The Wicked + The Divine #12

After the previous month's double-cliffhanger (and if you haven't read it, it's best to stop here before it's inevitably spoiled for you), "The Wicked + The Divine" #12 quickly became one of the most anticipated issues of the series to date. There's no turning back from the shock ending that wrapped up the "Fandemonium" story arc and, sure enough, the series blasts forward full speed ahead. While some readers might be taken aback that guest artist Kate Brown has joined series writer Kieron Gillen this month, most readers will be pretty pleased with the end result.

"The Wicked + The Divine" #12 picks up half a week after the deaths of Inanna and Laura, even as the world reels from the sudden, violent nature. Baphomet has gone into hiding, even as he's been falsely accused of slaying Laura and her family. Cassandra's former assistant Beth tries to put together a documentary on the departed and, as we quickly see here, the apple did not fall far from the tree at all.

The issue wisely skirts the big question -- namely how and why Laura's ascension and death occurred in a matter of seconds -- while dealing with the material that the general public would have managed to figure out. Beth's discovery of how to find the Morrigan is through persistence, and her decision on what to do with this information (and, more importantly, with whom to share it) is wonderfully self-serving. She's able to jerk Baal around like a puppet, and Gillen shows us how humans are still very much both threats and players in the world of "The Wicked + The Divine." Of course, even as we get the gods' grief over the recent deaths, the battle lines are drawn and Gillen revs up the book for all-out war.

Brown's art is fun, something I'd forgotten about since her stint on "Young Avengers." It reminds me a bit of Sophie Campbell's early work, drawing wide-eyed characters who have a tinge of innocence about them even as they snarl and plot against one another. It's those expressions that just nail the landing, panel after panel. The first page with Baal is just amazing. Look how his face changes across the five panels, shifting from numb sadness to boredom to just a touch of anger; it's a perfect transformation, even as the police officer shifts from belligerence to frozen fear. If anything, it makes Baal's return two pages later that much better; his sudden arrival and eager, panicky response is explosive. Not only is his energy radiating off the page, but the manner in which he appears makes him burst into existence.

Brown conveys real action in a static medium, and she's an artist whom I wish drew a lot more comics on a regular basis, because she understands the art form perfectly. If you weren't already convinced of that, the fight in the subway system should settle that once and for all; not only is the action great, but even her choices of colors are carefully thought through. The green tinge is not only eerie but also fits the character involved, and having it cast against that character's face even as Baal attacks drenches the moment in a sickly, awful, wonderful hue where it feels anything and everything can go wrong all at once.

Add in a one-pager drawn by McKelvie at the end of the issue, and it's the proverbial cherry on top of the sundae. "The Wicked + The Divine" #12 is tantalizing, in that it moves the storyline forward but also deliberately doesn't give us all of the answers we desire. It's a good start to "Commercial Suicide" and I think any fears that readers might have had about McKelvie taking six issues off to draw the next "Phonogram" miniseries should be assuaged now; he'll be missed, but the art is in good hands during his absence, if Brown is any indication of what's still to come. Once again, "The Wicked + The Divine" is divinely fun, but wicked in making us wait another month to find out what happens next.

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