Alex: Every Wednesday on Twitter, I pick a comics issue that caught my eye and do an illustrated thread of little observations and stuff I enjoyed about it. It’s called #oneweekonecomic, and I’m collating each thread into its own blog post.
Except this week, I broke the rules. My pick is Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie/Matt Wilson/Clayton Cowles’ THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #42, and the stuff I want to talk about is so spoilerific I can’t risk it wandering into someone’s timeline by accident. So we’re jumping straight to the blog post.
(I’ve actually got so much to say about this issue, I’ve already written a blog post about it over on TWATD. Why not double your pleasure and get it open in a tab now?)
Yeah, particularly hardcore spoilers follow beneath the cut.
Let’s start with the cover. The bloodied face of the Valkyrie sets up a mystery, recalling Baphomet on #10 – just whose blood is going to be shed within these pages?
But I think it also answers a question that’s established inside: does Minanke just switch who’s mind-controlling the Valkyries, or is killing Woden their long-overdue revenge? Given the blank expression on the face, with no satisfaction or horror, I think it’s clear the poor Valkyries have once again had their agency stolen away.
Speaking of Woden’s death… I’m not sure we’ve ever seen McKelvie do quite such direct horror as he does (repeatedly) in this issue. He’s great at it, which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point?
Particularly interesting is how he can just turn it on and off, even with similar imagery. Compare and contrast with this image of the Creature’s demise, which is conceptually horrifying, but is visually played as kind of a cool moment – badasses walking away from an explosion – I guess because it’s a welcome end for her?
We don’t properly see Woden’s face as he dies, despite offering to give up his god suit. In an issue that’s all about staring into people’s eyes, that feels notable.
Also worth noting: mythologically speaking, Dionysus is the god torn apart by his followers (which we got a little of in #32), but here it’s inverted. Woden gets torn apart by his enforced Maenads, and Dionysus is revived.
(EDIT: Headfullofplasma over on Tumblr rightly points out that I’m misremembering The Bacchae by Euripides. It is in fact Dionysus’ cousin, King Pentheus of Thebes, who gets tore up from the floor up. Dionysus drives the Maenads (aka Bacchae) mad using his godly powers.
That actually makes for a more interesting parallel with what Woden does to Dio, and what happens to them both this issue, assigning different parts of the Dionysus/Pentheus role to each of them.)
At first, I didn’t get the final interstitial. I googled the reference, I wondered if it was a typo of the Lord’s Prayer… but once I realised it’s one half of a two-part sentence: wow, that perfectly encapsulated one of the key messages of WicDiv, and of Gillen/McKelvie’s work in general.
I love how WicDiv makes use of phones and texting. They’re an inevitable part of any story set in the 2010s, but in comics specifically, they’re such an efficient way of conveying information. Because you can squeeze so much text into a single panel, that would overwhelm normal word balloons – but, also, all the other detail.
Like all of Baal’s missed calls from his mum. Or the phones each character uses: Baal an iPhone, natch. Mimir some kind of homebrew NGage-meets-graphical-calculator device. Woden on his own OS, using runic keys because of course it does, the prick. Those are character beats, and they’re just the wrapper for the actual information.
Then there’s this sequence, which is the exact opposite of that efficiency:
The same two panels, repeated and zoomed in three times. Neither image is exactly packed with detail – you’ve got the static phone screen and the faceless void of Woden’s helmet – so it’s purely there for pacing. The slow build to the big moment. Albeit, probably not quite the one you expect.
The blank of Woden’s face is all the more notable because McKelvie is on all-time form with the expressions this issue. There are a lot to pick from, but for me this pairing – seeing the hurt Cass has unthinkingly caused, and then seeing her realise it – is the pick of the bunch.
Laura is explicitly positioned as a manipulator here – placing her as a mirror to Minerva/Ananke, but also to the narrator of another Gillen comic: Ash from Die. It might not only be the characters she’s manipulating: her “How do I show you this?” highlights that she could be warping the way she’s telling the story to us.
Relatedly, I love how much Baal is a stand-in for the confused reader this issue – there’s so much going on, and so much of it requires you to hold forty-some issues in your head. And at times Minanke feels like she’s directly addressing the audience too. (Some text in the below images may have been altered.)
…Okay, I’ve been putting off talking about it directly, but let’s address theend of the issue. As mentioned earlier, I’ve already written about Baphomet and my emotional reaction to this scene for TWATD. But let’s look at its formal presentation a little: yup, I’m talking about our old friend the nine-panel grid.
Grids are good for slowing down a moment, especially when you’re using a fixed ‘camera angle’ like this – we get to watch Baph make the decision, reconsider, and then do it anyway, all in painful close-up.
But it also calls back to last issue, and another Baphomet-focused sequence that uses the grid:
The framing of Baphomet is pretty much identical, but the colours are inverted, warm oranges giving way to cool blues. It might be a simple way of reminding us of the previous scene – which is needed to understand this one– but also, the grid has been linked with those rare moments of honesty and vulnerability from Baphomet since all the way back in issue #7, when he first gave us a glimpse behind the mirrored shades:
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