Absolute Promethea: Book One
Alan Moore, art by J.H. Williams III, et al.
Wildstorm, 328 pages
College student Sophie Bangs has no idea what she’s getting herself into as she wraps up research for her term paper about a literary heroine named Promethea. Discovering that this enigmatic woman has appeared in poetry, comic books, and urban legends since the 18th century, Sophie is convinced this is no coincidence and is determined to learn the true identity of Promethea.
To further her research, Sophie makes an appointment with Barbara Shelley, whose deceased husband wrote a comic book series about Promethea before his death. When Ms. Shelley learns of Sophie’s intense interest in Promethea, she abruptly cuts the interview short, telling Sophie, “Listen kid, you take my advice. You don’t wanna go looking for folklore. And you especially don’t want folklore to come looking for you. “As it turns out, this is good advice, but events have already been set in motion that will cause Sophie to become the next physical manifestation of Promethea.
The first 12 issues of the Promethea series are collected in a gorgeous oversized hardcover with a striking slipcase of white and gold. There’s enough here to keep the observant reader occupied for hours on end. Not only is the story compelling, with a crazy mix of science fiction, fantasy, mythology, and comic book capers, but the imagery is simply stunning.
There’s a lot of text in these 328 pages, but it’s the drawings that deserve your uninterrupted time. Images carry much of the story’s plot and help readers interpret the meaning found in the text. At times, it’s possible to come up with multiple interpretations, which makes for some interesting ruminations about ideas presented.
Some of the pages carry so many illustrations that it’s difficult to notice everything that’s going on during a first reading. Incidental or background images appear everywhere, especially on the double-page spreads. You have to keep your eye out for things like bats with polka-doted and plaid wings, or a cereal box which reads, “Achocalypse Pops – free inside – horsemen of doom – collect all four.”
Sophie lives in a futuristic New York City which has plenty of wonders to behold, but the artwork seems to be at its most creative when readers are treated to visits to Immateria, the homeland of Promethea. Here, imagination rules and the previous incarnations of Promethea gather to help the “new girl” get up to speed with her mystical powers before she’s destroyed by various demons, magicians, or evil cabals.
How do you draw imagination? I’d be way out of my league on this assignment, but J. H. Williams III seems to have a very good idea of exactly what it looks like. There’s no doubt you’re in a magical land when any particular issue explores the countryside of imagination. All you need do is look around! My favorite stories were the ones which happened in this magical place.
Alan Moore crafts an entire mythos for Promethea that is both expansive and personal. It allows readers to participate in a coming-of-age story for the eternal goddess and the teenaged Sophie, as both adjust to new bodies, new personalities, new powers, and new realities. It also gives Moore the opportunity to discuss ideas on spirituality, theology, sexuality, and magic -- along with other ideas that seem to appear out of nowhere.
It is rare that a character draws me into their story in the way that Promethea has done. Her dual personality allows her to be mature yet innocent. She’s wise and world-weary while also impulsive and optimistic. The absolute edition bring a new dimension to the work and, although expensive, is definitely the best way to enjoy this highly creative and thought-provoking tale of imagination meeting and defeating mortality.
Susan Dunmar: I'm the Audiobook Reviews Editor for SF Site and, beginning this month (January) I'll be podcasting for Tor.com. In my day day job I'm a librarian and I especially enjoy both audiobooks and graphic novels. If you enjoy audiobooks, I invite you to check out my site, AudiobookDJ. (http://www.audiobookdj.com)