In “The Wicked + The Divine” #16, Kieron Gillen and guest artist Leila Del Duca focus on the Morrigan, the god who suffered a beatdown from fellow deity Baal and is now imprisoned by Woden. Gillen looks back at how this incarnation of the Morrigan came to be and specifically at her origin as Marian, a Goth teen whose relationship with her boyfriend Cameron becomes strained after a tragedy changes his nihilistic mindset. The issue steps back a bit from advancing Gillen’s evolving plot where Ananke and Woden’s schemes are coming to light, but it’s still a well done character study of one of the series’ lesser-seen cast members.
Del Duca captures Marian’s gothic characteristics well and gives her environment an appropriately bleak and pale demeanor, enhanced by Mat Lopes’ mostly grey, colorless palette. Del Duca’s lines have a kind of rough, unfinished quality that gives Marian a sort of dirty, disheveled look, while at the same time adding a decidedly evil yet beautiful quality to her transformation into the Morrigan; this is a fitting look for the god of death and war, after all. Conversely, Cameron looks a little bit less into the whole Goth scene, despite his attitude, which plays well into his willingness to drift apart from Marian.
Lopes turns on the colorful brilliance in the present day scenes, though, with soothing cyan tones that dominate the confines of the Morrigan’s prison and belie her rage and vitriol, which Gillen so wickedly crafts. Lopes’ tones largely carry the visual setting for this part of the story, allowing Del Duca to focus more on the characters. While she deftly captures the Morrigan’s dark regality and Baal’s suave demeanor, her courser touch doesn’t quite convey the Hollywood-type perfection of these gods in the same way Jamie McKelvie’s pristine lines typically do. This approach works better for the Morrigan’s darker persona than it does for Baal’s, although it’s not much of a detriment as he plays mainly a supporting role in this particular issue.
Although the story progression is slow this time around, it’s not without its surprises, as Gillen poses an interesting question near the end that makes readers rethink some of the series’ past events. Gillen also succeeds at establishing the Morrigan as a genuinely threatening and menacing character, in turn making the issue succeed with its characterization as much as its storyline. “The Wicked + The Divine” #16 has a different look and flavor than past issues, but it remains a strong and key component of the overall series.