Friday, June 25, 2010

Wicked: Witch and Curse by Nancy Holder & Debbie ViguiƩ

Wicked: Witch & CurseHolly Cathers barely knew her cousins Amanda and Nicole when after a tragic white-water rafting trip, she becomes an orphan and moves in with them.  Jer Deveraux knows that the Cathers women are descended from a powerful line of witches, and he knows his father's plans for them.  But no one knows how deep the connections between their families go, or how Holly and Jer may be the key to unraveling a 400-year-old war-- and becoming thrall to a 400-year-old love.

This book was...okay.  The plot and magical concepts were good, but the characters were flat and largely unsympathetic-- even Holly eventually loses a good deal of the good will that being an orphan earned her in the beginning.  Jer isn't much better, because while he's less evil and power-hungry than his father and brother, he's also basically a jerk who shows no real inclination to take any real stance against them (though he does reach out to other sources for more ethical magical training).  Also, I found his and Holly's relationship to be forced.  There is some justification to that, since both are conduits for the spirits of their ancestors who were in love, but there is no real reason for Holly and Jer to be attracted to each other at all.

That said, this book has a number of good points.  I liked how, despite first impressions, neither the Cathers nor the Deveraux are completely good or completely evil.  The flashbacks to the Deveraux and Cahors (the Cathers ancestors) past are an engaging glimpse of history and political intrigue, both real and magical. And even though Jer is a bit of a jerk, his association with his other magical teachers gesture strongly towards a later transformation.  So not only is Jer not beyond redemption, I am not completely turned off by the idea of finishing the series!  So I'm going to give this one:


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Madame Xanadu, vol. I: Disenchanted, by Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley

Madame Xanadu is a character with a long history in the DC Universe who has been given a fresh start with this new series from the Vertigo imprint (home of Sandman and Fables).  This first volume takes you on a wild journey throughout history, from her origin in Camelot when she was Nimue, sister of Morgan le Fay, to the palace of Kublai Khan from whence she took her name--Xanadu, to the French Revolution, the streets of Whitechapel during the terror of Jack the Ripper, and finally New York City on the eve of World War II as she bears witness to the rise of a new form of powerful beings--the superhero.

On each leg of her journey, Madame Xanadu is faced with dilemma after dilemma, forced to weigh the consequences of her actions. Whether to meddle in the affairs of state at Xanadu or the court of Louis XVI, despite the lessons she learned at the fall of Camelot, whether to save her friend Marie Antoinette or save herself, whether to protect the women of Whitechapel or to heed the cryptic warnings of the Phantom Stranger, who tells her there is a higher purpose at work-- each choice she makes has a dramatic effect on both her own life and the course of human history.

Wagner's writing is captivating and Hadley's art is breathtaking.  Every moment of Madame Xanadu's life, from her final showdown with Merlin to her bargain with Death Herself, comes alive and urges you onwards.

There are not enough good things to say about this series.  If you have never picked up a graphic novel in your life, this is the one to start with.  If you have, you'll love this one (especially if you're familiar with the DC Universe, you'll relish the new, unique encounters with such characters as Giovanni Zatara and the Spectre).  Go read it now.

You can read a PDF of the first issue of this volume on the Vertigo comics website.

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