"Promethea," Alan Moore (Book 1)

Pros: Gorgeous artwork; fascinating story
Cons: It ends!
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 7/16/2001

“Promethea, Book 1” is a graphic novel containing the first 6 issues of the “Promethea” comic book, collected. For those few people who have yet to notice that many (if not most) comic books are not aimed at children, this is not aimed at children, despite the at-times fairy-tale feel.

This collection starts off with two long pages of text entitled “The Promethea Puzzle: An Adventure in Folklore.” I almost skipped it; I am very glad that I did not. It describes the history of Promethea in poetry, fiction, and comic books. She has appeared again and again in slightly different forms, but almost always with certain elements of similarity. Her creators (particularly in her earlier incarnations) rarely seemed aware of her previous incarnations; she was created anew each time. Alan Moore, the writer of Promethea, takes this in an interesting direction – what if Promethea were real? What if she existed in some other world, and every now and then were brought into ours by the power of imagination?

The first issue starts off with the tale of a man in 5th century AD Alexandria, and his daughter, Promethea. The agents of the Christian church are coming for him; he worships old gods and so is seen as a devil-worshiper. To save his daughter he sends her out into the desert and commends her to the care of his gods. She cannot live as a girl in their world – she must become a story in order to survive.

Switch to an odd 1999 complete with hovering taxis and policemen in flying-saucer-like ships. A college student named Sophie Bangs is researching the odd literary history of this character named Promethea. A shadowy being tries to kill her, and the “real” Promethea comes to her rescue. A rather old Promethea, getting a bit tubby around the middle. Come to find out, the creature is after Sophie because she is destined to become the next Promethea, and there are those who don’t want that!

The Artwork

I’m not particularly knowledgeable about art, and I can’t tell you in great detail what the artwork is like. I can, however, tell you that I like it. It beautifully conveys the many faces of Promethea, the majesty, beauty and terror of the Immateria (the land of imagination, is probably the easy way to describe it), the sights and sounds of this unusual world. I never thought it inadequate, dull or ugly. The artists for this project were J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray.

The Story

It’s a gorgeous story! I don’t want to give too much away, but it really is lovely and fascinating. It gets into the history of the various versions of Promethea, a few of her old enemies, the nature of the Immateria, and more. Each character really does have his or her own distinct voice and personality, consistent throughout the book. The book even begins to get into Promethea’s “purpose” in the world, which is more complex than at first you might imagine.

In fact, the only flaw this book has, in my opinion, is that it ends. Agggh! I want to know what happens next! Now I’ll have to try and hunt down more of this series. I can’t imagine not following Promethea’s continuing adventures, finding out more of what and who she is, what her destiny is.

The collected book is truly beautiful, with a gorgeous green cover with Promethea’s face in the middle. It’s hardcover, and even has a ribbon bookmark attached at the top. It’s relatively thin, but, heaven help me, worth full cover price. If you enjoy odd, twisting stories that exist on many levels of reality, and enjoy the occasional graphic novel, then you must find Promethea. As the cover of the first issue states: “If she did not exist, we would have to invent her.”


Posted in Reviews
One comment on “"Promethea," Alan Moore (Book 1)
  1. I thought I’d manually link to Quick comic hitters, a blog entry that touches on Promethea (among other items of interest to comic-book readers).

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