Wednesday, 24 October 2012

National Comics #1: Madame X review

TV psychic turned law firm investigator Madame X turns her tarot towards finding out who killed a New Orleans politician in this one-shot pilot issue. A vocal critic of a wannabe witch queen, could Councilman Ben Meachum really have been killed by a zombie, as neighbours claim?

Madame X? X for Xanadu, presumably, as DC already has a card-reading mystery woman on the books and it would be distinctly weird to create a wholly separate character. So it's Madame Xanadu and yet it's not. It's Madame Xanadu via TV's Medium, as the heroine uses her gift to help law enforcement. Nima is a more urban character than the Arthurian Nimue featured in Demon Knights and Justice League Dark, less mysterious and all-knowing, more klutzy and endearing. Partnered with lawyer Salinger, she works for Mr Lynn, a deeply moral man who won't take on just any client, no matter how fat their wad of cash.

Said client is Lauren Goucuff, 'current owner of the sobriquet Voodoo Queen of New Orleans', a mocking femme fatale who admits threatening Meachum, but denies knifing him to death. The relationship that develops between her and Nima is fascinating, raising questions of desire, belief and meaning. The resolution to the mystery is well-crafted and satisfying, being half-guessable and wholly plausible.

And after the mystery? The set-up for Madame X's next adventure, something I hope we'll see (along with the continuation of Eternity's National Comics outing - heck, team them up).

So, not the most original comic out there, but it is a splendidily written, good-looking one. Writer Rob Williams paces his one-shot well, revealing character and relationships via pithy, witty dialogue. While I didn't understand the reason a billionaire sued Nima in her backstory, that may just be me.
Artist Trevor Hairsine piles on the mood, with the opening zombie encounter especially atmospheric, and dares to present a lead character more often homely than beautiful (click on image to enlarge). The colours of Antonio Fabela add to the feeling of dread. What's more, Fiona Staples supplies a cute and clever cover, topped off with a wonderful blurb.

If you're in the mood for a New Orleans zombie comic but can't face Vertigo's Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child (few could - she's been cancelled!), give Madame X a try.

10 comments:

  1. I thought this was a good book and thought the art was a spot on perfect choice.

    It is interesting that 'Madame X' was picked to be showcased given Madame Xanadu is in both JLDark and Demon Knights.

    Still, I thought this was a fun read.

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    1. I suppose if this really is DC's LA division putting together a series of 'hey, do a pilot' storyboard comics, they're going to pull anyone from the library they think has a shot, and if they happen to be in another comic in the regular DCU, so be it.

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  2. Finally got a chance to read this book (and therefore, finally read your review as well). I really liked it -- much more than the two issues of Dominique Laveau that I read. I'm a big New Orleans aficionado, and while this wasn't full of gratuitous local color (and I'm pretty certain the corner offices of Nima's law firm is actually the location of a restaurant), this is a book I'd definitely read as a series. There's a lot of potential here, especially if they keep things rooted in almost-reality.

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    1. You managed two issues of Dominique Laveau, Rob? Good on you for giving it more chance than I did.

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    2. It was only my mad love for New Orleans that pulled me into the second one.

      I'd love to see the city get a comic worthy of it... and frankly, I'd love to see Denys Cowan get a comic worthy of him, too.

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  3. I also wondered if these National Comics one-shots were being done with more than one eye towards the Time Warner television division. KID ETERNITY seemed extremely....CW-esque, with none of the stuff that made KE interesting in previous incarnations and an awful lot borrowed from PUSHING DAISIES. And this seems to continue that trend, with what seems to be a long-time DC character made TV-friendly, by which I mean the character won't bust the budget with too much of that fancy magic stuff.

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  4. Oh come now, Jonathan, they'd have to buy a new pack of tarot cards every other week!

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  5. I'm a huge fan of the Madame Xanadu character, but this incarnation was just lame. Plus, what's with the really crappy and inaccurate picture of New Orleans voodoo and X saying "there's no such thing as voodoo." Um, what??!

    No thanks. Wish they would bring back the Vertigo title.

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    1. And when I say 'crappy' I mean racist and condescending.

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    2. Hi Oisin, I don't know enough about real-life voodoo practices to judge, but I'm OK with a character in a story expressing her opinion that there's no such thing as voodoo, presuming that she means the cliched zombie stories as opposed to the religion. A bit of clarification wouldn't have come amiss.

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