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Promethea #29

Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2004
By: Shawn Hill



“Valley of the Dolls”

Writer: Alan Moore
Artists: J.H. Williams III (pencils, inks, digital painting) and Mick Gray (inks)

Publisher: America’s Best Comics

Plot:
A little bit more than last issue’s spate of waiting for nothing to happen, as the Living Doll comes back to multiple life and wreaks unholy havoc. He’s looking for his daddy, darn it. Meanwhile Tom Strong brings America’s Best to Promethea’s Manhattan, and the government plots to end her threat with finality.

Comments:
A much better issue than last month’s verbose build-up without release, as at least this issue we get to see the effects Promethea’s latest apocalyptic incarnation is having on several individuals. First and foremost, the Five Swell Guys have unleashed a monster in the form of a resurrected Living Doll, and the sheer grace and wit with which he goes about destroying all the competing versions of himself is beguiling.

He’s looking for his creator, and decides to pool his forces when there are only two of him left, a brilliantly bad, bad idea for the people of the already beleaguered island. Those that aren’t begging him to please, please kill them now, that is.

Meanwhile, Manhattan is intently transforming itself in Promethea’s wake, and even she doesn’t seem to be sure what’s going on. Lovers long thought lost reunite, as everyone finds they must face this new-dawning age alone (or nearly so), after taking care of unfinished business. The new mayor, Uvula Cascade, encounters the old mayor, Sonny Baskerville, in an especially telling exchange that may lead to some sexual healing for the both of them. Seems his multiple personalities are a big turn-on.

Sexuality is an undeniable part of this title, so much so that I wonder especially about the distaff members of America’s Best. Is their origin in the middle decades of last century the only reason that all the women on the team are defined in some way by their sexuality? Jonni Future is all about the white fabric stretching tautly over her boobs and butt, Madame Cobweb is a slinky femme fatale, her chauffeur doesn’t wear pants, and Splash’s wife is a fifties hausfrau. Yeah, must be the history-heavy angle, I guess, except then we have Uvula’s orgiastic Cascade in the current world, and Science Guy Roger’s confusion since he became a woman ….

Add in Promethea’s own recourse to intercourse as a tool for initiatory knowledge, her mother’s unknowing replication of that event by dipping her swizzle stick (Wand) into her drink (Grail), Agent Brueghel reduced to an infantile state by her vision of infinity, and frail Dennis’s murder of an early Promethea when he realized “she” was being empowered by a man, and you have a lot of very very serious gender issues informing this title at every turn.

Or maybe I’m over-thinking it. At any rate, if this is where Moore works out some of the most serious and persistent of his demons, I’ll go along for the ride, especially with issues as multi-faceted and detail-oriented in this one.

I’m not so great on the art, though, as I find Williams’ digital painting a distraction. The pages with Gray’s inks are much stronger, and I don’t see why they couldn’t suffice for the transformed Manhattan as well. The Warhol homage of the cover wouldn’t have been apparent were it not so labeled, it’s much too busy and colorful to compete with that master.



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