This latest volume in the series has a lot of the things that have made it a terrifically entertaining read so far. You’ve got amazing art from Jamie McKelvie in full-blown spectacle mode as two factions of the Pantheon repeatedly face off against each other here. While his character work is as good as you’d expect, here he brings the action with several intense, fast-paced, multiple-viewpoint fight scenes whose high point comes when Persephone uses her green tentacle — er, tendril powers to take on Woden’s giant neon Valkyrie/Voltron amalgamation monstrosity. We also get lots of clever, funny, and insightful dialogue from Kieron Gillen while the fighting is going on. Even when his characters ramble on about “higher frequency geek” it’s still entertaining to read what they have to say. While the nature of the conflict in this volume does lend itself to lots of pithy one-liners, there’s also a substantial amount of advancements and twists to the plot. Seeing what really went down when Ananke did her head-popping thing with Laura/Persephone was certainly a surprising retcon, while the status quo we get at the end of the volume has a nice air of ominousness to go along with the freedom it promises.
All of this makes “Rising Action” another worthy addition to this particular canon. Which makes its one major narrative failing that much more annoying. I’ll admit that part of this is down to my own set of expectations regarding the writer. Gillen is usually very good about subverting existing cliches and tropes, or at least displaying enough self-awareness to make them come off as less annoying. Which is why it’s so disappointing to have Pantheon ringleader Ananke fall right into the role of the antagonist who does awful things for reasons that she believes are perfectly valid but declines to provide any explanations for. Yes, the fact that there’s this thing known as the Great Darkness that needs to be kept at bay sure sounds important, but aside from providing no explanation as to what it is, we get no explanation regarding why exploding the heads of teenage deities is necessary to stave it off. Aside from Ananke’s declaration that “HELL IS YOU CHILDREN FOREVER!” I mean.
My frustration with this opaque plotting on Gillen’s part will remain until we get some kind of explanation that causes the entire cast to realize their elderly overseer was right and that they need to do something about it. At which time the writer will (Likely? Hopefully?) make a hard left from my expectations in showing us what the cast does. Until then, I think I’ll be able to make do with seeing the cast continue to party as hard as they have been.