyhawk and obviously Baphomet does too. Fucking goth-ass nerd.
Page 17: Now Laura joins the grid, in one of the most heartbreaking pages in an issue that’s filled with them. She also puts a fine point on the Baphomet/Morrigan romance and says some shit that’s needed to be said. “She as good as murdered you by making you a god. She actually murdered you when you tried to leave her. All she ever did was kill the person you were.” This brings the whole goth romance story to a head, and proves why we’re lucky to have Gillen, McKelvie, and the gang telling it.
Because Baph/Morri does have a wonderful goth appeal. He cheated on her. She got miraculous powers that came with a death sentence. She punished him by giving him the same powers. Now they could be stuck together and tragically die together; the goth fantasy. But it’s just that- a fantasy, and Marian the LARPer sometimes took her fantasies a little far. The story never pretended that the doomed lovers thing was devoid of romance, but in the end stridently asserts that playing out those sorts of fantasies is bad. Wonderful deconstructive storytelling. But also wonderful reconstructive storytelling.
Also, Baphomet delivering the arc title on the last panel will freeze your heart and pulverize your guts and stomp on your spleen.
Page 18: Another page that effectively uses 9-panel grid geometry. The most amazing part is juxtaposing the three parts of The Morrigan with three faces of Baphomet. He sees Badb and he’s just sad, thinking about how shitty their relationship could be. Then he looks at Anand (Morrigan Prime) who looks the most like Marian. She takes his breath away as he remembers the good times and thinks about how beautiful and powerful she could be. Then he sees gentle Annie and whispers, “I’m sorry.”
GOOD. COMIC BOOK. STORYTELLING.
Page 19: New page, new grid, same deal. Baph looks almost angry (justifiably so!) as he puts a final end to Badb. He smiles as he ends Annie- she was the funny one. But as he snaps away Marian’s existence, he’s sad again. GOOD. COMIC BOOK. STORYTELLING.Continued below
Page 20: Holy shit. There’s probably someone more qualified to get into the psycho-sexual aspects of this body-mashing thing, but Lucifer-Morrigan (Lucigan?) and Inanna-Morrigan (Inanagan?) are deeply sexy. WicDiv has been filled with shows of power and miracles, but nothing has felt more miraculous than this. Three deserving people given a second chance at life. Two tormented goths finding power in death. And Inanna rocking a torn mesh shirt. Like, that shit is WicDiv in a nutshell, right?
Page 21: Real quick: it’s small, but Inanna hugging Baphomet in the background is excellent and important. One dude gives great hugs, one dude needs a hug more than anyone has ever needed a hug.
More importantly though is Cassandra’s trust for Laura. Even Lucifer, who loves Laura and has trusted her before is feeling wary and abused. So when the most cynical character in the series says that she is ready to follow Laura “and if I am, all of you fucks should be too,” everyone shuts up and turns to Laura Fucking Wilson. You can feel the crescendo of the rising action. We just witnessed a tragedy, then a miracle, and now Luci, Laura, all the characters, and the reader is ready “for fucking someone up.” And maybe try to redeem Baal in the process.
Page 22: This is gonna be lit!
Page 23: You’ve known since the beginning that design nerds like Gillen and McKelvie were gonna mess around with this wheel for maximum impact. That still doesn’t take away from the shock and triumph and seeing Lucifer and Inanna blaze back into full, colorful life. They still got 98 problems, but lacking bodies ain’t one. For a second, I really believe that everything might be okay. And that scares me more than anything.