Issue #33 is something of a milestone for The Wicked + The Divine. It marks the end of the two-part "Imperial Phase" arc, which started last November, and sets the comic up for its final year. It also packs an unprecedented number of twists and reveals into its 22 pages, which are all but guaranteed to leave any long-time reader scooping their jaw off the floor.
The issue’s focus is considerably tighter than most of "Imperial Phase," but like the rest of the arc it breaks down into three main strands, each of which brings at least one major revelation. Let’s go through them one by one, and how they impact on the world of The Wicked + The Divine -- and what they might mean for its final stretch.
In case it’s not clear, that means spoilers, and lots of them. If you haven’t read #33 yet, you might want to bookmark this page and come back to it later.
The first strand concerns the real identity of Woden, the Daft Punk-masked misogynist who is increasingly falling into the role of WicDiv’s resident supervillain. We’ve never seen his face before, but earlier in "Imperial Phase" it was heavily hinted that Woden was Jon Blake -- the son of David Blake, a middle-aged academic introduced back in the first arc, who has spent his life studying past Recurrences.
This being WicDiv, the truth is revealed to be something much more terrible. Woden isn’t Jon, nor is he really a god. Like the rest of the Pantheon, Jon was transformed by Ananke -- not into Woden, but Mimir, named for a giant in Norse mythology whose decapitated head is carried around by Odin. Which is exactly what his father does, sacrificing Jon and using his powers to assume the Woden persona.
It’s a remarkably plotted twist, because the hints have always been there. Woden mentioned early on that he doesn’t have powers the way the rest of the gods do, and the fact that Woden was hiding someone in a similar helmet to his own was teased in his spotlight issue, #14, released over two years ago. Gillen and McKelvie have been playing the long game on this one, encouraging you to go back and comb through back issues to see how differently Woden’s earlier appearances read now.
And that’s just the first strand. Next up is a quieter character beat, as Persephone -- the character we’ve been following since the first issue, when she was introduced as a fangirl named Laura -- explains why she has been on such a self-destructive path since she returned from apparent death.
It’s not just that she’s mourning her family, who died at the hands of Ananke on the night that she became a god, but that she blames herself for their deaths. This survivor’s guilt retroactively justifies a character arc that has been occasionally frustrating to read, as the person who was our entry point into this world has systemically pushed everyone -- including the reader -- away. Hopefully, the fact that Persephone has now opened up about her feelings means that she can start to move away from this path.
Both of these plot developments are overshadowed by the end of the issue, which reveals that Minerva, youngest of the gods and seemingly most innocent, is actually a villain. Not only that, she might be the resurrection of Ananke, the series Big Bad who Persephone killed at the end of the last arc. Oh, and she’s collecting the heads of all the gods she has murdered: Tara, Inanna and early fan-favorite Lucifer. And those heads are… able to speak?
While the other two big reveals offer answers to longstanding questions, this final scene just asks a load more. It’s not clear exactly what is going on here, and that final image -- of Lucifer chatting away while her fellow decapitated heads roll their eyes -- is equal parts captivating and ridiculous. It breaks the established rules of WicDiv’s world, which gives it that jaw-dropping potency, but also means there needs to be a pretty good justification for whatever the hell is going on here.
It’s going to be a while until we get any answers, given that the next issue of the main series is four months away. But after 33 issues, I have faith in Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie to provide a satisfying conclusion -- and one that, fingers crossed, will have us flicking through previous issues and realizing the answers have been there all along.