Up to this point, Sakhmet, the Egyptian lion goddess of war, is the Pantheon member, who has been fleshed out the least in WicDiv. This changes in WicDiv #17 when writer Kieron Gillen and guest artist and letterer Brandon Graham (Multiple Warheads) show what makes the sexiest and most violent goddess tick. Graham’s art style is equal parts sensual and minimalistic with his background in erotic comics, and he keeps a sedate, neutral palette of greys, greens, and browns until Sakhmet is either on stage or hunting for people to heat when this is replaced by a high energy, angry red. Gillen and Graham portray Sakhmet as the ultimate wild card id in a Pantheon that is pretty hedonistic, and she fully lives in the moment with orgies, lots of drinking, late night parkour, and even some tasty snacks while Baal is training to avert the apocalypse or something. This is empowering for her because she doesn’t want to be anyone’s “misery porn” by making them take pity on her past as a homeless child, but she behaves irresponsibly killing and fucking anything in her path as a kind of coping mechanism when she hasn’t had enough alcohol. Sadly, she seems to be the Amy Winehouse of the Pantheon even though she looks like Rihanna.
Brandon Graham is a virtuosic storyteller in both his art and color choices. And his hand lettering suits a character, who speaks her mind while still keeping the green letters on a black background for Woden and the Valkyries, who watch Sakhmet and makes sure her blood lust doesn’t have any unpleasant consequences. There are several beautiful silent sequences in WicDiv #17 where Graham just shows Sakhmet getting away from her handlers and finding some peace as she looks over the teeming city of London from rooftops under a placid blue sky. Gillen might make her talk tough with her sarcastic, “don’t give a fuck” attitude, but Graham’s art shows that she just wants to be free of all the attention and drama and just be herself. This is shown in a simple three panel sequence of Sakhmet throwing her cell phone down and jumping off a roof.
But this blue serenity is traded in for red and black when Sakhmet’s Valkyrie handlers happen upon her eating her father that neglected her. (There aren’t a lot of on-panel details, but she calls the man she killed a “bad dad” and is shown wandering around with a backpack in her pre-divine state.) However, she doesn’t eat him because she is some kind of feline themed vigilante or anti-heroine (There are way too many of those.), but just because she is hungry. As a goddess, who takes the form of a lioness, Sakhmet is pure, ravenous appetite and must have some kind of sustenance whether booze, sex, or bloody corpses to function. Her appetite can be seen in little ways, like when she bares her teeth at a journalist trying to pry into her past life in a radio interview, or in hugely obvious ones, like the double page spread of a Sakhmet concert drenched in red with inset panels of her vampiric teeth and colorful cat shapes in the crowd. She has no alliance with any of the characters in the Pantheon save for a purely sexual attraction to Baal, resents that Ananke and Woden keep tabs on her through the Valkyries, and could be a violent loose canon in the upcoming arc, which Gillen teases as a “bigger” story than the fairly intimate character studies of “Commercial Suicide”. (The final one page backup drawn by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson will make you angry to wait until April 2016 for the next issue.)
Through the quick witted writing of Gillen and the sexy lines of Graham, WicDiv #17 brings a high level of energy, chaos, and even to the unknown to the series that it’s been lacking since Luci was offed or at the very least the rave issue of WicDiv #8 or the remix issue of WicDiv #14. Graham’s orgy scene that introduces Sakhmet to the readers isn’t the kind of stereotypical, Playboy Mansion one from the 1970s, but twisting, pulsating and filled with all kinds of objects and Egyptian architecture motifs for you to fill in the kinky shit that Sakhmet and her worshipers get up to. The panel is absolutely packed with details and shows how draining these kind of group activities can be, but Sakhmet is ready to go again because she has time to kill before her sparring with Baal. The same kind of erotic energy can be found in the concert scene, and in the “fight” between Baal and her, which is just her pouncing on him and then laying out and looking sultry with an incredibly fitting line from Gillen, “Wake me up when it’s time to be perfect.” Sakhmet is perfectly content with her hedonistic lifestyle and its lack of consequences and gives no mind to Ananke’s scheming, Baal’s nihilism, or Morrigan’s dark musings about how she is on the Pantheon’s leash. She just wants to eat, drink, screw, and be merry for in a year or so she’ll be dead.
In WicDiv #17, Kieron Gillen and Brandon Graham go to the old mainstays of sex and violence when crafting the character of Sakhmet, who seems to be having a good time, but has a crippling addiction to both alcohol and blood that she uses to ensure that she can be like the stone statue of the goddess Sakhmet that she idolized when she was young. Sakhmet is a free spirit, but held back by these things, and the angry dialogue of the Valkyries along with dark colors used by Graham are the sobering reminder of how close she is to completely losing control. Through incisive characterization from Gillen and sensual cartooning from Graham, WicDiv #17 captures both the youthful energy and dark underbelly of the comic through a day in the life of Sakhmet.
The Wicked + the Divine #17
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art and letters by Brandon Graham
Published by Image Comics
Logan is a nerdy, bisexual ginger, who recently graduated university with a degree in English Literature and Overanalyzing Comic Books. He loves comics, music (especially New Wave and BritPop), film (especially Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright), sports (college football and NBA), TV, mythology, and poetry. Joss Whedon is his master, Kitty Pryde is his favorite superhero, and his current favorite comic is The Wicked + the Divine.