The Pantheon is once again divided, but it’s no longer as it once had been. Where before, the schism was rooted on Ananke’s murderous role and her attempts to stave off the Great Darkness, now the schism comes from how to resist it, or whether do anything about it at all. Decisions, decisions, eh? The stakes are higher than ever, as we’re now face to face with the Big Bad, and by extension, possibly approaching the endgame. So put on your party hats and suit up, my lovelies, for we’re about to make our first thrust out of the dark unknown.
“This is a bad idea”
It appears to be a night like any other in London, all things considered. Minerva decides to put something Persephone bought for the place to use; a Pantheon Official Calendar. However, the fact of imminent perdition for the Gods has a way of tampering with virtually every aspect within the commonplace. In this case, Minerva tears a few months off the calendar, simply because she won’t be ‘using’ them. Her death day will be September 22, which as it turns out is a Tuesday. Baal’s will be August 9, which means Mini will be spending a rather lonely month before she follows. And so, in just a few panels, the mood has been set hopeless.
Baal, being the only responsible adult around, doesn’t give in to this early death as an inescapable conviction. Thus, he stands a somewhat optimistic foil to Minerva, whose outlook is quite pessimistic. And it’s not gratuitous; looming death, abduction, deception, dissent, loss of parents – these experiences won’t precisely make you hopeful. As if this wasn’t bad enough for one night, a Great Darkness is clogging the sink and now trying to claim Minerva. Baal makes the save, killing the monstrosity and presumably the sink as well. And now, Minerva’s stoic dourness gives way to tearful sorrow and frustration. Nobody can hope to live out an already shortened existence in constant fear of a ceaseless prowling evil.
Jamie McKelvie deserves major recognition on how effectively his pen conveys emotions on the characters. Baal’s expression is shame, heartache and concern all manifest in how he can’t give Minerva an answer to her question: How long will this go on? But Baal is Baal, and he’s had it with this mamma jamma Darkness in this mamma jamma Godhood. With steely resolve, he thunder-ports to Valhalla and back. Following this lightning fast trip, he brings an answer to Minerva by writing “The Great Darkness” on the calendar, dated May 1. It’s a Friday, arguably the best day of the week to take a Big Bad down. However, what exactly did Baal do during this little trip?
We don’t get an immediate answer on that. However, we do get a swift sequence on all three ‘factions’ of the Pantheon and what they’ve been up to lately. It’s three fronts of study, fight and do-whatever-you-want; and repeat. Take a deep breath, lovelies. It’s a non-linear time parade of color and varying degrees of recreation. Spoiler alert: Minerva has a beer and drinks it quietly, without making a fuss or a cautionary tale out of herself.
Baal’s been having some private chats with the Prime Minister on the huge black monster that appeared in the Shard, which the media apparently has successfully bought as a performance. The Lightning God has also met with Urdr, in a brief show of cooperation between research and defense; the result of which is a system of detection for every emergence of the Great Darkness. Woden and Dionysus have been embarking on the ambitious enterprises of hosting continuous raves as means of exploring the boundaries of their powers. Dionysus manages to get Urdr to dance along in this “24-7 Rave Petri Dish for the future of the species”. Meanwhile, Baphomet gives Persephone an oddly sweet belated Christmas present via ghostly sprites of her family having dinner.
The raves go on, and Woden keeps on analyzing and measuring, and looking vaguely sinister in the process. As for Amaterasu, she’s looking at a vacant lot to build a temple of her own. In a measure that will put the problematic tones and delivery of her actions back in Hiroshima to the test, she’s looking at the foundations of her very own religion: ShinTwo. The cringe is real, my lovelies, and it’s doing me a real ache. Let’s wash that away with a triumphal moment in the Pantheon’s research zone. Dionysus has finally succeeded in getting Urdr to give in to the music and partake of his rave communion… but only for a while. In response to Baphomet’s gift, Persephone talks him into sleeping together again.
Sakhmet and Persephone have been hanging out pretty often all the while. We rarely ever hear any actual personal inputs from the Cat Goddess, but Persy gets Sakhmet to open up on something. Never laugh at Sakhmet, it makes her angry—and we don’t want her angry, do we? In the underground, a game of chess between The Morrigan and Baphomet highlights the growing staleness and uneven feel of their relationship. This will likely lead to a rift between the two. Meanwhile, Woden is expanding his horizons on tastes in people. This may be the influence of better characters rubbing off on him. At the end of the night, Cassandra returns to the machine Ananke had Woden build. In spite of the Woden and Dionysus’ research means, she is still convinced the answer lies in the machine.
The momentum slows down as we reach the later, more recent stages of this sequence. Urdr has invited Professor David Blake to be the Pantheon’s liaison with the rest of the theology community. This will probably be a major help in the research on divinity, their powers, their coming death, and the Great Darkness. Intertwined with the conversation, we get flickering glances of the rest of the Gods and the ‘advanced stage’ of their course of action. Professor Blake’s discourse here is what takes the cake, though, as he explains the observed nuances of the Gods that live well into their second year, based off previous Recurrences.
The paradigm of divinity is comparable to an empire that reaches its zenith and then inevitably crumbles. Few Gods actually die in the first year, but as they grow ‘old’, they decay in terms of behaviour. They let themselves go, thus begging the question: do the good ones die young indeed, or do they all grow mad with age? This leads to the second question. Is Urdr concerned about her peers’ sanity? She always has, really. But those aforementioned glimpses of the other Gods’ actions offer a different take. Baal and Minerva are looking vigilante-ish as fuck. Baphomet and The Morrigan dwell in the dark. Woden and Dionysus’ research party is exhausting them. Amaterasu’s new religion is dawning. Persephone and Sakhmet are becoming wildly intimate.
There is a definite change in the Gods. They are no longer the same as they were on their bloom. We are in the middle of their Imperial Phase. The crumbling threatens to follow. In the end, Urdr’s fellow Norns, Verdandi and Skuld ask if they too will die along with Urdr, who underwent the ascension proper. Unfortunately, as with everything else, Professor David Blake has no answer to their question. We bring this issue to a close with an ominous look at the machine’s maws in the darkness where the answers lay, if Urdr has the right of it.
The Wicked + The Divine Issue #27 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson