While “The Wicked and The Divine” #44 is the penultimate issue of this series it acts as the finale by conclusively wrapping up the series as a whole.
Written by Kieron Gillen
Illustrated by Jamie McKelvie
Colored by Matt Wilson
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“OKAY,” Part Five. There’s one “i” in “decide” but two in “deicide.” I’m not sure if that tells you anything, but it sounds pretty enigmatic, right?
Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson depict Laura Wilson, the descended Persephone, dragging Lucifer back to humanity in a reverse of the sequence fans of “The Wicked and The Divine” are well familiar with. The elder Ananke’s face would surround a mortal as they rose to godhood with the words, “You will be loved. You will be hated. You will be brilliant. Within two years, you will be dead.” In “The Wicked and The Divine” #44 Ananke’s face is melted and unrecognizable as Laura clambers down into a fiery hell. Godhood is proven as a hollow lie with Laura’s words “We were loved. Hated. Brilliant. But not dead. Not yet.” With this sequence and the revision of these words, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles bring this story built over the past five years home. “I’ve missed you,” says Laura to Elanor Rigby, the pre-Pantheon persona of Lucifer, to which she responds, “You have no idea who I am.” and Laura underscores what this whole journey was about by saying, “But we will live to find out.”
While “The Wicked and The Divine” #44 is the penultimate issue of this series it acts as the finale by conclusively wrapping up the series as a whole. After five years of buildup comes extremely high stakes for a conclusion and the creative team rises to the challenge. Gillen does not go for a bombastic finale with a major fight or daring action. The emotions of these characters and the finality of their actions give this conclusion weight.
Baal and Minerva/Ananke’s final fates are the only ways those characters could have ended up with their roles in the larger story. Gillen cannot excuse their actions as no character in this series reaches the finish line without having gotten themselves dirty and no one gets to go back home to their life they led before. With every death and tragedy, the series reminds us that godhood has a cost and this penultimate issue continues this theme further.
Gillen foreshadows the end for the remaining depowered pantheon all in the first page with the juxtaposition of one of the former Norns remarking “We get out of this. We’re Free,” and their immediate arrest. For all the good the power of and proximity to godhood can achieve, mortal laws are the inevitable endpoint and structuring factor that they were in the series’ first issue. Gillen’s dialogue for these characters is still incredibly pitch-perfect. These characters’ voices can range from smart and youthful to painfully earnest in the span of a few pages. Gillen’s ability to get at that emotional honesty through this rhythmic dialogue is what has kept readers coming back time and time again to “The Wicked and The Divine.”
If Gillen is the lyricist, then Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson make “The Wicked and The Divine” #44 sing, almost quite literally. Wilson’s colors have created an incredibly distinct visual language to the divinity in the book. The zipitone effect surrounding Lucifer’s fire and Laura’s performance give those effects an unnatural feeling that makes them seem untethered from the realism of that world. McKelvie’s linework is always incredibly clean and his familiarity with these characters through all of these years feeds into their emotional expressions. The reactions following Baal’s final act all make sense for each character and also acts as a visual gasp within the page.
Clayton Cowles’s lettering deserves recognition through his work in the spacing of text boxes of the descent sequence. The echoing of the earlier iterations of this sequencing and the spacing of the “two girls in hell” monologue overcomes the challenge of presenting something familiar in a new way. Designer Sergio Serrano also deserves praise for the traditional black pantheon page on the final page. The one word placed in the center of the skulls of the “dead” pantheon is incredibly simple but in the context of this overall issue is incredibly powerful and hits the point of this series as a whole profoundly.Continued below
The question of “The Wicked and The Divine” is whether it’s worth it to be a god if you die in two years. In “The Wicked and The Divine” #44 we get the answer. No. Godhood, being an icon, is not what people should aspire to. As we all learned through the Pantheon, we all have gifts of our own that take work to master but we have a life to learn through them. As readers we saw ourselves in Laura at the very beginning, tempted by godhood and recognition. Through Laura’s turn as Persephone, we got to live vicariously through the ascended fangirl and after seeing that godhood is a lie we know better. Today young people everywhere are caught in the same perplexing question. Everything is on fire and we are all going to die anyway so why not be “somebody” for two years and damn the consequences. “The Wicked and The Divine” #44 proves that lifestyle is not sustainable and seeking divinity means seeking doom and to let go of that quest is to embrace life.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – “The Wicked and The Divine” #44 is far from a happy ending but it is a satisfying one.