DC Comics
Madame Xanadu #8
By Erika Szabo
March 28, 2009 - 09:56

DC Comics
Writer(s): Matt Wagner
Penciller(s): Amy Reader Hadley
Inker(s): Richard Friend
Colourist(s): Guy Major
Letterer(s): Jared K. Fletcher
$2.99 US

Being my first comic review here, I’ve decided to continue my reviews for Vertigo’s Madame Xanadu.  Having been an avid reader of the series since the very beginning, I hope to offer a unique take on it.  Here’s hoping my thoughts and opinions will bring about some interest to new and seasoned readers alike.


In Part 2 of Thru the Crystal, Whitechapel continues to descend into hysteria as more women are brutally slain by Jack the Ripper.  Desperate to stop the slayings, Madame Xanadu employs every enchantment at her disposal to protect the women and maintain peace. But like everyone else taking part in the investigation, Xanadu’s efforts are met in vain.  However, unlike the police force, whose inefficient work had been to blame, Xanadu finds her greatest opponent to be none other than Phantom Stranger, and he is not about to reveal the truth – and with good reason.

The night of “The Double Event” – the noteworthy incident in which Jack the Ripper supposedly murdered Elizabeth Stride and later Catherine Eddowes (frequently known as “Kitty” in the Vertigo series) – the police force find a message written on a wall close to Eddowes murder scene stating: “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.”  Upon arriving to the scene, Madame Xanadu knows full well the reason behind such a controversial message was to cause a distraction (in the perpetrator’s favor), and who better to do it than the agent of fate, Phantom Stranger?  Soon after, she confronts him; while he insists that these murders are morally wrong, they are ultimately for the better.  

More than a month later, after the “Vigilance Committee” take to the streets and two more noteworthy letters are received by the Central News Agency and George Lusk (leader of the Vigilance Committee), the final and most brutal murder is about to take place.  But before that time, Xanadu uses one of her strongest enchantments to find the perpetrator and stop him once and for all.  However, once again, Phantom Stranger is the one to stop her.  That night, Xanadu finds that one of the prostitutes whom she so desperately tried to protect, Mary Kelly, had been gruesomely mutilated.  

Upon witnessing the murder scene, she once again finds herself confronting Stranger.  But knowing full well that this was the last of the Ripper murders, Stranger finally tells all.  It wouldn’t be fair to spoil such a surprise, so I’ll leave this to the readers, but know one thing: innocence and good nature can, at times, bring about more bad than good.  

Despite making a strong argument, Madame Xanadu can’t help but feel angered and betrayed by Phantom Stranger’s “villainous” actions.  As Madame Xanadu #8 comes to a close, Xanadu vows to stop him, upon their next encounter, once and for all.  But these feelings aren’t simply centered around the killings, mind you.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series is the pair’s growing relationship, albeit troubled.  Just as the two begin to take comfort in each other’s company, we are thrown into another situation entirely, as is Xanadu and the agent of fate (dare I say beau?)

As Madame Xanadu makes every effort to protect those close to her, her own innocence begins to whittle down.  Xanadu is in no way the naiveté sprite she was in Madame Xanadu #1.  Though while her childlike face has since matured, she has not allowed bitter feelings to take over her mindset.  Xanadu firmly believes that fate is not what moves us, but instead our actions. However, by keeping this issue’s final twist in mind, the idea of fate becomes more ambiguous.  This allows us to believe that perhaps fate does exist, but not in the way that we perceive it to – that perhaps fate is not entirely out of our control, instead fate is nothing more than the consequences of our actions.  And if this is the case, then perhaps Madame Xanadu and Phantom Stranger are one and the same, or rather, each are a part of a puzzle, and without one or the other the puzzle could never be whole.

Rating: 9/10

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