Readers were promised that "The Wicked + The Divine" #14 would be something different and, on that front, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have delivered. Re-editing and presenting material from the earlier issues with a new narration from Wodan, this issue reveals all sorts of information even as a new mystery is added to the mix.
"The Wicked + The Divine" #14 is an experiment that could have easily failed, as Gillen and McKelvie cut and paste images, panels and sequences from earlier issues together to give them new meaning. It's almost like a clip show, except this time the scenes are different. Look at it more like a remix of your favorite single, where the additional elements combined with the re-arranged earlier pieces emphasize all sorts of things you might not have noticed the first time through. Wodan is one of the gods who's been present for a lot of "The Wicked + The Divine," even though he never seemed to be more than a supporting role. Gillen shows just how important Wodan is to the puzzle here, and you quickly see that he's anything but a bit player (even as those who know better still see him as just that).
Ananke has, over time, shifted more and more into the main villain of the series. Her sly manipulation of Baphomet into killing Inanna was the first moment that readers might have seen real evidence that something was wrong, and of course Ananke's murder of Laura and her family made that much more overt. Here, we see just how far her reach truly is through the eyes of Wodan, and -- for many readers -- it's no doubt eye-opening. This works in no small part because of Wodan's narration, though. Simply replaying the events with a new perspective could have gotten old quickly, but his vision of what went down transforms them. His disdain and arrogance are surprisingly inviting and, while I wouldn't want every issue to be narrated by the little jerk, it works wonderfully as a one-off. It's hard to keep from laughing at Baal's redubbed dialogue ("Violence! I am doing violence! I am very easily manipulated!"), with the snark just oozing off of the page. Add in some "borrowed" images from Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's "Sex Criminals" comic and this issue has become officially bonkers, in a good way.
McKelvie's art works surprisingly well in this remixed edition, with moments like Ananke's steely gaze having just as much impact the second time through. A lot of the credit has to go to Matthew Wilson, though, whose dayglow color combinations are wonderfully garish, transforming the delicate art from the first time around into something loud and burning to the eyes. Add in a fantastic remix of the ascension-sequence using Wodan (with wonderfully cruel words from Gillen to show just how Wodan views himself) and this is a comic that works as well as it does in no small part because the art was so strong to begin with.
Most comics couldn't and shouldn't try to pull this off. "The Wicked + The Divine" #14 is a smart and peculiar comic, one that has built up enough of a backlog of material at this point to make what could have easily been a flop into an actual hit. (If you'd told me that Gillen and McKelvie were going to remix earlier issues of their comics into a new one, though, I would have assumed it would be the music-themed "Phonogram," so all the more power to them for surprising everyone.) As eager as I am to see the main narrative move forward, this strange side-step was not only a pleasure, it was something that I wanted without even realizing it was an option. Nicely done.