Fifth Degree: Madame Xanadu Disenchanted

Madame Xanadu Disenchanted

Madame Xanadu Disenchanted

by Josh Crawley

Before I get to the review (and other random bits), I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of people in the industry that are raising funds for some great causes.

Referring to Marshall Dillon as a “fellow letterer” seems a little daunting, but I’ve paid taxes for working on comics, so I’m going to get over it really quick. My fellow letterer Dillon is going to walk 60 miles in three days for this year’s Susan G. Komen 3-Days for the Cure. So not only has he lettered more than me, he’s willing to suffer for a good cause, so he’s better than me, too. The link has plenty of information for various ways to help out.

While I may not always be happy with some of the systems the industry has in place, our store’s Diamond Comics Distributor representative, Sophia Briscoe, is wonderful. She’s raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. As before, check the link for more information!

And yes, I’ll be making my donations shortly. On to the goods!

I had no idea who Madame Xanadu was before I read this book. I knew her name, but that was about it. A new Vertigo series written by Matt Wagner with gorgeous art by Amy Reeder Hadley was more than enough to get me interested.

Sandman Mystery Theatre

Sandman Mystery Theatre

As with Wagner’s Sandman Mystery Theatre, Madame Xanadu is a period series set at the dawning of the Golden Age of DC’s superheroes. However, unlike Sandman Mystery Theatre, the stories in Madame Xanadu are also pulled from previous eras. Disenchanted is an origin story made up of five chapters (two issues each), one each in a different period of history.

And if you’re a superhero fan who doesn’t like Vertigo books, I’d ask you to reconsider. Other than appearances by the Phantom Stranger, Wagner includes references to numerous DC Universe characters.

Have I mentioned yet that this is a 200+ page graphic novel jam-packed full of great art that retails for $12.99?

Art? While not as well-known as Wagner, Hadley is no slouch in the talent department. Sadly, her book Fool’s Gold from Tokyopop appears to be out of print, but she’s posted a plethora of art on her livejournal if you’d like to see some of her work.

I notice I tend not to describe artists too well – probably due to my marginal writing skills – so I’m not even going to try; too much. Crisp yet organic; like a tasty apple colored by Guy Major. (Sneaky how I worked that in, huh?) While Hadley inks herself on issues 1 and 2, Richard Friend joins the creative team as inker with number 3, and the quality of work remains high.

Letters for the series have been done by Jared K. Fletcher. He frequently uses asymmetrical word balloons, which adds some nice variety to the lettering on the stands, as well as adding to the organic and earthly tone of the book.

Interestingly enough, though, his lettering changes on Volume 2 (which we should have listed again soon enough). Featuring art by Michael Wm. Kaluta and flashbacks to The Inquisition, Fletcher’s lettering looks much more in the John Workman-school: circular speech balloons with much more white space. The more open lettering, along with Kaluta’s more detailed work (compared to the more open work of Hadley), helps keep everything in balance. Kaluta’s style, along with the appearances of the Dian Belmont and Wesley Dodds – the Golden Age Sandman! – and this makes a great companion piece to the afore-mentioned Sandman Mystery Theatre. If he could be tempted away from BPRD books, I’d love to see Guy Davis do a guest arc on Madame Xanadu.

While there aren’t any more collections scheduled just yet, I’d be very surprised if they’re too far off. Honestly, I liked this book so much I may have to start buying it as single issues, and that’s something I tend to shy away from.

Yeah, it’s that good.

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Westfield Comics
7475 Mineral Point Rd STE 22
Madison WI 53717
Josh Crawley is the tenured Master of Disaster (whether he’s heroic or evil remains to be seen) for Westfield Comics, not to be confused with Josh Crawley, the keyboardist for Everclear.


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