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The Wicked + The Divine #44 review: life

The penultimate issue.

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson
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“When death comes? It’s okay.”

One more issue. That’s all that remains, and then it’s no more. The end is here. The Wicked + The Divine will be no more. But that’s okay. That’s alright. Nothing is forever. And isn’t that what makes everything so meaningful? Isn’t that what makes every moment so precious? If there’s one lesson to be learned from the series, it’s to put our inner Ananke aside and accept the inevitable end. To go not in terror, squirming, but to go with understanding. And that’s the message in the end: a work entirely about the nature of creators, art, storytelling, myths and the crossing between divinity and pop culture is, at its heart, a work about wrestling with grief and loss. Losses you’ve experienced, loss you’re experiencing right now, this very instant and the loss that is to come, the loss that’s always hurtling towards us all, a blazing comet of inevitability. And thus, it’s a book about letting go, it’s a book about being okay, it’s about acceptance and how ultimately hard that is, for the old and the young.

And so Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles return us to Lucifer, Ananke (Minerva) and the ex-gods. Lucifer does not wish to let go. She will not relent or give up her role. She likes the story she’s been fed far too much, despite its price. The future terrifies her, so it’s easier to embrace this two-year ride of divine power and absolute control. It’s easier to be closed off and trapped in this destructive yet “empowering” narrative. And that becomes the final challenge here, for Laura and the others, as they stand at the precipice of accomplishing that wish that was dreamed and hoped centuries upon centuries prior. The end of this accursed story that has trapped and continues to trap many, asking them to be less than they are, pursue the “easy,” when the harder path has much more to offer, while the other results in burning out, literally in this instance.

So what do you do? What can one do, to fight the corrosive and terrifying threat of this eternal story? Why, there’s only one thing to do, really. If you wish to strike down a poor story, you simply tell a better one. You tell a more honest one, which has far more truth than any made-up narrative, any dream ever could. And it’s only the potency of that good, honest story with veracity that stands a chance against a bad one we’ve been staring at all our life. And so Laura Wilson sings, she performs, she does what an artist always does and tells her story, a story that Lucifer has been a part of since the start. And in doing so, she moves her audience, as all good art and stories do.

The series has long built upon the idea that Hell is a prison of our own making, and Laura illustrates that here. She was Persephone in Hell. And then she wasn’t the moment she chose not to be. She believed the narrative and idea and thus gave it power, made it more real, while making her subservient to it. She made herself less. But the second that stopped, the second Laura understood she had a choice, that one did not have to submit, one did not have to be in this cage, things got better. And so he reaches her arm out to Lucifer in the flames of chaos and asks her to do the same. That she is more than this Lucifer, this idea she’s been sold. That she herself is greater than this myth built to cage her. And while she is terrified and insecure, uncertain of ever being loved if she were to return to who she ever, Laura is there. And in that one instance, she is Lucifer no more. The crimson red of her hair fades and the blonde returns and she is once more herself. No myth. No identity put on her. No idea or role she must live for. She’s simply Eleanor, the talented girl with dreams.

Their embrace is a visceral, powerful scene which McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles knock out of the park. The reason “I missed you” or any of the lines here work is because McKelvie’s character acting and grasp of nuanced emotional responses is laser sharp, offering exquisite clarity into the minds of the characters. It’s what allows the book to accomplish what it does and why Gillen doesn’t have to write a ton of captions to make a point, because the art already does. It’s all there in the body language, that slight wink or expression change and the level of information McKelvie is able to pack in about who these people are so quickly and efficiently is eternally remarkable.

Lucifer’s salvation here is remarkably vital, because not only did Laura save Eleanor from herself, but she saved her from becoming warped the way Ananke had been. She didn’t just end the curse of the past. She saved the future from another potential Ananke. She broke the cycle in true fashion and witnessing that, Ananke is shattered. This is her nightmare. All the traps she set have been destroyed and she stands alone, exposed, unprotected and revealed as false. As the terror of death grips her, she goes on about her momentary slumber in between cycles, but Umar, the ex-Dionysus, cuts her short, having been actually dead before. Informing her that death is no eternal curse, but just simply the end, he speaks the line right at the top and establishes the fundamental message of the work. It’s okay.

But there are things to be answered for, horrors that people need to be held accountable for. And as Laura and the others remain unwilling to be the cruel people they once were, Valentine, the ex-Baal, steps up. And suddenly, it all makes sense. This, too, was inevitable. There was no other way. There couldn’t be. All his life, Valentine has wanted to be a big, tough man. And caught up in the web of that toxic masculinity, he committed unspeakable horrors. Murdering child after child, whilst hiding his true nature to everyone else, he told himself it was all for all the greater good. It was all for the safety and betterment of their world. But to find out it never was? That it was all an awful lie and a lie he kept repeating to himself to feel better, while serving the schemes of a sinister supervillain? It’s impossible. It’s soul-destroyingly heavy. He cannot take it. It’s his breaking point. There’s no going back. There’s no redemption or absolution. Valentine simply cannot live with himself and more importantly, he cannot live knowing Ananke might, given what she pushed him into doing, given what she pushed countless others into doing for centuries. And thus the murderer of children murders another, deeming it his punishment and thus he falls. And Ananke? She did, in the truest sense, create her own Hell. And within it, she fell, quite literally, due to a monster of her own making. Once it arrives, one realizes this was how it always going to be. This was the only way their stories could end.

Thus, as we see the ex-gods hatch a plan and then cut to Laura’s trial in court, there’s a wonderful symmetry and structure to the whole thing. Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles have taken us on a hell of a structuralist ride and the finale is here. And in a moment of perfect, fitting contrast, rather than the splash of the skull, which goes right back to very first issue, the ominous image that has haunted so much of this book, representing death, we get a splash of Laura, grinning, full of spirit and acceptance, as her sentence is dictated before cutting to “Life,” which is what this has all been about. Living in the face of ominous, terrifying death and accepting loss, coping with that grief to truly live. Not just exist or drift about or be a destructive engine built for fame, but to be something truly more.

The Wicked + The Divine #44 ties five years of storytelling neatly together, meditating quietly on its core ideas, themes and characters, as it’s always done, bringing this epic journey to something of a close. One more issue remains, an epilogue of sorts, teasing the future of Laura and the cast, but otherwise this is it. And that’s okay. A thing isn’t wonderful because it lasts forever, but because it had meaning to those who witnessed. And WicDiv certainly had a hell of a lot of meaning for a great many.

The Wicked + The Divine #44
Is it good?
Delivering a somber yet hopeful and thoughtful conclusion to years of story threads, WicDiv remains true to its themes and characters to its last breath.
Baal and Ananke's end is perfect and inevitable. Absolutely the most natural conclusion and one that serves them and the narrative really well
Laura and Eleanor's true reunion and embrace is beautiful, as McKelvie and Wilson bring their A-game as always
The structure and symmetry that's still in play really, really works, bringing out the best in Gillen
The decision to really go inwards here and the message espoused are brilliant choices here
10
Fantastic
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