Reading “The Wicked + The Divine #16”

When we first meet Baphomet and the Morrigan in the third issue, they give the impression of having a pretty established relationship with its share of problems and a penchant for over the top theatrics.  These two are clearly trying way too hard to be the Pantheon’s premier goth couple.  They’re also crass and violent in ways that the other gods just don’t do (in public), which feeds into a certain punk aesthetic that romanticizes a relationship that’s extremely volatile (Baphomet does fashion a replica of the Morrigan’s severed head for the sake of an extended gag).  It’s meant to be pretty clear that these two are wrapped up in a toxic relationship with each other.

The Morrigan’s cover is all about featuring her sleeve of ravens; she kind of has a thing about carrion birds, y’know? (Cover by Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson)

The sixteenth issue of The Wicked + The Divine goes a little more in depth on the Morrigan and Baphomet’s history, exploring their relationship before their ascension and the Morrigan’s own feelings of responsibility for Baphomet.  The frame for the issue is Baal and Minerva delivering lunch to the Morrigan, who is being held prisoner in Valhalla thanks to some handwave-y god technology built by Woden.  Minerva has some observations to make about the way that the Morrigan’s being treated (not the least of which is a less than idle wondering about why if Woden can make a cage to hold a god he didn’t do just that when Lucifer was causing trouble for the Pantheon), and she provides a good catalyst for the Morrigan to reminisce about her history.

In flashback we meet Marian and Cameron, a pair of goth kids who are super into LARPing and other forms of role play (I confess I originally figured them for theater kids, but LARPers is so much better).  Marian is way more into acting than Cameron, preferring to play the large ham to his sardonic double entendres (Cameron throws shade on a friend’s Vampire: The Masquerade campaign without technically breaking character, and while it’s extremely mean I still find it perhaps the funniest bit in an otherwise very morbid issue).  She’s all enthusiasm and reckless abandon while he’s reserve and calculation.

I have a friend who used to play Vampire: The Masquerade, and she assures me this is a totally accurate representation of how the game is played, except when it isn’t. (Art by Leila del Duca, colors by Mat Lopes, letters by Clayton Cowles)

But that’s not the whole picture with Marian and Cameron, not really.  Marian doesn’t always just give herself over to a “yes, and,” mentality; we see her furious with Cameron for having sex with another girl in one scene and carefully considering how much to disclose about herself in another.  She contains multitudes.  Cameron, conversely, comes off as relatively one note; he maintains a certain ironic distance as a way of protecting himself.  After we meet him and Marian LARPing, the next scene shows him getting a phone call informing him that his parents have suddenly died.  From that absolutely horrible tragedy, he leaps head first into nihilism.  Now, this isn’t the intellectual nihilism of Cassandra, who is totally assured that existence is all meaningless but still finds herself caring deeply about more than a few things (you just can’t be that indignant all the time if nothing matters to you); Cameron’s wallowing in a gut level terror that everything’s a painful farce.  As with everything he does later as Baphomet, this guy’s core ethos is just doing whatever relieves the existential terror in the moment.

I think that middle panel is my favorite in the whole issue. What is Marian thinking about before she goes on with her story? (Art by Leila del Duca, colors by Mat Lopes, letters by Clayton Cowles)

And this is the dynamic that we’ve seen between Baphomet and the Morrigan since the beginning: he’s in a constant state of near panic about dying, and she’s trying to keep him centered on enjoying the moment they have.  She’s doing all the heavy lifting in the relationship, but because love is a weird thing, she still finds herself drawn to him.  Despite the betrayals and the insecurities, the Morrigan ultimately asks Ananke to elevate Cameron because she wants a companion.  All the reckless destruction that Baphomet’s wrought has happened because the Morrigan wanted him by her side.  Of course, she’s not actually responsible for Baphomet’s actions; she didn’t make him attack Cassandra and Inanna.  Actual responsibility doesn’t really enter into it when we’re talking about toxic relationships.

This is a serious moment when Marian dumps Cameron for real, but I totally laughed over the flaming trash can. (Art by Leila del Duca, colors by Mat Lopes, letters by Clayton Cowles)

And that’s what it honestly comes down to.  Marian has tried for a long time to make things work with Cameron, but he’s wrapped up in his own problems in a way that leaves her always doing the reaching out.  The central pattern of their interactions in this issue goes like this: Marian does something sincerely, and Cameron reacts in a cynical way that at first irritates her before she snaps back to indulging his behavior.  The rhythm of the story lacks a high tension climax, instead opting for showing ever more extreme iterations of this cycle that culminate with the Morrigan almost cutting Cameron loose before finally deciding she still wants him to be with her as a god.  The escalation of the flashbacks tracks straight through to the Morrigan and Baphomet’s first appearance back in the third issue when they were indulging in high melodrama at the same time that they were recklessly endangering all the fans who had come to see the Morrigan perform.  These two shouldn’t be together, and when the Morrigan is separated from Baphomet for a sufficiently long time she seems to have that epiphany herself.  Of course, the issue ends with Baphomet sending a message via hamburger claiming that he can explain everything, and the Morrigan’s incredulous response signals that the cycle is only going to continue.

Yeah, there’s no way the Morrigan and Baphomet don’t end up killing each other before this is all over and done with. (Artwork by Leila del Duca, colors by Mat Lopes, letters by Clayton Cowles)

The one page comic drawn by McKelvie for this issue is a really weird one.  It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when I was reading it that I finally realized that the guy who took the video is meant to be Dionysus before his ascension (the tip off is the smiley face button that he’s wearing on his shirt).  Otherwise, this is just a little glimpse of the urban legend that Laura mentioned when she went down to see the Morrigan the first time: that most people who try to take video of the Morrigan end up with grainy footage that will show them at the moment of their death.

Bonus panel: Minerva’s sad face is the weirdest thing in a comic that has Baphomet speaking to the Morrigan through a ketchup golem. (Artwork by Leila del Duca, colors by Mat Lopes, letters by Clayton Cowles)

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2 thoughts on “Reading “The Wicked + The Divine #16”

  1. The romance between Marian and Cameron was heartbreaking. She always put so much of herself into the relationship just to be rejected over and over. I had no sympathy for Cameron at all, and their unhealthy dynamic just became magnified when they became gods.

    • I totally agree with you about Marian and Cameron’s relationship. I think they’d be much happier if they could just break up, but that’s a hard thing to do when your lives are so wrapped up together in nonromantic ways. I do have sympathy for Cameron, but it’s mostly because I identify with his feelings; his actions are incredibly selfish, and he needs to feel bad for pretty much all of them except the puns (puns are great).

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