In Promethea, Alan Moore has created a complex female lead protagonist who, over a period of a thousand years or so, has been brought into existence through the imaginations of a number of hosts. The latest is a teenage student called Sophie Bangs, who spots the appearance of Promethea throughout the literary ages and correctly suspects there’s more to this legend than meets the eye. Each incarnation has been subtly different, depending on the style of literature she was portrayed in, which has ranged from romantic poetry to pulp fiction.
This makes for a strange mix, especially because the modern era of Sophie Bangs is very different to ours – a universe where hover cars and superheroes are the norm. This departure from reality isn’t explained in the book, despite the fact that apart from the semi-regular appearances of Promethea herself, the historical flashbacks scattered through the story appear to occur in a world with a very similar history to our own.
The book has a feel that isn’t completely unlike Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe. However, these first few issues don’t feel as coherent as Gaiman’s vision becomes. At the end of this volume, which happens a little abruptly as far as the plot is concerned, Moore is still working through introductory business.
In terms of looks, the book is stunning, with wonderful art from the Williams and Gray team. The design of the panels is also beautiful, with unusual shapes, icons and layouts breaking down the story. Sadly it suffers in the paperback edition we reviewed because the binding of the book doesn’t allow the pages to be fully opened at the crease, as you would have been able to do in its original stapled format.
We felt this was one of the weaker of Moore’s America’s Best Comics series, though the format is partly to blame. This has been broken into a six-part chunk but it could have done with a few more episodes, enough to take us through the introductory storyline. It’s also a shame that there isn’t some way of better portraying the wonderful art spreads in a paperback form, since the collection is heavily laden with them and the binding renders them far less effectual. However, the format can’t take all the blame, and we felt parts of this volume were laboured, while others leave too many questions unanswered. Perhaps this will sort itself out in the next volume, but although the writing is still superior to a lot of other work around at the moment, we don’t think it could be described as Alan Moore at his very best.
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