Oh. My. God. You guys. I have to admit, when this arc of The Wicked + The Divine began, I wasn’t entirely sure where our gods and goddesses were going to end up. There were so many plates spinning, with a rift between the gods on Ananke’s side, and those on Persephone’s; Ananke’s murder spree culminating with the death of 13-year old Minerva; questions as to why Ananke was killing gods left and right; and, most importantly, how this could possibly end. The Wicked + The Divine #22 answers most of those questions, but opens a plethora of deeper ones.
The issue is, as always, full of Gillen’s fantastic sense of humor. Amaterasu grabbing Urdr, because she’s the only adult of the group, is a fantastic wink-and-nod. It works as a throw away gag, but it works even better when she actually demonstrates her adulthood and calls an end to the bickering between the gods. As the children yell and scream and fight, it is Urdr and Urdr alone who points out the illogical nature of their actions: if they really care about Minerva, and want to learn the truth, why don’t they do just that? (Also, seeing Baal put down Sekhmet is delightful.)
This issue sees some of the most exposition from Ananke we’ve ever seen, and it definitely leaves us with uncertainty about the entire ordeal. The Great Darkness has yet to be explained, in detail. We can infer that it’s a bad thing, and something that needs to be fought, but previously we were told that it was held at bay simply by the gods’ presence on Earth. It’s possible Ananke’s story is full of lies, but some notes of it ring true. After all, Ananke has always had humanities interests at heart, not those of her wards.
Ananke has always been the mother figure, and this rings true as she admonishes the gods for their capricious ways. They would be lawless and unguided, and behaving as impetuous as both their god and human sides demand. There is a bitterness to her, too, as she has endured centuries of their vanity and, frankly, bullshit. But despite her anger and frustration, it’s clear she still feels beholden to her position and, in some ways, to them.
I suppose the confrontation between Ananke and Persephone was inevitable, and the death of one or the other was all but guaranteed, but I’m not sure we saw it coming as it did. I was proud of both Baal and Persephone as he talked her out of murdering Ananke, speaking directly to her human side, trying to draw out that goodness and innocence she had at the beginning of the tale. Her last minute decision to go through with it feels a little at odds with her. But that’s the real genius here: the utter change in Laura/Persephone. She began life in this story as a good-hearted fangirl, just eager to be next to and associate with the gods, and now she’s the embodiment of a vengeful, destruction goddess.
It’s still unclear why Ananke would call forth Persephone into Laura, especially given her destructive nature. And now, in a post-Ananke world, we’re left to wonder if Persephone is merely a chaotic element, inserting herself into this cycle to bring about chaos and destruction, or is it possible she’s an agent of The Great Darkness? So much emphasis was placed upon her as a destroyer, it’s entirely possible this is her end game. Personally, I like to think of her as an angry agent of chaos, rather than a pawn. (Also, as a student of mythology, I love the focus on Persephone, rather than Demeter.)
The question, now, is where do they go from here? Previously, Ananke held quite the tight leash on the gods. There were many rules and regulations under her keen watch, and now those are gone. Persephone suggests that they do whatever the hell they want, which would create a state very similar to that of most mythologies; the gods run wild and the humans around them often suffer the consequences. Here’s the big question that I’m left with: the gods are foretold to die after two years on Earth, but is that a hard and fast rule, or was that Ananke’s doing? Is it possible that now that Ananke is gone, that time limit could be lifted? If not, if they will still die in two years, how much destruction can they do in that time?