Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.
Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Stephanie Hans (Backup art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson)
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics
Another month, another issue of The Wicked + The Divine with a lot to process. Luckily, no one tragically dies or gets locked up in this issue, but it doesn’t make it any less sad.
Kicking off the second half of the “Commercial Suicide” arc is an issue about Amaterasu with art by Stephanie Hans. If you’re familiar with Hans’ work on Marvel’s multiple Angela series, you know how gorgeous and painterly it is. It’s especially true here, with the way she plays with light and color during the flashbacks and the confrontation between Cassandra and Amaterasu. It’s hard to imagine a better artist for this particular part of the story.
In the flashbacks, we learn that Amaterasu was a girl named Emi going through a “Druid” phase and going by Hazel. Obsessed with the video game Okami and its hero Amaterasu, she bites a school bully, who tries to steal her plushie of the goddess in wolf form. Immediately, this informs so much of her character and wraps back around to the first issue where she declared, “You spend your whole life thinking you’re special, and then suddenly you are.” Emi/Hazel always wanted to be a goddess, and now she is one with limited time left.
The whole issue goes back to the central debate around Amaterasu’s character since she was first introduced: is she appropriating Japanese culture by being a white girl with the powers of an ancient Japanese sun goddess? The answer is ultimately “yes.” It’s very clear after this issue that Amaterasu is working with something of a basic understanding of the culture her new found god status comes from. She also gets massively angry as seen with the opening scene and her argument turned superhero fight with Cassandra.
This doesn’t mean that Amaterasu is a bad person. In fact, out of the entire Pantheon, she might be the most gentle and kind-hearted out of all of them. She also happens to be that girl we all knew in high school, who was a well-intentioned, but kind of misguided anime fan who wanted to move to Japan after college. Maybe the 17-year-old would grow out of it with time, but that’s the last thing she has. She’s trying so hard for what time she has left to mean something, especially when she’s all that she has left in the world with her best friends and her father being dead, but you know what they say about good intentions.
Cassandra and Amaterasu never come to any certain agreement, which tends to happen when you have two strong and conflicting personalities like them getting into an argument, especially over appropriation vs. appreciation, but they seem to have a quiet moment of mutual respect when Ammy admits that she’s admired Cass’s work for a while and Cass realizes that so much of the Pantheon were all fans. While probably laying the groundwork for something bigger (much like the scene with Minerva in the hospital earlier in the issue), it also goes back to the parallel of the series speaking to what it means to turn from fan to creator.
Gillen has said many times the series is about problematic people doing problematic things, and WicDiv #15 is no exception. With Amaterasu trying so hard to make her last years on Earth count for something, it makes her blind to people she could be hurting unintentionally. Well, not completely since she does listen to Cassandra when she tells her forming a giant fireball over Hiroshima is a really terrible idea. Still, with her time running out and her friends dropping off, it becomes a part of her own personal tragedy, which is what makes her in this issue so compelling.