Warning: The following contains spoilers for The Wicked + The Divine #45 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson, on sale now.
The Wicked + The Divine was created in 2014 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Over the last five years, the series has explored resonant themes about the rise and fall of fame, how we mythologize some and demonize others and the question of life over legacy. It's also featured lightning fueled sports cars, exploding heads and wars between gods, so it was pretty much the perfect comic book.
The series officially ended at #45, coming to an emotional conclusion that feels like the only way this story ever really could end: with a funeral. But it's not about mourning so much as it is about finding a bittersweet beauty in finality. Even if things end, they're worth doing. It's slightly anticlimactic but absolutely poetic, showcasing how the characters have grown and changed and matured, and how that's more important than being beloved by millions you'll never know. If you could lead a long, happy life or become a god for two years... why would you ever choose to be a god?
The series centers around the Pantheon, a group of young people who resurrect every eighty years. Each of them possesses the powers of a specific ancient god from across world mythology. They leave their old lives and become a new incarnation of god, living exactly how they want -- but they have to die within two years so the cycle can begin anew. To break the cycle is to invite "The Great Darkness" to consume the world. Or at least, that's what the matronly Ananke told generations of these quasi-immortals. But as the series progressed and characters like Laura/Persephone and Cassandra/Urdr rebelled against the stories Ananke told them, the truth was revealed: Ananke and Minerva, always the youngest of the Pantheon, are actually one in the same, and that the Great Darkness she's been trying to fight is merely her own permanent demise.
The most recent issues of the series saw the remaining members of the Pantheon finally learn the whole truth. In response, most of them willingly renounced their "godhood" and returned to being the people they'd been before they were consumed by fame. This seemingly costs them their powers, but also allows them to survive. Only Lucifer was reluctant to give up the power and life she thought made her worthwhile. It took Laura reminding her how good Lucifer is outside of her title, that as Eleanor she's still clever and beautiful and a person worth knowing. That's the major redemption of the story, the moment the whole series has been building to. Learning to accept yourself, not the image that has been created of you, is the only way to move forward and find happiness.
One of the most distinctive things about The Wicked + The Divine was how it treated modern celebrity -- particularly the way young singers are seen as modern incarnations of gods. They have this power (music in real life, actual god powers in the comic) to wash over crowds and influence them, to strike an emotional chord with millions that can never be forgotten. Much of the series, especially the beginning and middle of the run, was primarily about exploring the excitement (and dread) of being famous like that but knowing it'll end.
It was the thrill of being someone like the powerhouse Baal or the sensual Sakhmet or the luminous Amaterasu. It was full of sex, drugs, parties and the kind of stylistic hyper-violence one can expect from pop-star deities going to war. But the series has always explored the emptiness and loneliness of celebrity, knowing that everything about you has a specific expiration date. For godhood (and in the real world, stardom), people will do anything for that power and then won't know what to do with it when there's a chance it can go away.
The final issue features none of that, taking place at Cassandra's funeral decades later. Everything is soft and white, but not in a sterile or way. It's calm. Everyone greets each other with love. Just because they're not gods anymore doesn't mean they lose what makes them special, either. Aruna was only ever briefly seen as Tara. She was belittled and harrassed for choosing to try and sing the songs she'd written herself instead of being the ethereal force others wanted her to be. But in the epilogue, an older Aruna plays her music - only now, people can appreciate the beauty of her songs without being blinded by the singer. Characters like Umar (formerly Dionysus) and Jon (formerly Mimir) are implied to be leading good lives. Zahid (formerly Inanna) is still broken-hearted about the loss of Baal, but became best friends with Cassandra and found happiness again. Even Eleanor is still snarking at her old friends, but it has been tempered by time. Everyone found something worth living for, and that was up to them to do.
Play Us Out
This far into their future, the identities of godhood they once held are just memories. Some happy, some less so. But now Pantheon are just people again, capable of leading happy lives that are worth something to others. The Wicked + The Divine was always about enjoying life but learning to let go. A lesson about the bravery of being young and the courage it takes to grow old. Everything ages, everything grows up, everything ends. People like Ananke and Woden tried to change the world to fit their desires to change that, but it always cost the next generation of their true chance.
But just because things change doesn't mean everything has to end. You can even end up liking the changes to your life, as Laura and Cassandra did when they fell in love in-between the climax of the previous issue and the finale. You can find something more meaningful and powerful than anything you experience at the top of your power. Life moves on, and so can you.
The Wicked + The Divine #45 is on sale now.