Zeb Larson reviews The Wicked + The Divine #14…
Behind the music, Woden’s stayed back from the spotlight. But in this issue? We look beneath the mask. Shall we say it’s the most audacious and experimental issue of WicDiv yet? I think so.
The Wicked + The Divine #14 goes in the opposite direction of the prior issue, focusing on Woden. Most of the other deities are hardly healthy individuals, but Woden is a particularly diseased person, and this issue explores some of how he came to feel that way. I will be discussing spoilers in this review, so consider yourself forewarned.
Most of this issue is told through flashback and Woden’s own internal monologue. On the one hand, he’s got a guilty conscience, because of the women he exploits and his misdeeds with Ananke. Unlike the other members of the pantheon, Woden directly collaborates with Ananke, which means that he knows about (and has abetted) the various murders of the last few issues. Ananke engineered Luci’s downfall through the murder of the judge, with Woden keeping watch. However, none of this has made him change or stop, and one brief attempt at stopping Ananke is shut down with a few angry words on her part. Yet Woden has a secret he’s keeping from everybody else: another masked figure, who he wants to keep safe.
Woden keeps coming back to patriarchy over and over again in this issue. We saw that played out in the last issue with Tara, who is most definitely dominated and oppressed by patriarchy. Woden is a character of deep contradictions. On the one hand, he’s fully cognizant of the patriarchy and its role in oppressing women, yet he also contends patriarchy finds its own ways to oppress men. Yet he himself oppresses women without much compunction, or at least without letting his guilt get in the way of his sexual entitlement. More than anybody else we’ve seen, he’s sick, actively perpetuating a system that he can see is immoral. Baphomet is a wild animal acting out of fear: Woden is closer to an Eichmann.
Furthermore, some of his ideas are clearly shallow rationalizations. Yes, patriarchy finds its own ways to oppress men, but patriarchy is a gradated hierarchy, and most men still find themselves above most women. Furthermore, context matters. To use Woden’s own example about men during WWI (or later during WWII), it might have been safer to be a British woman than a British man in 1916, but being a German woman in Berlin in 1945 or a Polish woman in Warsaw in 1944 was no enviable prospect.
Yet why should Woden care so much about this idea of patriarchy, unless it has something to do with the pantheon as a whole. He feels dominated in this system (fittingly, by Ananke), who refers to him as the pet of a god. He’s a man with tremendous power who’s forced to be an accomplice and a toady. For Woden, patriarchy and the pantheon are the same thing: in both cases, he’s going along with the wrong thing because he can’t bring himself to challenge that system and face the consequences.
If Woden is merely serving Ananke’s interests, then it also raises the question of who exactly she serves. Just what is she trying to uphold here? Three gods are dead now, two of them because of her, and she’s engineering a confrontation with Baphomet. This issue doesn’t provide us with any answers, but it adds some interesting questions to the book.