The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 7
Clayton Cowles (letterer), Dee Cunniffe (flatter), Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Sergio Serrano (designer), Chrissy Williams (editor), Matthew Wilson (colourist)
9 October 2018
As we move closer and closer to the finale of The Wicked + The Divine, the “Mothering Invention“ arc throws in revelation after revelation. The Wicked + The Divine has always twisted away from a predictable narrative. Just as the reader thinks they understand what is happening, the plot shifts, revealing a deeper layer to the mystery. Volume 7 continues this, consistently keeping the reader off-balance. Honestly, that could have become exhausting. However, thanks to some well-timed (if possibly frustrating) pauses, “Mothering Invention“ manages to dodge exposition dumps and information overload.
The Wicked + The Divine is not a series you can just pick up midway through, and that’s especially true of this volume. Despite the brief character bios at the start (with an appropriate “WTF?” thrown in for one particular god), too much has happened for new readers to jump in at this point. If you’re new to this series, be warned that there be (mild) spoilers for the plot so far.
After the tragic loss of yet more gods in volume 6, the Pantheon is looking a bit sparse. Wōden’s sudden yet inevitable betrayal has thrown everything into disarray, but it is Minerva’s confession in volume 6 that dominates “Mothering Invention.” The arc moves backwards and forwards in time, peppering answers from the past throughout the chaos of the present.
These slivers of backstory feed us truths and maybe some misinformation. Readers finally get to see how this all began, but it’s clear that Gillen isn’t completely showing his hand yet. The series is gearing up to its big climax, and this volume feels like a slight calm before the storm. That isn’t too say that “Mothering Invention” is uneventful; far from it. Along the way, we also gain much-needed context to several key incidents, dramatically changing the meaning of what has previously happened.
Amongst all this is Laura Wilson, or Persephone, struggling to understand what and who she really is. She has been our guide through most of this series, from fan to incarnation of destruction. Seeing Laura/Persephone get what she always wanted, and then not knowing what to do with it, feels keenly relatable and human.
She has been one of the strengths of this series, allowing readers to connect with a sense of determination in a narrative that has always had an underlying sense of bleakness. I would hesitate to say Laura represents hope in the face of despair as her choices in volume 7 are more based in practical realities than a sense of optimism. She has her own secrets to discover and reveal, connected in part to the origins of the cycle.
Interestingly, for a series focused on gods and music, the latter has featured less and less as the plot has progressed. Before, the performances of the gods were a way for them to connect with ordinary people. In these collected issues, we don’t see any performances. Fans mention Dio’s last rave, but that’s all. This seems fitting as the remaining members of the Pantheon begin to disconnect from humanity as well as each other.
I mentioned the revelations within “Mothering Invention“ had the potential to be exhausting. That’s not because they’re boring or irrelevant. There’s just a lot of them. Issue by issue, spaced out over months, this may not have been a problem. However, reading the volume as a collected arc, the plot could have overwhelmed the reader, who has to quickly process, reassess and piece together new information. Yet, the tempo doesn’t speed up too fast, and there are lulls to allow the reader to catch their breath and reflect. Part of this comes down to Gillen and McKelvie making some bold creative choices with two very different sets of panel pages in different issues.
The first (in issue 36) depicts the same scene, spanning nearly 6,000 years to emphasise an endless cycle, repeated in six panels over 11 pages. The notes towards the back of the volume explain that a historical fashion researcher was hired to “do the groundwork” on the clothing and it was well worth it. The pages are visually arresting, especially if you realise how much effort must have gone into identifying and drawing different clothing throughout these eras. Hopefully, readers will also appreciate the time it must have taken to come up with multiple different variants of the same event as the actions and outcomes of each scene sometimes changed. This attention to detail ensures that the reader is drawn back, allowing them to pause before moving ahead.
A second set of panels, this time nine panel pages in issue #37, is even bolder, or maybe more exasperating. This next set highlights a length of time, and the sense of waiting, by repeating a panel over and over. It does the job, but I can imagine that some may have found 10 pages (90 panels!) filled with the exact same thing to be more frustrating if they read it as the issues came out individually. It feels like that was the point; you can’t fault The Wicked + The Divine for effectively communicating a character’s motivation, especially as this is balanced with a great deal of action and upsets in the rest of the issue.
McKelvie’s art is a delight once more, conveying Gillen’s script effectively. It’s a joy to see McKelvie portray characters’ emotions, be they the open-mouthed shock of one character to the subtle, weary acceptance of another. Alongside this, action sequences spark. One in particular stands out as McKelvie manages to weave flashes of pathos through a brutal and bloody battle. Panels of the present violence seem torn apart, beneath which the reader can glimpse a more optimistic and loving past. The emotional depth this gives the fight heightens the tragedy of the situation, haunting the reader for some time after.
Wilson’s colouring, as always, brings scenes to life, be it the neon glows of Wōden’s technology or the hazy desserts of the past. Of note are the scenes set in the underground, especially the way that Wilson shows the gods of the underworld merging with the darkness. Cowles’s lettering once more emphasises the different voices and tones of the gods’ speech. Combined with Wilson’s attention to body language in the case of Wōden, a faceless character, this is particularly impressive.
“Mothering Invention“ focuses on how things begin and how they (often violently) fall apart, and that there isn’t always a way to repair them. Though “Mothering Invention“ could have been an info dump, Gillen sprinkles morsels of backstory throughout the arc, ensuring that the reader slowly discovers new layers to the plot and the characters. However, with a final panel that raises even more questions, it’s clear that The Wicked + The Divine has still more surprises in store as it builds, inevitably, towards its final performance.