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The End of the World As We Know It

 

Promethea Book V

Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III, Mick Gray

America's Best Comics, 2006

Rating: 4.8

 

Posted: January 31, 2006

By Kevin Forest Moreau

It's not a slight to Alan Moore's America's Best Comics imprint -- viewed by many as Moore's revenue-generating return to the superhero/adventure comics genre -- to say that that line of books unintentionally ghetto-ized one of the richest, most expansive works of his career: Promethea. Books like Tom Strong and Top 10, with which it shared shelf space, were and are intelligent explorations of various facets of the costumed hero, thoroughly enjoyable in their own right. But even some of Moore's fans looked on the line as little more than a diversion: Moore playing around with familiar archetypes and themes he'd long ago dismissed. No one expects to find a masterwork in such a line.

But it's fair to say that Promethea was exactly that. The series was easily the most ambitious title of the line Moore created for Wildstorm, both in terms of its subject matter (myth, imagination, magic, space-time, sex, reality and the inter-connectedness of them all) and its stunning marriage of concept and image. Nowhere is the latter point more evident than in the last chapter of this final collection, the pages of which were meticulously designed and crafted to be fit together to form two 16-page posters.

The story here, if that term can really be said to apply, concerns nothing less than the titular heroine bringing about the end of the world, or rather, a radical mass enlightenment that shows off what one can only assume to be Moore's complex and unconventional worldview. As he's done throughout the series, Moore constructs his tale (and the occasional dizzying conceptual lesson) like an elaborate series of puzzle-boxes, toying enthusiastically with the presentation of words and images, pulling characters and the reader out of the confines of the book itself. (The entire series, but especially this final installment, stands as an elaborate, metaphysical meta-fiction.)

Promethea is no less groundbreaking (and in fact more so) a series of fantasy and myth than Neil Gaiman's Sandman. As an exercise in exploding the narrative boundaries of the comics medium in the service of a multifaceted tale with many things on its mind, it stands head and shoulders above even Watchmen, the mid-'80s masterwork for which Moore is so revered.

And if there's a certain arrogance in the idea of a creator -- even one as singular and far beyond his closest peers as Moore -- passing off his beliefs as world-changing enlightenment, well, that comes with the artistic territory. And this final glimpse into one of his most arresting and intriguing worlds proves that Promethea is indisputably a work of art -- as intricate, layered and thought-provoking a work as Moore, or comics, has ever produced.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: Breaks new ground
 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

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