Sunday, December 8, 2013

Promethea Book Two Hardcover Review

Promethea Vol. 2
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
176 pages
$24.95 (2001) Hardcover
$14.95 (2001) Trade Paperback
$99.00 (2009) Absolute Edition Vol. 1
ISBN 9781563899577

Contributors: Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III, Jose Villarrubia, Mick Gray, Jeremy Cox, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Promethea #7-12

Synopsis: In a future New York City where decades of influence from science-heroes has evolved technology to a new level - anti-grav cars, Elastagel nano-tech, and advanced medical procedures.  The old ways seem forgotten, but they're just waiting for the spark of remembrance to reignite their flames.  One flame is reignited by college student Sophie Bangs while researching a fictional comic book character named Promethea.  She uncovers a bizarre history for the character predating the comic's publication.  After interviewing the wife of the late comic publisher Sophie is embroiled in a shadow world of intrigue and actually becomes Promethea!

Bill Woolcott's gender-bending Promethea
Promethea is a goddess of creativity and knowledge.  As her latest incarnation Sophie instantly inherits a heavy rogues gallery including an entire secret society, called The Temple, which has existed for centuries and is totally dedicated to her eradication.  Promethea can travel to another plane of existence called the Immateria where imagination spawns.  Her previous incarnations still exist in this place and they step up to mentor Sophie in her newfound abilities.

Sophie meets Bill Woolcott who drew the Promethea comic and was secretly the actual heroine from the 1940s to the 1960s.  He's the only man to ever don the mantle of Promethea and believe me honey he was comfortable assuming the guise of a beautiful woman!  We learn his origin and tragic ending.  Meanwhile in the physical world the hospital where Barbara Shelley is being treated with terminal wounds becomes the nexus for a massive throwdown.

Seems the Painted Doll is looking to finish the job on killing one of the Five Swell Guys, New York's premier science-heroes, who is still hospitalized after their encounter the same night Sophie becomes Promethea.  The Temple hired Mr. Solomon to destroy Promethea and he unleashes a host of demons into the hospital against the inexperienced Sophie.  She's going to need a miracle and you'll never guess her solution.  It's a trial by fire you won't want to miss!
A horde of demons attack the hospital to get Promethea
Who are The Temple and how will Sophie deal with them?  Jack Faust is a powerful magician who approached Sophie after she first became Promethea.  He's a liar and dirty old man, but he knows the secrets of magic which Sophie believes she must learn to complete her training as Promethea.  His deal - let Promethea sleep with him in exchange for learning magic.  What a total skeez!  How desperate is Sophie and will she let the pristine form of Promethea be soiled by the touch of a dirty magician?

The Caduceus explains the origins of magic and
the universe through the tarot deck
New York is celebrating New Year's 2000 when the Y2K bug hits all the Elastagel in the world!  The Five Swell Guys mobilize, but can they stop a malfunctioning nano-tech swarm by themselves?  Nope!  Then Sophie asks her Caduceus (the twin snakes on Promethea's staff) to tell her about magic and they weave a tale of the universe.  

Pros: Williams' art is complex and skillful, Moore writes some interesting stuff here and delves into a lot of magical philosophy, great action at the hospital showdown (and great thinking by Sophie to fight the demon hordes), an entire issue dedicated to sex and magic, won the 2001 Eisner Award for Best Single Issue (Promethea #10)

Cons: This book is dense with convoluted/complicated art and concepts - lots of splash pages with creative panelling and profuse explanations of magic, sex with a dirty old still sex with a dirty old man

Mike Tells It Straight: This second volume of Alan Moore's Promethea was better than the first although it contained a massive amount of conceptual theories of the universe.  Moore studies magic and several issues were consumed purely on these ideas.  It's pretty interesting stuff with captivating theories, but was fairly long and mildly tedious to read.  The action improves with a great showdown between the forces of good and evil in the hospital where Barbara Shelley is slowly expiring.  The existential issues far overshadow the action.
Jack Faust is a player and makes creepy sex with a dirty old man into a
journey of spiritual revelation.  Perv!
An entire issue is dedicated to sex and the philosophies of magic.  It won an Eisner Award which is pretty impressive although I didn't buy into it completely.  "No emission" my ass!  The story progresses as Sophie starts down the path of magic and learns more about being Promethea.  Williams' art gets better in this volume and he uses a variety of visual techniques.  They range from splash pages, sideways panels, and many creatively designed panels.  He's very creative and has great technique!

Trade paperback cover to volume two
Many issues have themes, but overall the series is a uniquely creative triumph both visually and thematically.  Its underlying subject matter is heavy and this is groundbreaking stuff presented here.  Definitely for mature readers and much different than the other America's Best Comics series.  I can see why it was adapted into the Absolute format with Williams' detailed and creative art.  I'm looking forward to reading the further exploits and revelations awaiting Sophie as she grows into her role as Promethea.

TO BUY and Recommendations: