Written by: Kieron Gillen
Art by: Jamie McKelvie
Colors by: Matt Wilson
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
You know, for a while there, with reviewing The Wicked + The Divine across multiple platforms in the span of almost two years, I was wondering what the hell Kieron Gillen meant when he was bringing up X-Men comparisons to the series. There was a vague glimmer of it before, but nothing that seemed substantial enough to really draw serious comparisons to the long running series/franchise/metaphor.
Then "Imperial Phase, Part I" introduced The Great Darkness. Wonder no more. WicDiv is also the team's love letter to X-Men.
The issue picks up where #25 left off, with Baal going to rescue Minerva from the sentient beetle swarm labeled as The Great Darkness. Baal tells Persephone to get a hold of Amaterasu, who then has to rescue Baal's mother and siblings from the same Darkness. From the sounds of it with the way his mother talks and references to his dad's death, it hasn't been the first time it has descended into the House of Baal. Or the House of Campbell, rather. Baal's name from before the Recurrence is finally revealed in this issue, which I won't spoil here.
Most of the issue plays out as a meeting between the remaining Pantheon as Baal reveals what he knows about The Great Darkness that Ananke had tasked him and Amaterasu to fend off. Of course, with Ananke being Ananke, there really isn't that much known and any details they could get out of her are completely lost after Persephone made her explode. So now it comes down to a vote between the Gods: do they join Baal and Amaterasu, do they study the incoming Darkness, or do they just do what they want for the rest of their unnatural, short lives?
The idea of an issue being mostly diplomacy and deliberation between a bunch of hyper-powered teens doesn't sound particularly exciting, but this is where the working relationship between Gillen and Jamie McKelvie really shows its strengths. Several pages spill out with a nine panel grid that focuses on a specific character as they're speaking, showing a tight focus as their points volley around the round table. It makes the entire thing feel extra intimate and suspenseful, especially as the fate of the rest of the world may potentially hang in the balance. It's a move that I would expect from a political thriller comic instead of one like WicDiv, but it works fantastically, especially when Persephone casting her tiebreaking vote breaks up the grid.
Once that's over and done with, the rest of the issue particularly brings some great and personal character moments. The one between Baal and Persephone is particularly heart rending as a long time reader of the series, but there's a conversation between Cass and Dio about asexuality and perceptions of asexuality that seems to call attention to the fandom cultures that inspired a lot of this book. Particularly how characters that don't really fall within societal molds of 'sexual' get headcanoned as ace a lot of the time because the viewer doesn't really "see them that way." It's a complicated issue that can't be solved in two comics pages, but it's nice to see it addressed and to see it flipped on its head with party boy Dionysus being asexual and super wound up adult Cassandra being in a D/s relationship with the Norns.
Though, we may not get the answers completely if Persephone keeps up her mystery apathy act. The note this issue leaves off on certainly doesn't help.
The Wicked + The Divine is always a series that keeps the readers on its toes, but it's particularly picking up in this arc as the wake of Ananke's death leaves the gods with more problems and more unanswered questions than they were anticipating. I never thought I'd say this ever, but I'm with Woden on this: Just whose side is Persephone on anyway?