By Leroy Douresseaux
July 25, 2008 - 09:31
|This image is of Amy Reeder Hadley's pretty cover art for Madame Xanadu #1. The series logo appears in the gray space above the illustration.
Madame Xanadu was a character created by writer David Michelinie (the co-creator of the Spider-Man villain, Venom) and artist Val Mayerik and first appeared a little over 30 years ago as the headliner in the comic book, Doorway to Nightmare #1 (Feb. 1978). Madame Xanadu began as a sorcerer named Nimue (the Lady of the Lake in Arthurian legends).
Now, the character is the star of a new ongoing series entitled Madame Xanadu, published by DC Comics’ mature readers imprint, Vertigo. The series is written by popular writer/artist Matt Wagner and drawn by Amy Reeder Hadley. Wagner is best known as the creator, writer, and artist of the Grendel and Mage comic books. Hadley was a winner in TOKYOPOP’S Rising Stars of Manga 4, and wrote and drew a three-volume OEL manga, Fool’s Gold.
As Madame Xanadu #1 opens, Nimue Inwudu is a scryer (someone who uses a crystal ball, fire, water, etc. for purposes of divination or fortune-telling) and seeker living in the woods during the time of King Arthur. Camelot and King Arthur are nearing their end, and Nimue’s sister, Morgana, is the mastermind of that impending doom. Nimue is determined to stop her sister, even when a mysterious stranger appears warning her not to interfere with the inevitable.
[Madame Xanadu #1 contains an eight page preview of another new Vertigo comic book series, Air by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker.]
THE LOWDOWN: By now many comic book readers have accepted the fact that most comics, especially those published by DC Comics and Marvel Comics are not casual reading experiences. Read the first issue, and generally, you’ll have to buy the next four or five issues of a particular series to read a complete story arc – beginning to end. In order to capture our attention or encourage us to invest in buying the rest of the story, a first issue or an opening chapter of a story arc should reach out and grab us.
Madame Xanadu #1 is not a grabber. It’s not bad; it’s simply limp where it should be firm. In the crowded Direct Market where we buy comic books, new comic book series featuring D-list or minor characters should start off with fireworks, but Madame Xanadu #1 offers mostly a few embers and annoyances. Speaking of annoying, Nimue speaks in such a formal manner – almost like a parody of Tolkien (for instance, “Thanks be for your sacrifice, leafy grandfather. May the winds scatter your seeds far and wide.” p. 3) – that it’s comical instead of elegant and poetic. This first issue is way too much setup, and it gives the idea that we have to wait for the real fireworks which may not begin until issue three.
Still, there are good moments: Wagner’s portrayal of Merlin as a lusty old man who loves getting laid and Nimue’s poignant explanation of why she wants Arthur’s kingdom to continue. Hadley’s art is good, but she has a habit of drawing the facial expressions of characters that convey emotions that are actually opposite of what is required for a scene. Still, I’d like to see more of this.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers of Vertigo’s series that are set in DC Comics’ “magical universe” may want to try Madame Xanadu.