Promethea, Vol. 4
by Alan Moore, Mick
Gray, J.H. Williams
(America's Best Comics, 2003)

The Magical Mystery Tour begun in Vol. 2 and 3 of this incredible series is coming to a head in Vol. 4, which collects Promethea #19-25.

Sophie, the current incarnation of the goddess/science hero known as Promethea, is making her way through the yellow brick road of the cosmos with her friend Barbara, the former Promethea. They continue their search for Barbara's husband through the afterlife on a path that winds its way through levels of human consciousness as outlined in the Kaballah.

By now it should be quite clear that Alan Moore isn't really writing a story so much as using a story as an excuse to explore the history of magic, Jungian archetypes, colorful characters such as Aleister Crowley, and just about anything between the pages of those Time-Life books about everything that's strange in the world. It's a vast topic to cover, dealing as it does with the entire subject of human awareness and its relationship to the divine, but it's done with such love and skill that it's easy to get pulled in even if you have no idea what, exactly, Moore is going on about. From the minimalist but highly effective opening -- in, of all places, Heaven itself -- to Sophie's jolting return to the griminess of everyday life, both the words of Moore and the exceptional artistic skills of Mick Gray and J.H. Williams breathe life into this lovingly crafted work. Williams and Gray neatly accomplish the difficult trick of matching the format of each comic book to correspond to the surreal worlds that Sophie and Barbara encounter in their walk through the DNA of the human soul.

Meanwhile, Stacia, assisted by the spirit of Grace, the most aggressive of the Prometheas to carry the title, is carving out a path for herself through New York's criminal community. Unfortunately, Grace's way of handling the bad guys isn't very subtle. Her increasing visibility helps the FBI (two of Moore's best comic creations, a Lucy-and-Desi-like pair who are about as odd as the people they investigate) close in on the mysterious new science hero who is wreaking such havoc. A bizarre love affair springs up between Grace and Stacia, which sets the stage for the drama to come, when Sophie returns to Stacia to relieve her of her duties after her incredible trip through the Immateria is concluded.

This is truly one of the best comics out there. If you want to read a book that is all about the relationship between the medium of comic book art and the written word, or just want your mind stretched in a way it probably hasn't been since that philosophy course you took back in college, give this excellent series a try. Even if you don't quite grasp everything, it's easy to get hooked on the stunning visuals alone. Don't miss it.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 24 January 2004

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