Comics, Reviews

They Get to Change You: The Wicked + The Divine #4

Cover - The Wicked + The Divine #4, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Image Comics, 2014The Wicked + The Divine #4
By Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer)
Image Comics
Released September 18, 2014

 

This isn’t really a review. I’m no critic, and I won’t even pretend to be impartial and dispassionate. But I have plenty of thoughts and feelings about this book and why I love it, so here we go.

In Issue #4, we continue meeting new members of the pantheon and get a look inside Woden’s Valhalla, the pantheon’s London retreat. And it does not disappoint. A wall that appears to be near the entrance is covered by a glorious mural of Baal.

 

mural - The Wicked + The Divine #4,  Jamie McKelvie and Nathan Fairbairn, Image Comics, 2014.

Artist Nathan Fairbairn completed the mural over Jamie McKelvie’s pencils.

Baal mostly speechifies as he leads Cassandra and Laura through the corridors of Valhalla. He clarifies that he is Baal Hadad, not Baal Hammon. Evidently, either one – or neither – could have turned up in this cycle, which I find interesting. I trust we’ll learn more about the various incarnations of the pantheon that have appeared in previous cycles as the series continues. (By the way, you may want to check out Carolina Mello’s excellent series of articles delving into the mythology behind the gods of WicDiv.)

Baal is incredibly egomaniacal, but also completely self-aware. It’s not as if he isn’t demonstrably as amazing as he says he is; Laura verifies this for us in her narration while trying desperately to keep a lid on her fangirl crush. He’s fascinating, even if he’s not immediately likable. “I’ve always claimed I’m a god, even before I knew I was one,” he declares. He also explains his view of how the gods can use their power: “We don’t get to change anything. We get to change you, and then you choose what to do with it.” I loved that – it’s a perfect summation of an artist’s true power. But nobody said that power necessarily had to be used for good.

Speaking of that power:

thrones - The Wicked + The Divine #4, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Image Comics, 2014

Woden and his Valkyrie are the Daft Punk-iest, and I love it. Ananke looks like she’s at least 90 years old already, which raises a question: how do the gods choose their vessels? We saw Luci’s origin for this cycle in Issue #3, but it can’t be exactly the same story across the board. And if seeing Luci locked up makes you feel antsy, the conclusion of this issue is quite satisfying. “1-2-3-4.”

One of the main things I love about this series is how deeply and immediately it draws me into its world. It raises so many questions, but it never feels like it’s making a “Checklist of Mysteries” to be solved. Every issue makes me feel a physical sensation of excitement, like a mild electric current. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week since I’ve felt the same about each issue, and I think I’ve figured it out.

Baal said it: “We get to change you, and then you choose what to do with it.” When I was younger, I consumed so much media – books, movies, TV shows, music – always searching for what it could teach me about the world or about myself. If adults tried to keep it from me, that made me want it so much more. What were they hiding? I needed to know! What if that book or movie or record held the answers I needed to understand myself? I approached each one like a vision quest. Occasionally, it paid off wonderfully and it felt like magic, like the work contained a secret about myself so personal that surely, it was made just for me. I could let it in, examine it all, and let it change me if it seemed right. (I’ll be blathering on about that over in the Twin Peaks Log.) Eventually, I solidified into my adult self and that magic feeling became far less frequent. I still loved and was moved by certain works, but it wasn’t quite the same.

The Wicked + The Divine brings back that anticipatory feeling, like the secrets of the universe are about to be revealed. That’s the buzz I get, and of course, it’s partly what the series itself is about. That’s what Laura is feeling in the narrative, though she’s also adorably in tune with the concrete reality of interacting with these sexy, scary, crush-worthy pop star gods. She can get that contact high from standing around their power, and the creative team is great enough at their jobs that I can feel it, too. They’re literally doing the thing they’re portraying. It’s incredibly meta and beautifully earnest and sincere all at the same time. I don’t know that I’ll actually experience some great personal revelation while reading this series, but I’m going to enjoy the sensation of that possibility as much as I possibly can.

I do want to be clear: I’m not suggesting that Gillen, McKelvie, and company are godlike. That would be silly and insulting to a group of creators who have worked long and hard to reach this level of skill. They are extremely talented and working together at the very top of their game. It’s thrilling when someone is so skilled that they make it look like magic, but that skill only comes from a lot of effort. As a fellow non-magical human being, I can only hope to be that great at something someday. It’s downright inspirational, and I’m glad it’s my job to share that joy with others.

Next month will bring Issue #5, the last issue in this first story arc. Presumably, we’ll meet the last two members of the pantheon in that issue. Bring on the new info and new mysteries! I can’t wait.