Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: Madame Xanadu #10

Madame Xanadu #10

Writer: Matt Wagner
Penciller: Amy Reeder Hadley
Inker: Richard Friend
DC/Vertigo
Released: April 29, 2009





When the past is known in such sparse detail, remembered in shards, and comprehensible only as haze, the possibilities for re-interpretation, for re-invention, bulge with the ripeness of heavy fruit. After the bridges are burned and the yearbooks of evidence have yellowed to dust, one can fashion a limitless existence, especially if they have been given a window into the future. This works for both character and creator.

Madame Xanadu is blessed and cursed with both a mysterious past and eternal life. Unlike a fading pop star who tries on different guises out of caprice and desperation, Madame Xanadu must change out of necessity, to fit the times she finds herself in. She must dress the part both in costume and manners, and cobble together an apt persona, one she can abandon when the shifting world forces her to move on. In her life and on the page, she is a perfect comic book character, for she will never age, and she can be whatever is required at any given time. She is a property of time, and this peculiarity of character and circumstance is taken advantage of by the creators pulling her strings in this initial arc that serves as reboot origin for the mysterious sorceress. 

For nine issues Madame Xanadu has played numerous roles and donned various wardrobes, but the one constant has been her inability to resist entangling herself in the ribbon of history. Finding herself trapped in moments in time of grand significance, knowing the outcome for she has divined the future, she cannot help but to throw herself in with blind zeal towards the goal of saving lives. She chooses to fight inevitability because the thought of sitting as an observer sickens her far more than the pain of fated failure. This compulsion is an ill-fitting cloak of heroism that wraps around her, obscuring her weaknesses in its folds. 

In this final chapter, Madame succumbs to her feelings of spite for The Phantom Stranger, who to her represents the evils of aloofness, for he has seemingly facilitated death and misery out of an inability to involve himself for the greater good and a need to keep the universe in its predetermined balance. Faced with the opportunity to disrupt this cosmic balance, she takes hold of the moment by employing the tactic she has most despised in her antagonist, that of inaction. She does nothing to stop the death of a man whose afterlife rebirth holds devastating consequences for the universe and for the Age of Heroes soon to follow. 

The regret is immediate and heartbreaking, both for our heroine and reader. This woman who has shone so strongly of bright and pure light, flickers and dims in a moment of maleficence. Her weaknesses exposed, the strings of manipulation dangle everywhere, and the fingerprints on them belong to those in the pages as much as to those responsible for the pages. We see the worst side of a lover and our feelings are changed, not to something that removes love, but something that replaces it with a more twisted and less reconcilable version of love. How could she? How could they? And yet, she has. They have. 

All is fair in love and continuity. 
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