I found out about Madame Xanadu through Grace Randolph’s fantastic youtube channel Think About the Ink, which featured artist Amy Reeder Haley for one episode. Upon doing some research, I found the cover art attractive and the connection to Camelot intriguing, so I decided to give it a try. I am so, so happy that I did. Madame Xanadu is a beautifully illustrated fantasy comic that tells the origin story of a fascinating character. I don’t normally focus too much on artwork in my graphic novel reviews (a result of being more of a book fan than a comic fan is I tend to value story over art), but it’s really worth talking about here. Amy Reeder Haley does an amazing job with this book. Her characters are expressive, in both their facial expressions and body language, and she handles the constantly shifting timelines, from the lush green forests of Camelot to the extravagant court of Marie Antoinette, exceptionally well. In my favorite scene, our heroine is transported into this celestial realm where she encounters the Stranger, and there are some really beautiful art choices here.
The story of Madame Xanadu is also really interesting. Apparently, Madame Xanadu is an established character in the DC/Vertigo universe, but as this is her origin story, you don’t have to have any knowledge of her going into the story. I liked the fact that the comic covered her experience through several different eras in history (five in all) as it allowed us to get a better idea about the span of her long life. She encounters the Stranger at least once in every time period, and it’s interesting to watch their relationship develop (and not always in ways that you’d expect). One thing I really enjoyed about the story was Nimue’s voice. We get a lot of her thoughts throughout this story, including a monologue introducing each new time period. These are beautifully written and really gave the story a feeling of mystery and enchantment. The character of Madam Xanadu is a bit of an old soul, but she has a youthful exuberance to her, at times almost naive, in the way that she views others and attempts to do good. I found this contrast to be fascinating. The Stranger, who, unlike Nimue, constantly sees the big picture and doesn’t view people as individuals, makes an apt foil for Nimue.
I am very happy that I picked up the first volumes of Madame Xanadu, which covers the first ten issues of the series. The story, written by Matt Wager, is lush and enchanting, and the artwork is beautiful and atmospheric. This is a very accessible comic for fantasy fans, and I plan on reading further as soon as I can get my hands on the next volume.
Rating: five stars
Length: 240 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Other books I've read by this author: this is my first
Next I will be reviewing Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore and Raven’s Shadow by Patricia Briggs
xposted to temporaryworlds,bookish, and goodreads