Comic Book Review – Promethea Volumes 2 & 3

Promethea Volume 2 (2002)
Promethea Volume 3 (2003)

Written by Alan Moore
Art by J.H. Williams

Alan Moore’s second volume of Promethea is probably my favorite of the bunch as it spends time developing out the Promethea myth and the people who have had her power. By the end of the second volume, we’re going into the long chunk that boils down to a treatise of human existence using the Tarot and Qa’ballah as a structure. I always felt like I needed volumes of background knowledge to get what Moore was doing here, and as a result, I felt lost most of the time. I would argue that Promethea as a whole is not a good comic book series, too personal a topic, and too close to Moore for it to be enjoyed by most readers.

Volume 2 opens with all the major and supporting characters in the hospital. Sophie is in Immateria while her body lies in a coma. She is being guided by Promethea/Bill Woolcot, the only man to ever become Promethea. Bill was the artist on a Promethea comic book for 30 years. It’s this version of Promethea that most resembles the classic Wonder Woman archetype, even down to joining the other heroes of the America’s Best Comics Universe heroes in a Justice League-like team. Bill, as Promethea, strikes up a relationship with FBI Dennis Drucker, who did not know Promethea was male. The result when Drucker learned the truth was that he murdered Bill and is now living in a mental asylum.

Eventually, everything goes down at the hospital when both main villains of the book so far attack. Sophie can share her power and transform her mother, best friend, and others into different forms of Promethea. There’s a side plot about New York City’s having multiple personalities, and through a series of circumstances, he becomes possessed by a horde of demons that were sent to kill Promethea. You would think this is leading to the next story arc or one down the road, but it just sort of fizzles out to be picked up in volume 5 and not really going anywhere.

The finale of volume 2 starts the Tarot/Qa’ballah arc, which will drag on for way too long. I understand this is basically a visual lecture by Moore about his personal philosophies, but it’s just not communicated in an interesting way. That said, the visuals are absolutely amazing, done by J.H. Williams. This was Williams’s first significant work with some bits here and there with DC Comics. You have page after page of stunning images, it’s just a shame that Moore’s writing isn’t as dynamic as his artist.

Before Sophie heads deep into Immateria to explore magic, she partners up her best friend, Stacia, with Grace Brannagh, an illustrator for covers of pulp Promethea tales from the 1910s and 1920s. This Stacia-Promethea has some encounters with the Five Swell Guys and a host of villains who are coming out of the woodwork. While this is going on, Sophie travels the sephiroth and encounters figures, both historical and fictional, who help her understand the origins of man and magic. It should be noted that this is highly Euro-centric with little to no representation of Asian or African myth and magic. It feels like a huge oversight for someone like Moore, who fashions himself a wise mage.

Two more volumes to go, and I hate to say it doesn’t get much better.

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