‘The Transubstantiation of Lucifer’ offers a focused look at a piece of a prior pantheon, seeped in Catholic guilt and all the baggage that comes with the era of the bubonic plague. It is not a light issue but when has WicDiv ever been light? Spoilers ahead.
Written by Kieron Gillen
Illustrated by Ryan Kelly
Coloured by Matthew Wilson
Flattened by Dee Cunniffe
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“THE TRANSUBSTANTIATION OF LUCIFER” The final THE WICKED + THE DIVINE historical special plunges into the shadow of life after the Black Death. KIERON GILLEN gets back together with THREE collaborator RYAN KELLY to tell the story of penitent nun Lucifer hearing the confession of penitent murderer Ananke. Yes, everyone will be sorry.
When the name Lucifer is stated, in the context of “the Wicked and the Divine,” there is a certain type of character that is conjured. From the Bowie-esque Luci we meet way back in ‘The Faust Act’ to the ostentatious owner of the isolated island castle of the 1923 pantheon, performance, sin, and rebellion are baked into them. Up until this point, the connection between the Lucifer of the bible and the Lucifers of the pantheon have been tenuous at best, placing more stock in the name value than in their actions. Thus, it is interesting that when we get a Lucifer from a highly Catholic time in a highly Catholic place, not only is she a nun but she still embodies these traits. Props to Gillen for understanding the archetypes he is playing with and for staying true to these characters, even when they are in a different incarnation.
She is rebelling against who she believes she is while at the same time accepting it as fact. Her assertion, “I am Lucifer,” when she arrives at Ananke’s door back before she “became” Lucifer speaks to this. She is not a nun because she feels she cannot be the ultimate sinner; she does it because she knows she is the ultimate sinner and thus, must live a life of penance and suffering in order to find salvation.
She performs the act of repentance, making it a spectacle in front of the flagellants. The same for Ananke’s confession. This may be a function of the fact that this is a story and drama is necessary to make it work, but the push and pull of the conversation cannot be discounted. Lucifer removes Ananke’s knife and just holds it, making no threats until the confession appears to be over, at which point she makes the motions to leave but Ananke hooks her, keeps her there until the confession truly finishes. Until Lucifer, in three gorgeous panels, stares deep into the eyes of Ananke, stabs her hand, and in the subsequent panels force feeds her a piece of her now stigmatized hand like a piece of the eucharist. It makes for an effective story, wherein the character is embracing the same characteristics as other but expressing them in vastly different ways.
All of these themes are tied together by Ryan Kelly and Matt Wilson’s stunning artwork. Every panel is rich with details that evoke the dreary and despondent nature of Europe in the 14th century. His portrayal of Ananke is equal part horrifying and powerful. She sits in her bed, coated in sores and pustules the entire back-half of the issue, clothed in only a bedsheet and malice. Yet she commands the panels, either via her words or through her placement relative to the camera. Part of what makes Kelly’s artwork work so well is his inking and thick outlining. It gives a clear definition to the characters and the backgrounds, sharpening the world as opposed to dulling and muddying it.
While the characters do not emote much — the most noticeable feature of this is that their mouths remain closed or only slightly open for much of the comic — what changes there are in their emotive state never ring false. This stoicism and reservedness is part of the tone of ‘The Transubstantiation of Lucifer’ and as such, enhances the narrative rather than detracting from it. Additionally, the care with which he poses and frames the characters conveys enough of Lucifer and Ananke’s ancillary thoughts; there is never a moment of confusion or an absence of knowledge of that they are feeling or thinking in any given panel.Continued below
It also makes those panels near the end of the issue, where a larger change in expression occurs, all the more impactful. The close up on Ananke’s shit-eating smirk when she tacitly admits to not giving a shit about the suffering she has created, and is thus unrepentant, sends shivers down your spine and Lucifer’s subsequent rage is palpable and all the more earned due to her previously reserved demeanor and actions. It also provides context for why we didn’t start with Ananke’s confession and instead spent 13ish pages walking and suffering with Lucifer. We needed to build her up, find out who she is, and to see her in action. For it is through action that the soul is revealed. And for Lucifer, it is through pain that redemption is found.
Final Score: 8.5 – These specials have been nothing short of fantastic and this is no exception. Stunning artwork and a story that has way more layers than it out to.