Promethea, Vol. II
by Alan Moore, J.H. Williams
(America's Best, 2002)

The length and breadth of Alan's Moore's imagination is stunning. The mastermind behind the America's Best Comics line has created an enigmatic but fascinating character in Promethea, the heroine who walks the planes where imagination and knowledge meet.

Moore offers his usual heady blend of mysticism, history and pop culture, perfectly illustrated by the immensely talented J.H. Williams, whose stunning artwork makes Moore's typically dense text lively and fun, and much easier to swallow in one go. It's always a pleasure to read a book wherein the artist and the writer play to one another's stregnths.

Sophie Bangs is the teenage protagonist of this adventure that takes place in the heart of imagination, the Immateria. She is the latest incarnation of a pulp-comic heroine known as Promethea, who exists as an actual entity who takes the shape of whomever can imagine her, and all the former Prometheas combine efforts to help Sophie learn to wear the mantle.

Promethea began existence as the daughter of a sorcerer who was murdered by an angry mob. The gods intervened and saved his daughter, taking her to the Immateria, where she manifested herself over the years in one incarnation or another, the literal product of an artist's pen and a writer's words. As the living, breathing avatar of imagination, Promethea, whose namesake comes from the Greek god and bringer of fire and enlightement to mankind, is either an avenging angel, a helpful guide or a wonderful lover, depending on the imagination of whomever calls her forth.

Sophie needs to learn about her powers and learn about them fast. Learn she does: one of the best sex scenes I've read is in the Sex, Sand & Stars chapter. Moore never wastes an opportunity to insert kinky sex wherever he can, and does so to great effect in this chapter, when Sophie/Promethea gets an education in tantric sex.

The sinister otherworldly forces working behind the scenes to strike at Promethea and control the realm of the Immateria coalesce against the backdrop of the New Year's Day 1999-2000 parade, with Y2K causing technological havoc. The Five Science Heroes and their nemesis, the Painted Clown, are thrown into the mix in spectacular action sequences. In spite of the dreamy, poetic narrative, the action moves along at a brisk clip. This is the world of the Sandman and The Dreaming. Readers of that series, nostalgic for something familiar, will find it in this highly unusual and very untraditional story, which is a gripping as it is literate.

Moore pulls no cultural and philosophical punches; it helps to be a student of the history of human culture for the past 5000 years, not to mention a big fan of mythology. There are enough obscure and religious/cultish/folkloric references to give the average reader a real education and the informed reader an excuse to flip to the beginning and start reading all over again. Moore deftly explores the intersection of two worlds and questions the depth of influence that each force has on one another. His unending fascination with the collusion between the inner self and its intuitive mind, and our need to establish our egotistical selves as controllers of the world around us by elevating Ego and leaving God behind, are neatly explored in the book's final chapter, outlining human progress in a deck of tarot cards. It is perhaps the most concise explanation of world history I have ever encountered anywhere, and the beauty of it is how Moore can make the whole thing rhyme perfectly. The ending is neatly tied off but takes care to leave lots of unanswered questions, leading right into the next arc and leaving the reader wanting more.

Fans of Wonder Woman will find their heroine in Promethea, who is Wonder Woman perfectly done, completely deconstructed and reconstructed again as an intelligent, nearly perfect heroine who embodies all the qualities of the Female. Promethea Vol. II is damn near one of the most perfect graphic novels I have ever read. It's a must-read for anyone who loves literate graphic novels, and beautiful women who are smart and funny as well as fierce and sexy.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 24 May 2003

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