Customer Reviews: Promethea
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on September 16, 2002
This is the second collected volume of the series. It's probably best to start with volume one. :-> That said, this continues the story of the living legend Promethea, as currently embodied in an alternative, technologically-advanced 20th Century. The 1999/2000 New Year's Day celebrations take place in this volume, for those wishing to keep score.
Each issue is becoming more jewellike and perfect, it seems to me (though I haven't gone on to the third compendium yet). One entire issue/chapter in this volume is given over to an exploration of humanity's history through the metaphor of a modified tarot deck, as told by the snakes on Promethea's caduceus, Mike and Mack (Micro and Macro - who speak in rhyming quatrains of iambic pentameter, flawlessly, each keeping his recognizable viewpoint towards either the big picture or the minutiae). Along the bottom of each page is both an anagram of Promethea's name that is pertinent to that page's content, and a serialized joke whose phrases again echo and reinforce the other three threads on each page. Another issue is given to an extended tantric sex scene (nothing is explicitly shown but boobies, though MUCH is implied), with a discussion of the theory and practice of magical symbolism and chakras ... which leads to a priceless last-page joke.
It's not a traditional narrative comic book. It's not even as traditionally-narrative as the first volume. It's ... dreamlike, and dense, and strange, in a way that is entirely appropriate for a work purporting to be about the world of imagination, and how that world interacts with our own through its avatar. It's not everyone's cup of tea, no. But if you like Neil Gaiman, you might well enjoy this too.
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on December 29, 2003
Alan Moore is perhaps the most groundbreaking and innovative comic book scribe in the history of comics. Sure, the field has provided many groundbreaking and innovative comic book artists (from Windsor McKay to Will Eisner, from Jack Kirby to Frank Miller, from Alex Ross to Steve Ditko, and many many more...), but in my opinion, no other comics writer (emphasis on the term "writer") has brought so much to this often maligned art form. Alan Moore has proven that sequential storytelling can be as interesting, thought provoking, inspiring and imaginative as prose storytelling (and indeed, even more at times, since comics have one advantage over prose alone: imagery).
Alan's best known work is of course "Watchmen", often copied and emulated but still unequaled in depth and richness after more than a decade. However, it must not be forgotten that Alan has provided his avid fan base (and an immense number of casual comic book readers from all walks of life) with many delightful comics works since Watchmen. Of these, Promethea stands apart as a very emotional and personal work from its author.
This series is a vehicle for Alan to explore and expose to the readers many themes presumably dear to him. To be able to do so, he has devised a rather interesting trick for the story, creating a framework in which the primary characters (Promethea and her immediate supporting cast) evolve and convey the message to us readers (at some point, the so called "fourth wall" is even breached, much to the delight of Scott McCloud's fans). This trick consists, in fact, of a gigantic road trip through various realms (that is, places the characters visit during the stories) existing outside of our perceived "real" or physical world.
These places can be called psychic realms or metaphysic worlds or the imagination space, they are intended to convey Alan's views concerning various concepts such as the Kaballah, the numerous earthly religions and their impact on us, the relationship between magic and technology (hint: they are two sides of the same cosmic "coin"), mysticism and spirituality, the liberating power of imagination, the neglect of our spiritual sides, the divine nature of womanhood, etc.
This mind bending road trip makes for a unique comics series, and through it all we get to see what are Mr. Moore's views and beliefs. For those willing to put up with the non-traditional approach in words and pictures (the artists, J. H. Williams III and Mick Gray show us how superb draughtsman they can be, adopting many different styles throughout the series - an aspect of this comics series worth the price of admission in itself) Promethea makes a fine and enriching read! Not only do I highly recommend this series, but I recommend the purchase of all the trade paperbacks, and the reading of them in sequence, preferably over a few days... A guaranteed mind trip!
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on July 28, 2001
When I reviewed the first volume in this series, I described the general idea in the following way: 'Promethea' is an attempt to render the female super hero in an archetypical form. This book has a strong mystical or spiritual theme, with the female lead cast in a pluralistic role: she is both Sophie Bangs, student, and Promethea, imagination personified. Our Promethea is not the first, there is a whole line of Prometheas stretching back to ancient Egypt, and we get to know some of the earlier ones in this book.
This volume collects issues 7 through 12 of the series. If anything, it tops the previous volume.
Alan Moore and JH Williams III are firing on all cylinders here - we get quite a detailed examination of spiritual themes, contrasted and compared to quantum physics; some superheroing; one of the most sensual comics you're likely to see, and a diverse cast of characters.
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on December 6, 2014
The volume where Moore's work begins to slide. The weakest part of this volume is the final issue, the Tarot issue. In it, Promethea is given a lesson in the significance of the Tarot cards -- each one "represents" some moment in the creation of the universe and signifies a step in the path to enlightenment.

Yeah, whatever.

The issue itself is quite well-done, combining multiple levels of visual and verbal narration. There's one thing you can't deny about Promethea as a series and that's that it pushed the limits of graphic story-telling in fabulously inventive ways. But the structural schematics of Moore's cosmology is, at base, crude, over-simplified, and frankly, very juvenile. As with all attempts to map reality onto a human-made conceptual framework, the supposed "discoveries" of the "truths" within the Tarot are, in fact, projections of Moore's own cultural vocabulary. That is to say, he doesn't uncover any meanings in the Tarot, he creates them based on ideologies that organize his thinking.

But besides this one hiccup, the series itself is still quite good at this point. As a meta-fictional tale about the nature of imagination, it's insightful, if not earth-shattering, and Moore's sense of humor and imagination, when he gives it full rein, is wonderful. He should probably get an award for the single greatest creation ever, the Weeping Gorilla. It's a comic-strip within the world of Promethea; each one is just a sad Gorilla crying while thinking about some utterly banal inconvenience of life that is so pathetic as to be tragic. Example: "Everyone said I should upgrade to Windows 95." Love it.
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on September 29, 2014
It exceeded my expectations! Promethea so far is my favorite work from Alan Moore; I know most would agree on Watchmen, but I'm more into the mystical side of storytelling. It's surprising, deep, imaginative with a good solid grounding in true spiritual, philosophical, eastern wisdom. A treasure for the true comic book collector!
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on January 20, 2005
Prior to reading this I had read Book 1 in the Promethea series. I picked up on what was going on here OK, but starting in at this book would not be a good idea. The Background for the series: Basically Promethea is the Goddess myth embodied. She enters the real world (modern day New York but with flying cars and other advanced technology) through Sophie, a college student. She has entered the world through other women at other times. These women are now dead and they lounge around in the after life and watch Sophie-Promethea for entertainment. Sophie-Promethea can enter other worlds. So she can visit the other Prometheas or can travel through the land of myths (the Immateria). Her main job is to maintain order in the real world and keep balance between all these forces that we learn about as they emerge.

The story here involves Sophie-Promethea leaving to go on a journey through the realms of the soul to find Barbara-Promethea (one of the deceased Prometheas), who wandered off in search of her deceased husband sometime during Book 2. Meanwhile 20's Promethea merges with Sophie's roommate to maintain order in the real world while Sophie-Promethea is gone. As you would expect from the series there is a lot of numerology and occult stuff here. Most of this happens in the Sophie-Promethea plot-line which is all serious. The real world plot line has mostly action, with 20's Promethea fighting in style, and comic relief since 20's Promethea and Sophie's roommate don't get along so well but are sharing a body. These two plots parallel one another especially at the conclusion.

The graphics: The artistic style is the normal comic booky style done well. However the layouts are spectacular. Almost any spread of two pages hangs together as one coherent whole. The highlight of the book for me was a layout in the chapter entitled "Gold" This layout shows a small sun in the center of the spread, with frames radiating out like rays from the sun. You can read the dialog and action in the frames clockwise or counterclockwise and it makes sense. You can read left to right across the top half, then left to right across the bottom half of the spread and that makes sense. You can read top-to-bottom on the left page, and then on the right page and that makes sense. It is very very cool.

This book is good, but you will likely be confused unless you have read others in the series. For example if this review is incoherent for you then read the earlier books first. I liked this one better than the previous book I had read, but without having read that one I would have been beating my head against the wall.

The one spread that I mentioned with the sun is very cool. If you are interested in comic book design then you should check out that spread.
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on December 22, 2013
After a spectacular start, the second half of Book 2 indulges in a long, LONG (and did I mention lengthy?) treatise on tantric sex and the major arcana, all in iambic pentameter with floating anagrams and standup by Aleister Crowley... all at the same time. It's downright gelatinous and I suggest waders and a chainsaw to cut your way thru.

(But I'm buying Book 3 right now.)
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on March 20, 2014
The story arc for this book and the next one blew my mind. It was a completely new way to look at the system of Kabbalah, and the story line for it was intriguing, which made it that much more enjoyable.

The art was fantastic, which of course added to the Promethea experience.
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on April 14, 2008
Alan Moore firmly establishes himself as one of the premier writers in the Graphic Novel world with his second volume of Promethea. America's Best Comics matches Moore's prose with high quality, stunning illustrations from a number of highly skilled artists and the result might be more properly considered a Graphic Immersion instead of simply a Graphic Novel. Don't read too fast or you will miss the exquisite detail in the illustrations! Moore has proven himself equally adept at speaking to the female audience, IMO, as the more traditional male audience of this genre. With strong female leads, Moore's romp through the ancient and modern versions of Promethea is a both an entertaining and enlightening journey. I can't wait to read book three...
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This book takes off in two directions. The second one (I'll come back to the first) introduces a new Promethea. That plays by the rules - there have been lots of them and will be lots more. This plane of reality just has one at a time, though. The new one embodies "punk", in attitude and style.
Promethea is a semi-mythic ideal of womanhood - certainly too rich and complex a topic to embody in any one person. Various Prometheas carry various parts of that vision: motherly, raw and angry, innocent, and sensual, but always powerful and involved. Some parts of the complete image are unpleasant but needed for the image to be complete, and that's where Promethea/Stacy fits. She exorcises demons by being more demonic than them.
The book's other direction explains why the first Promethea was off duty. She is on a trip through the mythic planes, led by a succession of spirit guides. She acts as a passive display of each realm she traverse, and that seems a real under-use of a very worthwhile character. It's a verbal and philosophical trip, but Promethea is a character of action. Worlds of fantasy, sensuality, and judgement could have been settings for active exploraiton of each idea, but Promethea just talked about them while passing through. I consider that an opportunity lost.
Still, the series is readable, well-drawn, and full of ideas well beyond the usual comic. Despite some flaws, I intend to keep reading.
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