As we saw last issue, the mutually exclusive sides have been neatly outlined. It’s two parties, one captained by Persephone, the Destroyer, and the other by Ananke, Evil Old Lady and aspiring child murderer. Although formerly-Laura Wilson has proven an adept fighter, her side is at a disadvantage. Not only are they lacking in numbers, they also suffered a crushing defeat at losing Minerva in their own turf. Therefore, Ananke is one step closer to fulfilling her mysterious ritualistic scheme, which involves sacrificing Minerva. However, Ananke’s underlings lack unity. Baal and Amaterasu trust her because they don’t know better. Woden follows her command because she has him under her thumb. Sakhmet just wants to kill and fuck, and the other side proves a viable target.
On the other hand, Persephone, The Morrigan, Baphomet and Dionysus all act from the same intent. To strike against Ananke and stop her from killing the youngest in their midst. It’s with such intent that they’ll look for an ally, a friend in irony. Her nature as the Twelfth God represents sheer, neutral truth and inexorable progression of time. Yet her nature as a person makes her also a powerful judge and ally. Of course, we’re talking about darkhorse and former journo, Cassandra Igarashi. Enter the Norns, whose allegiance is still up in the air.
“We do not play God”
You could argue that Cass is the character with the most development in the comic book so far. She has matured, and has nuanced her worldview to some extent. She has also grown to consider Laura a friend, so it’s understandable that she’d be upset at receiving a message from Laura Wilson. At this point, she doesn’t know that she is alive yet, so this comes off a prank in bottom-poor taste. Alas, lo and behold, it was indeed Laura – as Persephone, who messaged her to meet her at the ruins of her family’s house. Urdr is both shocked and relieved that her friend is alive, but there’s no time for a pleasant catching up. Persephone relays a grim truth upon Urdr. So it is that we return to the scene of another crime: Inanna’s murder, from a different perspective.
We get a ‘remixed‘ reprisal of the dreadful moment when Baphomet is about to deliver the killing blow. However, the explosion we saw was just that – a burst of hellfire. It turns out that the Pungeon Master is not as mindlessly impulsive as we, or Ananke, thought. It’s not good nature what stayed his hand, but something that Inanna said. He knew Baphomet meant to kill him as per the Prometheus Gambit to extend his lifespan. That’s because Ananke told Inanna about it, same as she told Baphomet, with a different intent altogether. They realise then that Ananke had been playing them, orchestrating the murder through Baphomet’s hand. The Underworld God’s temper is defused and both Gods bond for a moment. But there’s still the matter of Ananke’s manipulation.
Inanna reads the stars like only a God can, in order to find Ananke. Alarmed, he discovers that she’s at Laura’s place, ready to do a most nefarious deed. The two fly to the scene in the nick of time, right after Laura’s ascension into Persephone. Timing is key, as they seize the moment when Ananke encourages joyous Persephone to sing for the first time. Baph and Inanna push Laura out of the way as soon as the Old Goddess snaps her fingers, saving her life. Laura never came back from the dead; she simply never died at all. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Inanna, as Ananke murdered him there and then. Baphomet wastes no time despite the horror of this turn of events and descends with unconscious Persephone down to the Underworld.
The events that followed afterwards happened just like we knew them. Ananke murders Laura’s parents and begins to wipe her hands clean of the blood. Baphomet essentially became Hades as he took Persephone down with him, in a bid to save a life. The theme of Persephone being in hell was not only an emotional state, but a literal state of actually being down below. As one would expect, Persephone underwent a deep depression, from August to September. In the mean time, the events of Baphomet’s framing as Inanna’s murderer and the Morrigan’s captivity unfurled. Throughout this period of time, Baphomet to and fro while trying to help Persephone, as a kindred spirit.
The conversation between them reaches a peculiar territory, as Baphomet revealed the truth behind his ascension. We know that Marian, The Morrigan, had asked Ananke to make her boyfriend a God as well. After some careful consideration and possible judgmental looks, she agreed. (Here comes a neat ascension as we like them, hoorah!) However, the design of fate, or whatever decides who becomes who (the comic is not very clear on that, to be honest) is not always sound. At least not from the perspective of somebody knowledgeable to “higher frequency geek”, as Baphomet puts it. Cass knew, and I bet some readers knew too, that Baphomet is not an actual God, but a fallacious name for equally fallacious idols.
This is because Cameron did not become Baphomet. It’s rather a name he took for himself to conceal the actual name of the God he was. In truth, he became Nergal, Mesopotamian Lion God of the Underworld. This sounds way cool and some may wonder, including Laura, what’s so bad about being Nergal. Well, Cameron is a massive geek, and his association with Nergal is closer to a fandom than the actual God. After some investigation (Oh, look at me being all fancy – it was all Google), the most plausible explanation for Baph’s embarrassment is as follows. In his mind, Nergal has a closer association with Nurgle, a character from Warhammer 4k. Considering the features of this character, I’d say he’s kind of justified in his shame.
In any case, Persephone found his dorkiness rather endearing. Thus, the bonding that started out emotional became carnal, which will probably lead to more than some regret. Nonetheless, after the shag, Persephone came to a conclusion; that they have to save everybody from Ananke. The rest is history, all leading to this moment. Now that the truth’s out, Persephone needs the Norns. And she came to her, because she’s been with her from the beginning. Cass is the one who understands Laura the best. So, it only makes sense that she’d want her oldest ally, even friend, at her side, as Persephone storms Valhalla. Cass says no. She picks jurisprudence over using their abilities as Gods for a coup.
However, there is nothing she can do to stop her friend, as she was merely a projection from Owly. This message, this bundle of truth, came as a request for her to aid the Underworld Gods in stopping Ananke. Same as how Inanna and Baphomet managed to save Laura, timing is everything. Urdr cannot hope to prevent Persephone from executing the role of her epithet. This, the storming of Valhalla, is happening now. The tempo is not letting down and will only get faster, stronger, deadlier. As we took a new and drastically different look at one of the darkest moments in the comic so far, we got to learn a few things. Everything looks magnificent when flying in stardust, Baphomet/Nergal was never the baddie. And above all, there is truly nothing Ananke won’t do to achieve her goal.
Not even Gods know if we won’t say the same for Persephone…
The Wicked + The Divine Issue #20 Credits
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art / Cover: Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
All images are courtesy of Image Comics