After reading each issue of The Wicked and The Divine, I sit around for a bit and mentally play the ‘What god am I?’ game. More than the majority of similar personality tests, I like the ‘What god am I?’ game because it involves imagining myself in the wicked (harharhar) costumes that Jamie McKlevie works up for the Pantheon. With the close of this issue, I think I’ve come to a final answer. I am an Ameratsu, colorful face paint and all. Examining the fallout from the Shinto god in a white girl’s body, this issue of The Wicked and The Divine shows us just how seriously Ameratsu takes her role as a god, and why she may just end up being the best of the bunch. After she receives word of Tara’s death while away in Japan, Ameratsu (aka Hazel in her former mortal identity) heads to the hospital where her fellow god’s body has been taken. There she meets up with the majority of the Pantheon, including another personal favorite Dionsyus, and Ananke. Taking advantage of the Pantheon’s overwhelming assumption that Baphomet killed Tara as well, Ananke tells the gods that she suspects a demon may be at fault for the deaths among them. Once Ananke leaves, the Pantheon members each end up going their own way to grieve or get back to their dancefloor epiphany. The issue veers into a potential brawl once Ananke encounters Urdr of the Nord who pisses her off, and whisks them all away to Japan.
What this issue does really well is show Ameratsu as something more than the bubbly optimistic one of the Pantheon. In an early flashback scene, the reader sees her bite a schoolmate who teases her for the stuffed Ameratsu toy she keeps. From this, we learn that more than the other gods, she showed an affinity for her future deity prior to her transcendence, and also find out about her temper which comes back into play later in the issue. Stephanie Hans, this issue’s guest artist, does a wonderful job with these flashback scenes, bathing them in a hazy glow while retaining her great detailed inking shown in the present-day scenes. Her painterly style is a great fit for an Ameratsu spotlight issue, especially her flowy hair and attire which have never looked simultaneously this powerful and beautiful. Series writer Kieron Gillen takes what we think we know of Ameratsu, and like the Tara issue shows us the ways in which we’ve made false assumptions about her based on our limited interaction with the sun god. Unlike the majority of the Pantheon who use their abilities to further their own purposes, we see in this issue that Ameratsu looks upon her godhood as a vocation, the final scene solidifying her status as working on the behalf of her loved ones and fans in quiet ways off the stage. Her optimism and sense of duty was what really make me identify with her, and I’m glad that I can see that in myself with even more certainty that Dionsyus partyboy inside of me.
My only qualm with this issue is that Urdr comes off as unreasonably hostile, and it feels more like a demand of the plot than a behavior she actually would exhibit to the degree she does. When she enters Kerry’s hospital room, she immediately expresses anger towards her former assistant Beth for being there and then gets upset with Ameratsu for making the very sensible comment that the girl they’re there to visit is sleeping, so, you know, hush up. While Urdr, formerly Cassandra the journalist turned all-knowing god, has never hesitated to give her take on a situation, this interaction made her appear callous and uncaring, which previous issues have shown us isn’t true. Although I do like the exchange that follows between Ameratsu and Urdr, especially Hans’ depiction of Ameratsu at full god badass, I didn’t buy the speed with which things escalated. And that’s even with the earlier scene showing that Ameratsu isn’t the manic pixie dream girl some of us might have thought she was.
I continue to enjoy issue issue of The Wicked and The Divine this arc as substantial plot and character development amongt the Pantheon has ramped up with the absence of fangirl Laura. Beyond what seems like a few character inconsistencies, I’m really digging how Gillen is building things up to an inevitable standoff between the Pantheon and Ananke who’s motivations remain satisfyingly unclear. Mostly though, I’m glad I can stop playing the ‘What god am I?’ game since it comes off as nothing put egomaniacal when I say it out loud.
The Wicked + The Divine #15 Writer: Kieron Gilen Artist: Stephanie Hans Colorist: Matthew Wilson Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.5 Release Date: 10/14/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital