Friday, November 14, 2008

Not So Mad After All

Young Princess Alyss has been kidnapped from the safety of her home in Wonderland and, charged with finding her is her bodyguard, member of Wonderland's elite fighting men, Hatter M. It's a harrowing, bizarre and dangerous journey through strange lands like Paris and Prague. And it isn't just a matter of finding her. There are zombies, fez-wearing monkeys and the terrifying, child-kidnapping imagination vampires to contend with as well.

Based on the Looking Glass War series, which tells the "real" story behind the Alice and Wonderland that we know, Hatter M (by Beddor, Cavalier and Templesmith), features anything but a funny little teetotaler with a few screws loose. Zombies and imagination vampires? Not a problem. This guy has so many blades on his body, Wolverine would pale to think of it. He's got 'em in his sleeves, on his back, spinning, whirling, throwing, slashing. And that's not even counting his hat, which is to a Hatter as a samurai's katana is to him. A traditional weapon that seems almost alive at times is surely the coolest weapon on a comic page since Captain America's shield.

It's heavy-loaded with what comics do best: great action. And though it's nearly non-stop, there are some fascinating ideas slipped in, too, from the clever references to the original work to the dark and terrible secret at the center of Baroness Dvonna's Orphanage for Lost Girls.

Even if you're going to ignore the story completely (don't, please), get a look at Ben Templesmith's art. Perhaps you recognize it from 30 Days of Night? Full of impressionistic eeriness and blinding motion and highlighted by the most effective use of color in modern comics (and I'm not just talking about the strategic splashes of blood -- get a look at the rainbow-tinted speech balloons), this truly highlights the graphic element of the graphic novel.

Meanwhile, perhaps you already know that the day these words hit GuysLitWire, the new James Bond Movie Quantum Of Solace hits the screens. Don't know where you stand on the subject of Bond, but the last one (Casino Royale) was so great, seems to me like you really ought to check this one out. Meanwhile, should you think that all of Bond's off screen adventures took place in novel form, have a look at something like Polestar, which is merely the latest in the vast and ongoing series of Bond comic strip collections. Originally produced in the 1950's and 60's in England, the strips adapted pretty much all of Fleming's stories and then moved on to original material (which all four stories in Polestar are). Surprisingly tough and a little bit risque, all the Fleming adaptations are quite faithful (way more than most of the films) and the original stuff manages to keep the hard-hitting, suspenseful and clever spirit of the novels intact.
And, if you get a kick out of those, maybe you even want to get a look at James Bond: The Illustrated History of 007, which is a beautifully illustrated rundown of Bond's entire history in comic strips and comic books. What could it hurt?

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Libby said...

The art does look intriguing, but I could not bring myself to read the first Looking Glass War book. I tried, I really did. What am I missing?

(My word verification today is disco. Too funny.)

Lee Wind said...

Okay, that graphic novel "Hatter M" sounds great - I can't wait to check it out!

And yes, I am SO going to see the new BOND movie. Thanks for the info about the comic versions,


david elzey said...

Thanks for the tip on the Bond comics. I thought I remembered seeing those strips when I was a kid, so I'm curious to check them out. At the very least they can't be as bad as Dalton-era Bond...

Ms. Bookish said...

I was just looking at Hatter M today - I wasn't too sure of it, but I'm adding it to my to-be-read pile now that I've read your review. Speaking of James Bond, I've actually got Silverfin, from the Young Bond series, in my tbr pile, too. Got to get cracking!

Colleen said...

I really liked the Looking Glass War book Libby but it is a pretty radical take on Alice. For me part of the appeal was to find a way of getting boys who otherwise wouldn't enter the Alice mythos to maybe give it a look (and pick up the original stories). I'm also always intrigued by how an author can take a classic and spin it on its head - that sort of thing just appeals to me, not as competition for the original but more as a different way of seeing things.

ladybuggirl said...

haven't read this graphic novel or looking glass wars yet.. but from what i've heard looks like i should!

TadMack said...

I really loved the first Looking Glass Wars book, but not so much the second one -- the third one looks excellent, though.