Monday, July 26, 2010

Madame Xanadu R.I.P.?

When I first started this particular blog here you find yourself reading, it was for the dual purposes of satisfying my overwhelming need to over-think and overanalyze every comic I read, and to serve as a vehicle with which to practice my writing. What better way to force myself to write than to cover something I have an undying love for, namely comics. The intriguing thing for me, that I discovered early on, was that writing about comics forced me to dig deeper into them than I originally foresaw. Comics I didn't particular like would show themselves to be better when looked at through the microscope of critical analysis. The attempt to put my feelings into words, into paragraphs, into cohesive and understandable essays that would clearly express my feelings forced me to see things I would not have normally seen. I learned a great deal about myself, what I truly loved, what I truly found disappointing. One of these personal discoveries was that I have a very real sensitivity to the way female characters are portrayed in genre comics, specifically superhero comics.

So, here's how it happened. I came up with the name, Desperate Worlds, (more on this title some other time), I bought the domain, I started the blog, and I looked over the comics released that week to decide which one would find itself as the inaugural write-up. There was really no question about it, actually, because I knew that I would start with my favorite issue of that week, Madame Xanadu #9, released 25 March, 2009. To say that I was starting this whole blog with the express purpose of writing about this comic would be only slightly disingenuous. In fact, it was important that this title be the first. It was important to me.

Let me be clear in all kinds of ways, I was and still am in love with Madame Xanadu, and by this I mean the character specifically, not just the book. If you have never fallen in love with a particular fictional character then I truly feel sorry for you. I'm speaking of real honest-to-goodness adoration, not simply fan-worship; but a true attraction to a particular character's depth, charm, elegance, wit, intelligence, and, yes, beauty. Those are all the things I fell for when I discovered this book back in 2008. This woman, this titular heroine, was everything I admired in a strong woman, and yet flawed enough to register as real and relatable. She was what all superheroes are supposed to be, extremely driven to do the right thing, to pursue justice, to be fair, to help those who find themselves victimized by society, by crime, by forces they cannot begin to understand. The girl couldn't help herself. Nimue (her birth name) lives to serve humanity, to make the world a better and safer place for those who seek her help. What's not to love here?

The credit for this goes to the superior creative team of writer Matt Wagner and artist Amy Reeder, who designed the current incarnation of the character as well as drew most the of the current titles' run. Together they created a woman and a universe fully-formed, living and breathing, pulsating off the page. Whether the story took place in the medieval forests of Europe or the humid urban streets of mid-Century Manhattan, it was always filled with intricate and charming details that lent character and power to the tales being spun. This book stands as an example of what magic can be wrought out of a truly collaborative creative effort by a team that so obviously cares. This book has been an absolute joy to behold every month.

Looking over these past few paragraphs I notice, and you may have too, that I seem to be oscillating between tenses. I keep veering from past to present tense when referring to the book. I seem to be at a loss, and the reason is simply, that today, rumor has run rampant on the internet that Madame Xanadu has found itself on the chopping block. The cancellation pile may have grown by one more title and I couldn't be sicker about it. While nothing has been officially confirmed, usually these rumors have a nasty way of panning out to bear truth. So, I describe my love, as she sits on her death bed, not quite in the past tense, yet with difficulty in using present tense. It is uncomfortable to speak of the dead while breath still occupies the body.

I read back over that first review of Madame Xanadu #9 with a bit of cringe on my visage. It is not my best piece of writing, a bit forced in parts, perhaps repetitive and contrived; still, it makes valid points I still believe to this day. The most important part of the piece is that my admiration for the book, the character, and the creators who brought both to life, comes through with clarity and shine. I did not waver then in my feelings and I do not waver now. Past and present tense served well.

If the end is truly nigh for Madame Xanadu I will find myself saddened at it's passing. It will feel like losing a dear friend, one that came to visit me regularly for the last two years of my life. I will miss the woman, her stories, her very presence in the stack of comics I will hold under my arms as I leave the shop on Wednesday mornings; her very presence in my life. I look at the issues now, as they sit encased in bag and board filed neatly in longbox, and I feel a deep warmth at being able to pull them out now and hold them. The tangibility of art is something that is very important, something especially important with the comics medium. It is not simply about treating issues as collectible items, speculating on their potential for increased monetary value. It is about the beauty of being able to hold onto the stuff of life in ones hand. I will hold onto those issues of Madame Xanadu as dear objects containing great stories of sorcery, magic, history, romance, pain and pleasure, heartbreak and triumph; of one strong and vibrant woman who possessed incredible powers, none more incredible than her compassion.

Thank you.

Previous reviews on Desperate Worlds:
Madame Xanadu #23
Moments of the Year: Madame Xanadu #7
Madame Xanadu #17
Madame Xanadu #16
Madame Xanadu #12
Madame Xanadu #10
Madame Xanadu #9

1 comment:

  1. You thoroughly conveyed your love for Madame Xanadu, so much that I started reading it. I love her too now. I do NOT want this book to end.