So, here’s a brief personal memento as ways of a prologue.
My first concert ever was Rammstein, London 2002. I was then (and still am) quite obsessed with the German band. But this musical infatuation still did a poor job of preparing me for the weight of their stage presence and their very distinctive personae. There was also the language barrier to consider, which I hadn’t overcome at the time. As a result, the entire experience was both fascinating and intimidating. But at the end of the fire and the intensely muscular sense of otherness, I was in tears, moved entirely by their admittedly rough cover of Depeche’s Mode’s “Stripped”.
I didn’t want them to leave at the end of it. I was so enraptured still by the sound and the narrative. But all the same, I knew one couldn’t just expect an encore from these boys (though they occasionally indulge). You cannot go just go back to a crowd-pleaser to send everyone home with a smile. The narrative follows its course until it burns out with a climax and then fades out.
And I find myself feeling much the same way with this issue. It’s been a journey, full of characters and moments we’ll hold fond. But looking back, there is a sense of irretrievability staring back. With all but one of the remaining members of the Pantheon acknowledging the truth, the gig is coming to an end. The lights will come back on, and we’ll have nothing but the aftermath.
We’ll cry too.
“I need time.”
WicDiv is subversive, and not gratuitously so. Last issue sent us off with raw terror from Eleanor Rigby choosing to remain Lucifer. There is an obvious power chasm between this Lean Black Duke and Laura and friends. We’d be forgiven for expecting a bit of a one-sided showdown to occur here. But that’d mean not giving Lucifer enough credit. Sure, she’s sassy and defiant, but her resistance is only proportional to Laura’s attempt to talk some sense into her. Or rather, sing some sense into her. Laura Wilson has always been different from the rest of the Gods. At this point, she’s the only one with any power left. So she affords an encore, not for us, but for Eleanor Rigby.
Laura’s final song narrates the story of two girls in Hell, one of which is herself. She sings about the hurt she’s been through, and the harm she’s inflicted upon others and herself as well. Here we get an ominous inversion of the ‘ascension’ aesthetics present throughout most of the comic. Rather than rising through a tunnel of light into a higher, false sense of being, she climbs down its walls. Laura is literally descending to Hell in a last-ditch effort to rescue the second girl. Eleanor, who wanted to be on stage, adored and worshipped, but never believed herself worthy for it. All along, they were all playing at the Prometheus Gambit. But rather than killing another for their divinity, they were killing their true selves. Including Eleanor, who was a great Lucifer – but only because Lucifer was she.
Finally, Laura successfully reaches out to Eleanor and seals her liberation with a kiss. Considering that Lucifer was only around for the first act, this act of love may come out of left field for some. However, since Lucifer was Laura’s parallel infatuation with godhood from the beginning, this feels less contrived. Perhaps it’s the arranging for a ‘bookends’ narrative, which is always neat. Lucifer also undermines the convenience factor, as she tearfully tells Laura that she doesn’t know Eleanor as a person. Laura acknowledges that she has no idea who Eleanor Rigby truly is. But they’re going to live to find out.
Meanwhile, Minerva freaks out about this development. The centuries-old story is now over, and her powers are no more. This basically means that the baddie of the story has lost for good, but this is not enough for Laura. She has one more deadly click with the girl’s name on it. Naturally, Laura’s friends urge her to relent. Minerva herself pleads for mercy by describing what death felt like to her – it was indeed ninety years of darkness, during which she stayed aware and awake. In comes Umar, formerly Dionysus, to shed some light from personal experience.
Minerva-Ananke got eternal life through their ritual, despite dying. But Umar died himself; brain dead, as dead as one can be. And he felt absolutely nothing throughout the time he was dead. Our boy sports the ultimate dear big bro vibe when he reassures the evil little one, while also insisting that Laura should not kill her. Finally, with the addition of Cass’ voice of reason, Laura backs away. They decide then to keep Minerva imprisoned forever. Unfortunately, Valentine has other plans.
Whether he deserves clemency for the things Minerva-Ananke convinced him to do, is a debate for another time. Regardless, he cannot forgive Minerva nor himself. For all the love he bears his friends, he cannot see himself as a person they deserve. His deeds in the name of being strong and capable were not worth it. To everyone’s horror, especially Zahid fka Inanna, Valentine throws himself off the roof with Minerva, killing them both. This probably falls as a surprise to nobody. Valentine was doomed from the moment Laura learned of his secret activities to defeat the ‘Great Darkness’. Sophoclean to no end.
Ah, but there’s no time for deep sorrow. The cops have apprehended the depowered Valkyries and Norns walking away from the scene, and now they’re on the way to arrest a few Gods, as you do. This is probably the most sensible of outcomes when you consider all the mayhem that has occurred so far. But before anyone starts panicking, Cass has something to say. There is only one way out of this pickle, or rather one solution in the long term. It’s all really vague, and we don’t get to hear the plan. All we can do is trust Cass. And honestly, after all these issues, would you not?
Us readers are once more kept in the dark. We only get to see the plan unfold. Laura uses her powers to disarm the cops climbing up the stairs, probably to keep anyone from getting killed. And just as we might expect some magnificent bastardry to save the day, the former Gods just stay there on the roof with hands behind their heads, fully at the authorities’ disposition. If the setting wasn’t clear enough for the dumbfounded coppers, Cass gently insists them to ****ing arrest them already. Oh, Cass, whatever beautiful thing you came up with, beautiful you?
Next scene is the most mundane thing we’ve seen in a long time: a courthouse. This is not really Laura’s trial, so much as her conviction for the murder of Ananke, which everyone knows about because of scumbag Woden. The court appreciates the cooperation of Laura and her associates to bring full disclosure to everything that has happened in these two years. And their findings will be taken into consideration for each of their respective hearings. This will mean that at least Jon and Aruna will likely receive no great punishment since they were victims, really. And Aruna is just a head – I’m not sure how jail time would work there. Umar and Cass never did anything wrong, and Zahid might get a slap on the wrist.
And of course, Laura Wilson is sentenced to… life.
Brilliant editing here. I don’t think I’ve talked at length about this, but there has always been very clever editing in between sequences, and for endings. These alone deserve a look, even though they’re just black pages with a heading. Regardless, this is how this issue comes to an end. To me, going through this all over again to write this review still feels like that slight melancholy at the end of a concert. Normalcy returns to the world. and we hop on the ordeals of transportation back home. But on the way, those marvelous phantasms of stage magic and music stick with us.
And we’re thankful for it,
As a final note, we get to see the cover preview for the finale. It portrays Laura Wilson as an older woman, which hints at the finale taking place decades in the future. We’ll see what Cass’ plans were all about, and the reason Laura looked so calm and cool at the courthouse. What are we to expect then? As per true and lovely WicDiv fashion, who knows? See ya then.
The Wicked + The Divine Issue #44 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Letters: Clayton Cowles
All images are courtesy of Image Comics