By Al Kratina
March 15, 2007 - 17:49
Black Alice is one of my favorite DC characters, likely because I would probably try to date her if I were still in high school. Well, maybe. I dig the whole Type O Negative groupie look, but she'd have to limit her poetry to the odd Milton-inspired rhyming couplet or Bauhaus lyric, as opposed to several Emily The Strange notebooks full of lengthy free verse and Marilyn Manson quotes. And while tattoos are acceptable, even encouraged, those of ankhs and black roses are deal breakers. But when Black Alice is written by Gail Simone, she’s appealing enough that I might excuse the odd tattered copy of The Vampire Lestat kicking around in a Nightmare Before Christmas purse.
In The Helmet of Fate: Black Alice, our wee gothette uses her prodigious magical talents to summon the titular Helmet and bend it to her will. However, the Helmet doesn't take this lying down, or rather, perched on someone's head, and takes matters into its own hands, or rather, shiny metal sides. Simone has a good handle on the teenage experience, albeit a slightly quippier version of it, and makes the book a solid read. The perpetual goth/jock high school conflict, or more accurately the goth/anyone-who-doesn't-have-an-Indianapolis-Colts-jersey conflict, is well represented here, and almost doesn't feel like the stale retreat of teen movie clichés that it is. Simone's dialogue, which mainly takes the form of Alice's internal monologue, makes everything seem fresh and lively, and the bizarre sense of normalcy with which Alice's zombie mother is portrayed adds just a touch of the surreal to the proceedings. The heart of the character is that she’s a angsty magician with enormous power trying to live a regular teenage life, and Simone deals with it will without relying too much on rehashed Buffy scripts
As an artist, Duncan Rouleau is well suited to the material. He's got a light touch, which fits the book's hip feel. Also, it really helps avoid the main pratfall of most goth-related writing, which is a tendency towards melodrama and oppressive melancholy, like a 17-year-old crying and staring at his shoelaces while mumbling Baudelaire. All in all, the book is fun, snappy, and, while it suffers from the same sense of feeling generally unnecessary that plagues the rest of the Helmet of Fate one-shots, it's definitely the one with the most spirit so far, though that spirit may have read entirely too much Anne Rice for my liking.
Rating: 7 on 10