Archive for Madame Xanadu

Magic and Murder

Things have been a bit busy, so I’ve fallen a little behind on some of my reviews, so here are a couple I’ve had sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks.


Madame Xanadu #9

The story finally moves into the modern world — or at least the early 20th century. Nimue has moved to America, still hoping to get her revenge on the Phantom Stranger. She’s also sleeping with John Zatara, future father of the superhero magic-user Zatanna. Nimue prepares a powerful binding spell designed to imprison the Stranger if he ever gets close to her. And in the background of all this, a cop named Jim Corrigan is making his way closer to the event that will turn him into the Spectre.

Verdict: Thumbs up. As I’ve said before, Amy Reeder Hadley’s artwork is just extraordinary. I love the background work with Jim Corrigan, and Zatara’s Italian heritage is played very nicely. Worst news about this comic? The next issue is going to be the last.


Crossed #4

Crisis follows crisis for the small group of survivors trying to escape the Crossed, the zombiesque sadistic mass murderers who have torn society down to the ground. They lose more allies to the weird Crossed infection, they watch the Crossed as they continue to evolve into smarter and more deadly opponents, and they do everything they can to get away before they’re killed or turned.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s gross, horrific, tense, and deeply unpleasant. I still say some smart film producer is eventually going to turn this into one heck of a horror movie.

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Demons and Witches and Rippers


Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #4

Hellboy and his Irish friend, Alice, follow a faerie while HB tries to figure out what’s gone wrong with him lately. He remembers getting killed pretty decisively a while back and somehow coming back to life. He remembers killing the giants he was pursuing by embracing his demonic nature. But he doesn’t have long to reflect on things — the little goblin has lead them into a trap. Alice is shot with poisonous elfshot. Is there any way to save her?

Meanwhile, the followup story is another tale from Russian folklore, this time about a man captured by Baba Yaga. Can he outwit the evil witch before she eats him for breakfast?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Hellboy story is advancing nicely, with some introspection for Hellboy that we don’t see very often. And I’m really digging these stories from Russian folklore — they’re both funny and scary in the way that only the best fairy tales are. Any time Mike Mignola wants to write a book about folk tales and folklore, I think I’d buy it.


Madame Xanadu #8

Nimue, in her Victorian-era guise as the fortuneteller Madame Xanadu, remains on the trail of Jack the Ripper, but despite her magical alarms, she is no closer to capturing the murderer than the police are. The only person who seems to have a clue is the Phantom Stranger — and his only interest in the matter is to make sure the killings continue! He claims that the murders must go on to save the future, but Nimue only sees an emotionless monster helping to clear the way for a mass murderer.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Matt Wagner’s writing is a joy to read, and Amy Reeder Hadley‘s artwork is some of the most beautiful stuff you’re going to find in a mainstream comic book. Go pick it up.

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Everyone All Together

Justice League of America #28

It’s the Justice League vs. the Shadow Cabinet. For the most part, it’s a story about a bunch of super-people beating each other up, though the confrontation between Superman and Icon is… interesting. Very interesting.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, I’m still grooving on the return of the characters from Milestone Comics. But there is a lot of excellent fisticuffs going on here. I approve.

Madame Xanadu #7

Nimue is now in Victorian London, using her fortunetelling and spellcasting to try to protect people from Jack the Ripper. And of course, the Phantom Stranger appears, infuriating Nimue with his failure to act to save anyone. She offers to help the police, but finds her ability to see the future mysteriously stymied when it comes to discovering the Ripper’s identity. She lays mystic alarms around Whitechapel to alert her to any attacks, but will her spells be enough to stop the madman? And whose side is the Phantom Stranger really on?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Obviously, this isn’t nearly as heavy as Alan Moore’s classic Ripper story “From Hell,” but there’s some good stuff in here. Ripperologists will find several interesting tidbits to enjoy.

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Living Dead Girl

Madame Xanadu #6

Nimue is trapped in a cell during the French Revolution. Unable to get to her youth-restoring potions, she’s growing older and older by the minute. Desperate to save herself, she casts a spell to summon Death herself — as in Morpheus’ uber-cool goth sister from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series — to persuade her that it’s not actually her time to die.

Verdict: Thumbs up. First, because Death is such an impossibly awesome character. And second, because Amy Reeder Hadley draws such impossibly awesome pictures of Death.

Birds of Prey #124

The Calculator has betrayed the Birds of Prey to the Silicon Syndicate. Luckily, they have some backup — namely, Black Canary, Manhunter, Green Arrow, and Speedy. But the more significant battle is back at Oracle’s HQ, where the Joker has come calling again, having finally realized that the girl in the wheelchair was really Barbara Gordon, the girl he paralyzed all those years ago. Who’s going to come out on top in this rematch?

Verdict: Thumbs up, entirely because of the Barbara-vs.-Joker fight. The rest of it was pretty forgettable.

