Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, October 31, 2008
      ( 10/31/2008 05:52:00 PM ) Bill S.  


"IN THIS DARK WORLD, THE PRINCESS OF WONDERLAND MUST SURELY GLOW THE BRIGHTEST OF ALL." The first of a series of graphic novels expanding on Frank Beddor's as-yet-unfinished young adult fantasy trilogy, The Looking Glass Wars, Hatter M (Automatic Pictures Publishing) continues the writer's violent re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's beloved Wonderland books. In Beddor's world, young Alyss Heart is the princess of Wonderland, forced to flee to our realm when the evil Red Queen attempts a violent takeover. The once loony Mad Hatter is now a hard-nosed royal bodyguard with a variety of blades at his disposal; his top hat is itself a weapon, though how it specifically works is not clearly explicated in the first volume of the GN series. Using a portal called the pool of tears (puddles of water that appear where none should be), our title hero travels through space -- first briefly popping up in 1859 Paris, then Budapest, where most of volume one's action is set -- diligently seeking the missing Alyss.

Volume One of the trade collects the first four issues of Beddor's comic book expansion, created in collaboration with writer Liz Cavalier (who I suspect did the bulk of the actual scripting) and artist Ben Templesmith. For those (like me) coming to this world for the first time, it isn't until the third chapter/issue that Hatter M provides the background story of how our grim hero and Alyss were driven out of Wondertropolis and subsequently separated. The first chapter, in particular, is more than a mite confusing as our hero Hatter Madigan pops up in Paris with little explanation as what the heck is going on here. Beset by street thugs, gendarmes, and the walking dead, our hero wreaks havoc in the city - attracting the attentions of a sinister necromancer in the process.

In Budapest, he uncovers a sinister orphanage where young girls are being drained of their imagination by members of a mysterious organization called the Baanskrätar. Aided by an ambitious young lady reporter named Magda Pushiken, Hatter attempts to rescue a girl he believes to be the princess (though we, the readers, know she isn't - else the series would end too soon) from the brain-sucking fiends of Baroness Dvonna's Orphanage for Lost Girls. Observing all this through various glass reflections are two mysterious figures who clearly don't mean our hero good.

Title hero Hatter Madigan proves to be an appealing, if fairly one-note, creation: consumed with guilt over letting his charge slip away from him, he remains focused on finding and rescuing young Alyss from our "dark world." He has a courtliness that suits him well in meetings with the likes of a young Jules Verne and is attracted to the light of imagination, which in Beddor's world is a force to be reckoned with. He also is, of course, capable of seriously wielding his blades.

Cunningly illustrated by Ben (30 Days of Night) Templesmith, the first volume of Hatter M ultimately proves strong enough to stand on its own as a story, though I'm sure Beddor wouldn't mind if the graphic novel drew readers to his prose takes on the Looking Glass Wars. Beddor's liberties with Wonderland lore are frequently quite amusing (as when the voluptuous Red Queen directs her henchmen to lop off her enemies' "stinking, boring heads"), while his embellished dark fantasies are compellingly rendered by artist Templesmith. (Carroll's world has always had its dark side, of course, though not as dark as this.) The gray world of the evil orphanage is especially well realized, with its grim-faced "Conformist Art" instructors and appropriately early industrial draining machinery.

As an artist, Templesmith can occasionally let his love of atmosphere override his storytelling clarity, but I've personally grown fond of his jug-eared characters. He arguably has the most difficult task when it comes to swaying the readers: the John Teniel caricatures that accompanied Carroll's original children's books are so firmly entrenched that we can't help comparing 'em to Templesmith's. Occasionally nodding toward Ralph Steadman's takes on Lewis Carroll, his cartoony inkwork manages to both evoke and expand upon the original, capturing a hint of Carroll-ian whimsy in the midst of all the heightened nightmares. He's the graphic novel's not-so-secret weapon: a high-hatted soldier of sardonic imagination.

Labels:

# |



Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).



On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:



A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page







Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Attentiondeficitdisorderly
Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

BeaucoupKevin
Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog
Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Bookgasm
Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Comics.212
Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine

Egon

Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery

Estoreal
RAB

Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section
Hal

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures
Pata

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Journalista
Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett

Metrokitty
Kitty

Michael's Movie Palace
Michael

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag

Neilalien

News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

PeterDavid.net
Peter David

(postmodernbarney.com)
Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Rhinoplastique
Marc Bernardin

Scrubbles
Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren
Campaspe

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby

TangognaT

The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter



A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.




My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Alicublog
Roy Edroso

Eschaton
Atrios

Firedoglake
Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman

Modulator
Steve

Pandagon
Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo
Skippy

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends



Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed



Powered by Blogger



Twittering:
    follow me on Twitter