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The Victorian #21

Posted: Sunday, November 30, 2003
By: Ray Tate



Writer: Trainor Houghton & Len Wein
Artists: Claude St. Aubin(p), James Taylor(i), Hi-Fi(c)
Publisher: Penny-Farthing

This week's Victorian is not to be missed. Trainor Houghton and Len Wein begin to reveal everything. The writers put together all the puzzle pieces to show the logic within the various plot threads.

The heroic side of the story unfolds in an almost Shadow-like style. After a few years of build up, the Hat gathers his agents for a clandestine meeting where he recounts the findings of the Order of the Blue Rose--the society to which he belongs. These startling scenes accomplished by Claude St. Aubin despite being vividly colorful evoke the inky atmosphere one imagines when reading the works by Walter B. Gibson.

The smoke, the surreal costumes and the one larger than life figure that commands their army with wisdom that belies his age all allude to the flaming girasol. This is not to say the Victorian borrows any elements from the Shadow. Indeed, these two heroes are quite different. Whereas the Shadow employs stage magic illusions and prefers the comfort of twin .45 caliber automatics. The Hat uses super-science discovered and practiced by the Order, and his weapons of choice are far more exotic. The New Orleans setting that conjures the imagery of voodoo and dark mojo counters the technopolis and urban decay of period New York City where the Shadow struck. Whereas the Shadow belongs to the thirties to forties eras, the Victorian operates in the twentieth and twenty-first century.

The arch villainy that occurs in The Victorian is the kind seen in the pulps where a mastermind carries out an intricate scheme dependent on many foot soldiers that just may work if all that occurs could be. While the creators keep the nature of that far-reaching scheme under wraps, the reader sees the lengths at which the mad Claude Ballare is willing to undertake in order to see his plans fruit. We discover however his links to the Hat and why he was so dead set to risk all in order to kill Eudora Kinkaid. The question of who wears the Hat in his favor is not answered, but as the Victorian lays out the benevolent secret society's discoveries, the reader is reminded of a more personal relationship between the Hat and his fellow agents.

Pulp literature retold through modern storytelling techniques, the Victorian continues to intrigue with a cast that keeps your attention rapt and beautiful artwork that eerily sets the mood while setting the book apart from other titles.



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