Few writers are quite as prolific and unconventional as London’s own recluse, Alan Moore. After gathering a large part of his wide fan-base from his political allegory, “The Watchmen,” Moore continues to astound readers through his works of literature.
At the dawn of the new millennium, came “Promethea,” a surprising sleeper hit for the professed magician. Consisting of five trade paperbacks, “Promethea” traces the tale of a little Egyptian girl turned into a story – no longer corporeal, but living on forever through the imagination of those who will invoke her in ages to come.
The first trade deals with the origin of Promethea and several of her incarnations throughout history, though it focuses primarily on the current vessel for her host – Sophie Bangs, a college student from New York City. Joining the cast of characters are Stacia Van de Veer, Bangs’ mercilessly blunt best friend, who provides much of the comic relief early in the series and her promiscuous mother, Trish. Immersed in Platonic and Crowleian philosophy, the trade begins to explore “Immateria,” the ethereal world beyond the physical plane.
“There’s a material world, and there’s an immaterial world,” states an earlier incarnation of Promethea to Bangs. “Both worlds exist, but in different ways. For example, chairs exist. So does the idea of chairs.”
The following three trades continue to deal with a thorough explanation of Immateria through the systems of Kaballah and Tarot, while trouble brews on Earth. Moore’s approach toward this inherently complex subject matter is commendable in its simplicity – often the significance of each new area will be told in verse, immediately followed by Bangs’ layman phrasing for audiences not acutely keen on poetic interpretation.
The matter is handled delicately and respectfully as Bangs is the every-man who is trying to understand what all these places mean as much as we are.
Trade five finally sees an earlier promise fulfilled as Bangs has been back on her earthly realm for quite some time, while the country is in the heart of the Bush administration’s War on Terror.
Utilizing a Dante-esque form of storytelling, this allegorical epic often features famous literary and historical figures as guides, even that of the protagonist’s own great-uncle, John Kendrick Bangs, author of the now-iconic “Houseboat on the River Styx.” Incidentally, Aleister Crowley shows up quite often, as well, in various incarnations.
Although at times bordering on self-indulgent, this trek through the Kabballah’s numerical system is thorough and heartily entertaining.
The art, by the creative team of J.H. Williams and Mick Gray as penciller and inker, respectively, is nothing if not unique, though at times hard to follow, precisely for its uncanny nature. Fully embodying the message behind some of the series’ more abstract areas, the panels contained within these pages are certainly not for the novice comic book reader.
A word of caution: you may want to keep the youngins away as “Promethea” features considerable sexual content, though entirely for the purpose of education.
Undeniably creative and wholeheartedly original, this multiple Eisner Award-winner continues to fascinate any comic aficionado who happens to be lucky enough to stumble upon it in a world woefully claimed by brainless, action-drenched franchises more built for financial success than intellectual enlightenment.
“Promethea” is certainly not for everyone, but if you seek a cerebral, intriguing tale of the caliber that only the lines of Moore can deliver, then this mythical epic will not only pass, but it will reign in your highest consciousness.
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