The last of the gods make their appearance as the nature of their recurrence is explored a little deeper in Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's "The Wicked + The Divine" #9. It's a bit of a departure from prior issues where Gillen played up the decadent rock star aspect with many of these characters and, instead, shows that even gods need a hug from Mom now and again. Ananke plays a sort of matriarch of the gods, even though she isn't exactly one of them, and provides plenty of historical background about past recurrences for the benefit of blogger Cassandra, who has been following the story of the gods since their return. It also benefits readers, who get some historical context that widens the story's scope.
While the mood of the story is a little different, it's no less captivating and, in fact, it's arguably even more so, as Gillen presents a pseudo-origin for this pantheon of gods. Ananke is as fascinating a character as any seen thus far in the series, one who willingly and tenderly comforts those struggling with their divinity, but is all too eager to chastise them when necessary. She's akin to the feisty and petite hall monitor who unhesitatingly stands up to a group of teens who outnumber her and could probably outpower her, which plays right into the personas of these deities who have taken mortal form. As celebrities who have been deified in another way by their followers, many of these characters aren't unlike immature young adults, who -- despite being free to do as they will -- could use a good admonishment now and then and still crave the comfort of a mother's touch. It's a refreshing look at these resurgent beings when they're not being worshipped and adored.
It's not all about Ananke and her "children," though, as regular character and best-friend-of-the-gods Laura is strangely despondent after her ride home last issue. A month has passed story-wise since that issue's events, though, and Gillen only hints at what might have transpired in that time. Her cryptic words are not unlike those of Minerva earlier in the story as Ananke comforted her, portending a sense of foreboding that could be interpreted as the eventual conclusion of the pantheon's current lifecycle or possibly something even larger.
McKelvie, as always, delivers a gorgeous looking package, beginning with yet another beautifully detailed portrait cover. It's a shame that the cover design for each issue, with the logo superimposed over the art, distracts from an illustration as nicely rendered as this one. Inside, McKelvie has his usual array of cleanly laid out panels and precisely drawn characters. The gods all look as fresh as if they'd just come off a photoshoot; even the withered Ananke evokes a sense of grand elegance.
One prominent character endures an unexpected transformation that is conveyed through two wonderfully executed splash pages, which are packed with detail yet so simply executed; it's a transformation that is told in a totally different sequential manner that's a bold contrast to McKelvie's traditional layouts throughout the rest of the comic. It's greatly enhanced by Matthew Wilson's colors; Ananke is draped in a bright red robe that symbolically makes her the dominant presence in each panel, amidst a palette of colors that are deliberately subdued. Near the issue's end, Wilson's colors dazzle during the climactic celestial makeover.
"The Wicked + The Divine" is a series that started strong and never faltered, becoming even more engaging as the characters continue to be explored.