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Sandman Presents: Thessaly Witch for Hire #3

Posted: Friday, April 9, 2004
By: Shawn Hill



“Something the Cat Dragged In or An Even Bigger Quest than in the Last Story”

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Shawn McManus

Publisher: Vertigo

Plot:
Thessaly comes back from a six-year quest for answers against the doom Fetch has brought upon her. Even the week of subjective time he spent in her absence was too much for him, and she’s no happier, as her quest failed utterly.

Comments:
The art saves this issue. I really want to give it a higher grade, but it’s just not that compelling. It’s better than mediocre, more than serviceable, but the angry energy of the first issue and the cold calculation of the second have dissipated here to a series of diverting, somewhat clever but excitement-starved vignettes.

Thessaly has apparently attracted a Tharmic Null, the embodied colossal representation of instant doom (he looks a lot like Omega, an old ogre an insane Braniac 5 once dreamed up in Starlin’s Legion run), as her fate, and there’s nothing she can do about it. She visits oracles. She consults vile old texts. She even, in desperation, turns to Lucien’s library of dream books, all quite powerless to actually work even in Thessaly’s fantastic terms.

The grand tour is pretty. Everybody looks as they should, including Mervyn Pumpkinhead. McManus, as one of the original artists, is more than accurate in evoking an authentic Sandman vibe. It’s even (in one strange city that exists on the rib of a fallen god; funny how Planetary is on the same Gulliver kick this month) delightfully alien. But failed quests just aren’t thrilling reading, and I’m not sure we needed Thessaly’s impossible predicament underlined to this extent.

I’m also really confused about who Fetch is since Thessaly pulled the conglomerate of ghosts who comprise him out in a heap last issue. Did she put them all back? Did she leave enough so that he’s still this amalgam personality, and yet less bent on achieving vengeance against her?

McManus turns in his best work yet, full of details and clever visual puns, expertly describing the spooky locales Thessaly visits in her years of need. A sequence of her prehistoric origin is especially provocative and unusually sexy and violent for the now restrained, jaded ancient girl she’s become. The disgruntled expressions of the polar bears, who witness her bloody ecstasy, are worth the entire page, almost the entire issue.

The creators seem to know they’re treading water, as they promise all-out action in the finale. I definitely prefer an active Thessaly to a passive, frustrated one.



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