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I Guess I’m Grateful: Persephone’s Return in ‘The Wicked + The Divine’?

I Guess I’m Grateful: Persephone’s Return in ‘The Wicked + The Divine’?

In collaboration with Michael Perry

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We started reading The Wicked + The Divine in trade paperback, which meant that the story built a momentum that didn’t get interrupted by waiting for issues. The final events of Fandemonium (issue #11) hit like a brick to the face. Ananke deifies Laura only to kill her moments later. And on the heels of Baphomet murdering Inanna. Surprising. Heart-breaking. Confusing.

Gillen offered this insight on his blog: “Yeah. Sorry.”

Laura’s been our naive and unreliable narrator this whole time. She’s been our witness and audience analog since the beginning. But as of issue #11, page 22, she’s dead.

Except maybe she isn’t. We aren’t the first to put forth this possibility. The germ of this article came from reviews of issue #14, “The Re-Re-Remix,” that included something like, “a new Valkyrie who may or may not be Laura.” But the evidence pointing to Persephone’s return in the form of Woden’s mysterious new companion is, in our minds, nearly incontrovertible.

Crucial to this interpretation is that Persephone, like Jesus, is a resurrection god. In fact, she returns cyclically with the spring. Her story: Persephone captures the fancy of Hades, god of the underworld. He kidnaps her away from her mother Demeter. Demeter becomes despondent and, as the goddess of the harvest, her sadness causes the crops to stop growing. Hades is appealed to return Persephone to save humanity from starvation. He finally agrees, but Persephone has already eaten six seeds of a pomegranate while in the underworld, and so she is tied to that world for six months of the year, corresponding to winter.

Ananke herself draws attention to the resurrection aspect of Persephone during Laura’s apotheosis.



So her resurrection is set up as expectation. However, Gillen’s not so straight-forward. To make us doubt that expectation, he also kills Inanna, another resurrection god, and clearly denotes that death with the skull on the Pantheon circle. If Inanna is dead, then arguably so is Persephone. 

But her death has unique qualities that make probable her rebirth.

lauras-descent-into-the-underworldForemost is Ananke’s line: “One part of a two-part mystery.” Thus far we’ve only seen part 1. Laura, pre-Persephone, captures the attention of Lucifer (the Hades of the Judeo-Christian tradition), and is brought into the underworld, or backstage, where she becomes Lucifer’s confidante and receives the spark of godhood–KLLK–pomegranate seeds in the form of a cigarette. She initially comes into conflict with her parents over her Pantheon-obsessed behavior, but right before becoming Persephone, she notably has come to understanding with them, her “Demeter.” So while we could read her parental peace-making as the concession of Demeter to get her daughter back for half the year and thus the end of the resurrection story, the second part of her mystery remains. She must become, now, the new goddess of the underworld, only to rise again in the spring.

Laura’s actually close to all the cthonic gods. She witnesses Baphomet’s debut, along with the pre-ascension Dionysis, and defuses a conflict between him and Badb. She collaborates with Cassandra until she ascends as Urðr. And she’s coerced by Baph into a full page descent into the underworld.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but he makes a point of convincing her to stay. And drink. 

Unlike in the deaths of Lucifer and Tara, Ananke doesn’t behead Persephone, at least not on panel. That’s not a mistake. Instead, she burns her. That death calls back to an earlier death from Morrigan’s train-station show where Baphomet burns a police officer. Except he’s not dead, according to Gentle Annie. He’s merely “sleeping,” and she’s able to bring him back to life. When Persephone is with Hades during winter, the earth is said to be sleeping. We await the spring awakening.


During that time, Persephone lives as consort to Hades, arguably, a monster. Certainly Woden is also that. Cassandra remarks to him: “You’re not stupid, are you? Just evil.” Of course, that’s where this is going–the end of issue #14 and the appearance of the new Valkyrie, the one who Woden is protecting. In that final reveal, we see only the Valkyrie’s helmet. If she is Persephone, then the burning officer wearing a helmet foreshadows her resurrection–two parts, one panel: burned to death, resurrected in helmet. The fire itself also emphasizes her resurrection through connotation: the fires of Hades and the resurrection of a phoenix, reborn from the fire’s ashes.

But who is the her? First and most likely choice is Ananke, since Woden’s story indicates regret in going along with her plans to frame and then kill Lucifer. But it doesn’t seem as simple as death in Persephone’s case. Why would Ananke want to kill Laura? And why make her a god first? Our first thought was that Ananke is some sort of Great Old One using the Prometheus Gambit. Like there were more than forty gods every recurrence that nobody knew about because she consumed them immediately. That seemed like a Stephen King novel about Galactus on acid on steroids. Plus if she’s planning on using it for her own longevity, why give up the years for killing Inanna to Baph? And why did she burn Persephone rather than blow her head apart as she did with Lucifer and Tara? Ananke’s no idiot–I think she knows Persephone isn’t dead-dead. So what’s the end game?


Our second thought was that Ananke is grooming a successor. She has tired of her millenniums-old role–she admits this much to Cassandra–and is prepping Persephone for the part. If so, she would want to force the second part of the mystery through death and resurrection. Only then would Persephone be in full power to take the torch. Woden may understand the plan and see hiding Persephone as a way to foil Ananke. Certainly an immortality of birthing and killing gods every 90 years would be a kind of Hell on earth. One that even Woden might deem too awful to be part of foisting on to an innocent.



So there’s the mythological and narratological components. But we should probably address the visual component as well. It’s more than just the repeated burning imagery; it’s specific details like the one above. Laura appears on several pages where she could have been edited out, thus maintaining her centralized role. She even ghosts her way into a few panels where she doesn’t belong. And she’s present for most of the dialogue since the majority of the shots are technically Woden’s mask reflecting her. Above is the image from issue #7 where her face is actually mirrored.

But it’s not the only parallel. There’s also the undeniable one below. After all, it only makes sense for Persephone to cyclically repeat.