Written By Matt Wagner
Art by Amy Reeder Hadley
DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint has done a number of revamps and revisions to less than popular DC superheroes characters. The most notable of these are the critically acclaimed The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Doom Patrol, Kid Eternity, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing. It is nice to see Vertigo taking characters and placing them in new and different situations. Madame Xanadu works quite well and could be another hit for Vertigo using an obscure character.
Madame Xanadu tells the story of a sorceress/fortune teller/mystic/druid in the time of Camelot. Regular DC readers might remember the character from her appearances in the DC magic titles following 52 as the tarot reading helper to Zatanna and others. This book is her origin of sorts. Matt Wagner does a great job of setting the magical medieval setting for the reader. It isn’t stereotypical and it is not cliché. Rather, it seems modern and well, very Vertigo-esque. It is the sort of book you would let a non-comics fan read to get them into the genre. I liken it to a female version of Gaiman’s The Sandman.
Matt Wagner has a way of making the classic seem new again. For an example of this check out his amazing Golden Age Sandman book Sandman Mystery Theater. Wagner makes me care about this character rather well. While it is a number one book, a lot of things must be established, but this is a great start. I love the tone of the book too. Everything is not sunshine, unicorns, and fairies. What would you expect from a Vertigo book? Interestingly, you find out that Xanadu has dealings with Morgan Le Fey and has had a sexual relationship with a very Merlin looking wizard. This isn’t your dad’s Arthurian Romance.
The only problems may stem from the fact that in a comic world dominated with great titles and utter drivel this book might not make it to many stores or people, but I assure you it is worth your time. Stick with it, and who knows it may be a new Fables for you. I heartily recommend it.
I was sad when I found out that Matt Wagner was not doing the artwork for this series until I saw the first page. Amy Hadley’s art is phenomenal. There seems to be a bit of manga style mixed with fantasy for this book and I love it. Hadley reminds us this is a fantasy book and she draws the fantastic. Long cloaks, leaves and magic itself, sweep in many of the panels. Think about the storm scene in the movie Legend. This is the style of the artwork. There is a definite mix of whimsy and terrifying about the creatures and situations in this book.
If you do not like the story, the artwork is rather nice and will definitely appeal to people with fantasy, anime, or dark gothic interests. The artwork definitely sold me on this book. With great storytelling, the art is even better.
This may sound weird, but Vertigo’s use of newsprint helps the artwork too. It reminds me of reading old House of Mystery or Swamp Thing comics from my childhood. The pencils and inks really fit the page well and are not too flashy. Plus, I love the smell and feel of newsprint, call me a freak.
Overall ( Not an Average) 9/10
The Story 8/10
The Artwork 10/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10