One of the first gods we heard of in "The Wicked + The Divine" #1 was Amaterasu, so it feels almost overdue that the series is just now circling back around to her. Kieron Gillen and guest artist Stephanie Hans give us a glimpse into Amaterasu's life, even as the pantheon grieves the loss of Tara.
With three (or, as the reader knows, four) members of the pantheon dead, Gillen brings to life the overall panic and fear running through the remaining members. Gillen slides Ananke into that tense situation, bringing up red herrings to spook them even more and have them looking for foes that don't really exist. It's a masterful show of misdirection, one to make the audience squirm because they know the truth even as it is near-impossible for the characters to spot the deception. At the same time, Gillen also recognizes Minerva is one of the members of the pantheon, and that -- if anyone should spot the cracks in the stories being spun -- it's her. While it doesn't look good for her continued presence in the comic, that acknowledgement means hopefully there will be a payoff (even if that payoff is deadly) before too long.
The star of the issue is Amaterasu, though, and -- in many ways -- she seems even more lost than poor Tara was. "The Wicked + The Divine" #15 brings home that the members of the pantheon aren't adults with 30 or 40 years under their belts. Amaterasu is just a scared kid, and her actions and reactions to others in this issue evoke a certain amount of sympathy. She's in well over her head, but her attempts to do what she can -- be it her final scene at the Meiji Shrine or her conversation with Urdr -- are both admirable and heartbreaking. She's not a mover and shaker, but hopefully she can keep herself from also becoming a victim.
I hadn't seen Hans's work before, but I'm quickly a fan. The painted effect smears across the page as we see Amaterasu slide and flow from one spot to another. While Hans is great at the large smears of color like Amaterasu's face paint, it's worth noting she's equally strong when depicting fine details like the lace veil around Ananke's eyes and nose. The way Hans depicts a flashback is also subtle but stunning, with panel borders vanishing and the image itself fading into the page around the edges. It's a fun little technique and it comes together excellently here.
"The Wicked + The Divine" #15 is definitely setting up some big moments to come; you can almost hear the thunder rumbling in the distance. As a transition issue, giving us the aftermath of Tara's death even as we learn a bit more about Amaterasu hits all of the moments well. In many ways, it feels like we're still at the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and you know what? That's fun, and it makes the wait for the next issue that much more exciting. Another above-average comic in a series that rarely disappoints.