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Mysticism and Multiplicity


Madame Xanadu #5

Time keeps moving forward — Nimue is now a fortuneteller in pre-Revolutionary France. She still needs her potions to maintain her youth, but she has the favor of Marie Antoinette. And the fortunetelling system she’s developed — the original Tarot cards — have revealed to her that bad times for France are on the way. After running into the Phantom Stranger again, she flees Paris and tells herself to stay out of trouble, but her sense of loyalty has her returning in an attempt to save the Queen. But can all her spells save her when Marie Antoinette decides she doesn’t want to be saved?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautiful art, nice cliffhanger. Decent stuff about Antoinette, too, who from a lot of the bios I’ve seen about her, was probably one of the least awful people in France during that period.


Franklin Richards: Sons of Geniuses

Chris Eliopoulos and Marc Sumerak continue their stories about the son of Reed and Sue Richards, as we get a look at the various versions of Franklin and H.E.R.B.I.E. scattered around the multiverse, including Superhero Franklins, Monkey Franklin, Alien Franklin, Robot Franklin, Chicken Franklin, and many more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very cute story, very cute art. It’s a bit pricey, at $4, but it’s probably worth splurging on it every once in a while.

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The Death of Pa Kent


Action Comics #870

I’m a sucker for these big events, and I know I shouldn’t be. Brainiac has miniaturized Metropolis and is all set to destroy the Earth. Superman bashes Brainiac’s face in, Supergirl stops a missile from making the sun go nova, Brainiac shoots a missile that destroys the Kent family’s farm, and Pa Kent has a fatal heart attack.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Useless and stupid. All this effort to kill Pa Kent? Just to make the comics match up with a movie made 30 years ago? Just to make Superman angsty and mopey? Thanks, but no thanks.


Madame Xanadu #3

Centuries after losing her magical abilities and being cast out of Camelot, Nimue is knocking around China as Kublai Khan’s soothsayer. She has to drink noxious potions to maintain her youth and immortality, and she’s in the process of inventing the Tarot deck to help her see the future. She runs into the Phantom Stranger again while he’s escorting Marco Polo into the country, and she has the Khan take him into custody. But the Stranger clues her in on a plot to discredit the Polos by framing them for the murder of the Khan’s favorite consort. Can Nimue save her in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m really enjoying Matt Wagner’s writing on this one. From Camelot to ancient China? Very cool. Lots of really neat details help bring the point across that 13th century China was a vastly strange place to Westerners. Nimue’s continuing development is very interesting, and the Stranger is still a fascinating enigma. And Amy Reeder Hadley’s artwork is just gorgeous. Excellent work all around.

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Two-Face: Year One #1

We get a retelling of Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s origin story, with many elements taken from “The Long Halloween” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Most of the focus here is on Harvey — we don’t actually meet Two-Face until the last page.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but Two-Face is my favorite Batman villain, so I should be considered an easy mark.


Madame Xanadu #2

Camelot has fallen, and Nimue has done nothing to help them. She takes petty revenge on some of Mordred’s soldiers, but her scorn for her evil sister Morgana is mostly ignored. She also encounters Etrigan the Demon before meeting the Phantom Stranger, who tells her that her lover Merlin summoned the demon and plans to use her to flee and gain immortality so he can continue to influence history to his own benefit. Nimue must repay Merlin’s betrayal with betrayal of her own, but can she escape a terrible fate?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nicely chaotic bit of fun and intrigue. Matt Wagner knows his Arthurian legends, and his re-creation of Madame Xanadu’s origin remains very enjoyable.

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Magic and Mayhem


Madame Xanadu #1

The new Vertigo revamp of DC’s fortune-teller character Madame Xanadu starts out in Arthurian England, when she was a rune-reading nymph named Nimue. She has an uneasy relationship with her eldest sister, the Lady in the Lake, and a much worse one with the middle sister, Morganna, who is very eager for her son Mordred to wipe out Camelot and become king. She doin’ the horizontal jitterbug with Merlin himself, and she tangles with the Phantom Stranger, who’s trying to get her to realize that she can’t change the future doom she’s foreseen for Camelot.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Interesting beginning, since I figured we’d start out with the modern-day gypsy Tarot-reader we’re more familiar with from the mainstream DC Universe. Writer Matt Wagner, creator of the comic book “Mage,” has a very strong interest in all things Arthurian, so I’m looking forward to some more of his take on the classic Camelot. Oh, and the artwork by Amy Reeder Hadley is just plain gorgeous.


She-Hulk #30

Shulkie finally gets released from jail to deal with a local emergency, and as a condition of her release, Shulkie insists that her new friend and fellow prisoner Monique be released as well. The big emergency? Possible Irish terrorist Bran Murphy has grown to giant size and is trashing the city, while Hercules tries in vain to stop him. Yes, that actually is a jumbo-sized order of crazy. And even crazier — it turns out that the giant Bran Murphy is actually Bran the Blessed, an actual mythological Welsh giant, and he has a symbiotic relationship with the real Bran Murphy, who’s in the process of dying a few miles away. Well, in the end, they manage to save Bran Murphy and defeat Bran the Blessed, the Celtic demigod gets an unexpected new host, and Shulkie and Hercules do the nasty canasta.

Verdict: Ehh, neither thumbs up or thumbs down. I still think the ongoing storyarc is equal parts ridiculous, stupid, and meandering, but this issue was full of tons of crazy stuff, and that helps soften the blow.

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