This Week In Comics: 9/5/12

“You know, the generic, samey origin stories are definitely my favorite part about superheroes,” said no comic book reader ever, and yet, this week in comics sees DC’s questionable Zero Issue month begin. So, yay for that.

This is a thing that is new.

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Review: Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted


Madame Xanadu is far from the sort of character you’d expect to see pop up in a Vertigo book.  A relatively minor character from the late 70’s, she served as a support character in just about every mystic book in the DC Universe, but she never had a title of her own.  In 2008, Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley collaborated to begin Madame Xanadu as an ongoing Vertigo series, despite the general rule DC has about the use of their properties in Vertigo (and vice versa).  Waaaaay back in March or April of ’08, when I was just starting on here, I reviewed the first issue and was singularly unimpressed, but the collection of 10 issues in a single volume for Vertigo’s usual low-price, plus the fair amount of regular praise heaped upon it, convinced me to give it another shot.

Madame Xanadu begins the book at the fall of Camelot.  As the book progresses, the time-line takes a few major jumps, following the immortal mystic through a number of conflicts with another enigmatic immortal, the Phantom Stranger.  The book features five two-issue arcs bringing her from Camelot to the early 1900’s as she sets up her shot in Greenwich Village.  What should come off as scattershot instead follows a complex character arc as she goes from a relatively innocent mystic in Camelot to a manipulative seer working against a vastly powerful being she hardly understands.

Amy Reeder Hadley’s art is expressive and stylish, miles away from shadowy Vertigo house style.  She adapts readily to the variety of periods and styles Wagner throws at her to create an opulent background for the character to come up in.  Her ability to shift quickly through time and style makes her the perfect choice for the book.  Her action is clean, crisp and dynamic, but she’ shows more strength in the emotional moments of the book.

Fans of DC will enjoy the numerous throw-backs every arc has to the origins of DC’s most prominent mystic characters, slipped in despite the Vertigo divide, but knowledge of these characters is hardly necessary to enjoying the stories.  The collection of arcs presented by Wagner and Hadley offer solid, character-driven action detailing the origins of a surprisingly resilient new female lead character.  Though its opening arc is clumsy at best, the book evolves with its protagonist into something slightly more sophisticated and vastly more fun.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary