Madame Xanadu has existed since 1978, when she was first introduced in Doorway to Nightmare #1, published by DC Comics. She is a character that goes by many titles and names, including “Ancient Folk” and “nymph” but has mostly been referred to as “Nimue” throughout the two issues that have been published by Vertigo, serving as a form of reboot that will also examine the history and origins of the character.
When the first issue ended readers were left with an image of the kingdom of Camelot, besieged by knights and some particularly angry dragons. Under Mordred’s leadership, son of Morgana (Madame Xanadu’s sister), Camelot was attacked in order to dethrone King Arthur Pendragon.
Issue #2 shows Nimue rushing to the site of the battle, calling for the man known simply as the Stranger, who is undoubtedly the Phantom Stranger, shouting for him to make some sense of the madness she’s come across.
As of now, Madame Xanadu is an interesting book, focusing on the magic controlled by the characters, showing how they can affect the world around them with almost little to no physical exertion. Also shown, however, is how each of the characters affects the others, and this is one of the biggest themes of the book; everything has consequences.
Coupled with that is the sense of distrust between each character, which by the second issue takes a more complete form. This was foreshadowed in issue #1 when Nimue left Morgana’s home and said, “At last, I see…I barely know you.”
The relationship between Nimue and Merlin was established in the first issue, one that goes a little past hanging out and chatting. Their bedroom antics are only one small aspect of their dealings, though, another situation that was hinted at in issue one, when the Stranger informed Nimue that Merlin “consorts with demons,” a statement we see delivery on here.
In fact, we see a familiar demon, a rather poetic chap with a skin condition.
From there Nimue is sent out into the world on a task with an ending predicted by the Stranger, and gets the impression that he might not be such a stranger after all. After the meeting where she’s informed of Merlin’s goal, she says to herself, “And I…begin to understand him.”
Overall the story has been interesting, a blend of magic and deceit that definitely intrigues, and will no doubt lead to some dramatic situations. If anything negative can be said it is that there exists a possibility that the minutia of the world, and its inhabitants’ magical practices, might become a little confusing. With so many words and phrases used to invoke this or that piece of magic, someone might end up feeling like they are disconnected from the characters. With such a writer as Matt Wagner, though, that is most likely not going to be the case. Surely there will be something in upcoming issues that will make readers identify with the characters. I’d say the likelihood is good, actually, as we’ve gotten a tiny hint of their human sides so far, even of those characters who are nymphs and immortal elder folk, as well as those that aren’t.
So, yeah, sooner or later the drama’s coming.
The art here is top notch, drawn by relative newcomer Amy Reeder Hadley, whose previous work can be seen in her manga Fool’s Gold, which she wrote and illustrated. Her style fits the story, which could be described as a kind of manga and U.S. comics hybrid.
Go ahead and pick up issue #2 of Madame Xanadu and get caught up on the story. Issue #3 will most likely have some interesting developments, especially considering how the second issue ends.
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