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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Comic Book Review: Promethea

Writer: Alan Moore
Artists: J. H. Williams III and Mick Gray
Published by Wildstorm/America's Best Comics

Whew. This was one hell of a magical comic book ride.

The whole book is set in fictional-futuristic New York City in the year 1999 and tells the story of Sophie Bangs, a young-college student who is the newest vessel of a powerful entity known as Promethea  - originally a young girl whose father was slain by a Christian mob in Alexandria back in 411 B.C who became a "living story" after the god Thoth-Hermes took her into the Immateria,  a different plane of existance made of pure imagination - who's purpose is to bring about the Apocalypse/Doomsday. Several human beings through time were able to "summon" themselves or others as Promethea by channeling her energy through imagination, most of them poets and playwrights (which Sophie meets as well early in the story).

At first you would think that this is an ordinary  "good vs evil" kind of thing because at the start, Sophie/Promethea battles lots of demons from hell disguising as human beings while trying to figure out how to cope up with her "other identity." She continues to fight them through issue #12, using her newfound powers and magic, but that's as far as the superhero-action sequences go, because the book immediately becomes some sort of  magic instruction manual, with Moore writing his own philosophic views and spiritual beliefs.

Sophie's first fight as the demi-Goddess Promethea

It kind of gets a little bit boring with those "lecture" issues, where Sophie/Promethea just travels into the Immateria itself trying to learn magic and stuff. Alan Moore shows a completely different world, leaving the "Promethea vs demons" story line and jumps into telling his philosophical views, even telling the story of how the whole universe and life came about through tarot cards! He also talks about the afterlife, on what happens and what we would see when our souls leave our earthly bodies and so much more. A lot of those things I don't really understand, but I found out that you don't really have to dig in everything that Moore writes in order to enjoy the journey. You just have to go with the flow of his masterful storytelling as he takes you to a journey into the vast oceans of the imagination.

Good thing he immediately got back on track after more than 10 issues of Aleister Crowley 101, continuing Sophie's saga as she starts to realize that there is no escaping her destiny (as the Doombringer) even if she changed names and ran away from New York (where she is being hunted down as a terrorist at this point since her and Promethea's many battles in the city against foul demons) and even if she didn't transform into Promethea for 4 years.

Now I'd like to point out one particular issue - # 10 (at least from what I remember): where Sophie agrees to have sex (in her Promethea form) with a certain old-balding magician called Jack Faust in order to learn more about magic, tarots, and the occult. This particular issue had the most erotic sex scene I have ever read... or rather experienced in any medium. Ever. Moore just weaves every word in to perfection, and making his readers feel what he wants them to feel at that time without being too lewd. I can't even describe it completely here without sounding like a perverted a**, but trust me when I tell you that you would understand what I'm saying when you get to read that part. It was a magical, and yes, tantric experience (no I didn't come or anything, you twisted freak). 

Jack Faust and Promethea before doing the deed.

Alan Moore's intricate writing and poetry while mixing elements of mysticism, magic, science-fiction, action, history, and mythology together with the superhero genre is something that isn't usually done in conventional graphic novels. This book shows just how good Moore is and how he is able to convey his own beliefs without sounding too preachy. He provokes the readers thoughts and makes them over think with his subtle allusions and symbolisms while entertaining them at the same time. 

Artist JH Williams and colorist Mick Gray's work in the art  department  is no easy task, but they managed to turn Moore's complex story telling into the most fascinating works of visual art I have ever seen in any comic book so far. Every page has a different kind of paneling that sometimes shows hieroglyphics, space-warps, and renaissance-inspired art to name a few. Some pages doesn't have any panels at all, and some are like upside-down reflections among many others - that goes to show that Williams isn't afraid of trying new things.

Just one of the many examples of visual experimentation you would see in the book.

The art is mystifying yet glorious, and you will be hard-pressed not to be in awe of their spectacular artwork. Its like floating into a completely different world, almost like a woven dream. Moore is lucky to have guys like these that are able to completely create his visions the way they were intended. 

Like I said in the beginning, its a truly magical read. This is probably one of the most complex and mysterious graphic novels I have ever read in a while, and I really do recommend you to read this if you haven't yet. If you liked Neil Gaiman's Sandman or Alan's other works, then you will certainly like this. 

Simply put, Promethea is Moore and Williams at their very best touching your every senses.  Not an easy read if not because of Moore's "arcana cabana" tutorials, but its a real entertaining read showing you just how  powerful the mind, soul and imagination can be.

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