Because this issue features Baphomet on the cover, blood running salaciously down his face, you might expect things to take a very dark turn here. It has been five issues since the last major character death, and a very significant plot point of issue #9 was that Baphomet was informed by Ananke that he could extend his lifespan by murdering another god. Also, Baphomet set his sights on the newly ascended Cassandra, so that doesn’t bode ill or anything. Fortunately for everyone involved, this is not an issue where someone dies gratuitously. Instead, it marks Cassandra’s triad debuting as the Norns and Laura hitting on some serious introspection about what she wants out of her life. Also, Baphomet tries to kill Cassandra, but really that’s a relatively minor part of the issue.
However, since Baphomet does grace the cover, we should talk about what’s going on with him a little bit. Obviously, attempted murder is pretty bad, and the fallout from his actions here will carry on through the next couple of story arcs. The frame of mind that he’s in at this point seems to be profound regret. His conversation with the Morrigan (we learn here that her real name is Marian) at the issue’s start implies that she was responsible for bringing him to Ananke’s attention. That’s an odd detail, given that the process by which gods are identified has been pretty much totally unspecified up to this point. In the last issue Ananke mentioned that she usually has trouble finding the twelfth god, but there’s nothing much to go on beyond that. That Baphomet and the Morrigan knew each other before their ascensions (as well as Lucifer and Amaterasu, although that’s not a relationship that’s been dwelt on very much) opens up questions about the nature of the gods’ incarnations. Obviously they seem to incarnate in close geographic proximity (no one is weirded out that all of the Pantheon are apparently kids from around London), but the possibility of previous connections actually influencing how Ananke finds the gods is a new one. It leaves you to wonder if Baphomet would have ascended if he hadn’t known the Morrigan of if it was all fated. Combined with Laura’s whole one time miraculous cigarette thing, there’s space to speculate if there’s potential for lots of mortals to ascend to godhood during a Recurrence, and if Ananke has the power to pick and choose how she wants each Pantheon to be constructed.
Anyway, that was a tangent.
Regardless of larger questions about the nature of the Recurrence, it’s clear that Baphomet at least holds the Morrigan responsible for his current situation, and there are some strong feelings of resentment. Based on what else we’ve seen about Baphomet and the Morrigan’s relationship, we can get a pretty clear picture that there are some unhealthy features. Fortunately or unfortunately, Baphomet doesn’t share his thoughts with the Morrigan so that she isn’t a party to his whole “murder Cassandra” plot. It doesn’t stop her from intervening at Ragnarock to save Cassandra and help Baphomet escape from Ananke, but I can’t help feeling like if the two of them were just able to have a more honest conversation about how they’re coping (or not) with their situation, things might have turned out very different for the two of them. As it stands, Baphomet tries to shoulder the burden by himself, and the consequences are him and the Morrigan being on the outs with the rest of the Pantheon. I sympathize with what he’s feeling, but he really makes things a lot worse here (and also, he doesn’t learn his lesson about attempted murder, since the issue closes with him plotting to attack Inanna next).
More central to this issue is Laura. The last issue ended with her just beginning to cope with the fallout of Cassandra’s ascension (I don’t think she’s even gotten the news yet at that point; she just feels that something big has happened that affects her). It’s a pretty rough spot to be in (isn’t it always when you’re still reeling from something that disturbs your hopes for the future?) The time skip between these issues helps a little bit (Laura has pretty much the entirety of July 2014 to process what’s happened; it’s probably good that Gillen elides that period) so that Laura’s meeting with Cassandra after her performance isn’t just a mass of Laura dumping her bad feels out at Cassandra’s feet. Instead, Laura offers the kind of comfort that only a true fan can: she encourages Cassandra to use her gift to tell everyone what she needs to say. This moment is probably the most genuine expression of why Laura wants to be a god; yes, she wants the fame and adoration, but more she wants people to listen to her. That she comes to the conclusion here that she probably doesn’t have anything meaningful to say is a pretty significant insight. Regardless of what else is going on with the gods, Laura’s encounters with all of them highlight that they all have a message they want to impart. Those messages involve varying levels of self absorption, but they all carry a core of trying to convey a sense of meaning to people (even Cassandra’s aggressive nihilism has a defiant note of human solidarity to it). Laura, in contrast, is portrayed as someone desperately searching for any kind of meaning; it’s no wonder she’s a superfan of the whole Pantheon. Laura’s offering Cassandra a bit of comfort after her show doesn’t elicit the response she was hoping for (I’m not sure what Cassandra wanted; maybe uncontrolled sobbing at the futility of existence?) is an unusually positive note to leave her story on with this issue. You know that it means something really bad has to happen soon.
Other developments in this issue include Laura having a conversation with David Blake, a Pantheon scholar with whom she butted heads at Ragnarock the previous year; the revelation that the guys who tried to assassinate Lucifer way back in the first issue were a couple of folks in Fandom who seemed to just be making a play at the Prometheus gambit with an unusually elaborate cover story; and Laura finally telling someone about her episode with the cigarette (in front of Ananke). The first part of the murder mystery from the first arc closes without much fanfare (still no hint of who killed the judge), but other threads get planted that will become important in both the near and far future.