Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Promethea Book Five

(2005) Alan Moore, J. H. Williams III and Mick Gray, Titan Books, 24.99, hrdbk, 196pp, ISBN 1-845-76180-4


So, here we are then, the final volume, collecting issues 26-32 of the 'apocalyptic series', for which newcomer beginners need to seek out with the first colected volume lest this review contain spoilers.

If you hate reading philosophy lessons, especially if you see them as being self-indulgent then, chances are, you stopped reading this title a while ago. If you kept reading, I guess the question is, "Was there a pay-off?" (or maybe just, "Did I get enough 'bang' for my 'buck'?") If you've been paying attention you'll know that the situation is this: Sophie Bangs, the current incarnation of Promethea, has discovered that it is her duty to bring about the Apocalypse. Accordingly she has stopped turning into Promethea. However, as we open in this volume, although Sophie has suppressed Promethea for years, the government and the Five Swell Guys enlist the aid of Tom Strong to 'bring Promethea in'.

Naturally enough this has the effect of making Promethea incarnate again, whereupon she starts the Apocalypse. Of course, 'Apocalypse' (especially Capitalised) is one of those words with a mixture of modern meanings, but I'd suspect that still chief among them is the interpretation of a Biblical Apocalypse, Armageddon, that kind of thing. Arguably, for comics readers, Apocalypses are a lot less Apocalyptic - we have 'em on a regular basis! Superherodom especially has a tendency towards apocalypses, often encompassing whole universes. But I doubt Alan Moore fans would have expected such empty pyrotechnics and they would be right. Because there's another kind of Apocalypse, a personal apocalypse, in the sense of a 'life changing moment'. An event which alters one's perceptions so profoundly that nothing afterward is ever the same again. And I'm not just talking about a spiritual revelation (though it could be that), or even some mystical enlightenment (though it could be that too), but about common everyday stories in real life - the person who survives something terrible against all odds, who might have died, but didn't. When you talk to (or hear about, or watch on telly) such people you often hear them talking about how, after their experience, the world was completely different for them. How even the familiar and tawdry could be looked at anew and seen in a different perspective. Not that I wish to give the impression that these personal apocalypses are always positive; often it's quite the opposite. Be that as it may, this is the kind of apocalypse that Promethea brings about - she elevates the world to a (from a character's perspective) hyper-real state in order to teach them a new perspective.

The final issue, much publicised, was to fold out into a double-sided poster, and was a kind of coda-cum-epilogue to the series and, kindly, in the back of this book (though greatly reduced in size) is included a mini-poster. If you ever get a rainy afternoon you might use it to determine a different page order in which to read the final issue... Did the reader get enough bang for their buck? Well, this one did. But then, I would. My own philosophy is close to Alan's, with slightly less mystical bullcrap, and a bit more hard science, but close enough that I'd recommend Alan's point of view for consideration. And it is just a comic at the end of the day. Speaking of which; other aspects: J. H. Williams III and Mick Gray have been superb throughout their time on Promethea and the gobsmacking whole has been a delight to look at. Well done those men! Ditto Jeremy Cox and Jose Villarrubia on colours.

This has been a wonderful comic; only 32 issues, short and sweet - just five collected volumes - yet Alan Moore has shown once again why he's still the best writer in comics (which, considering how much I also love Gaiman, Carey, Ennis, Ellis, Willingham and others, is not a statement I make lightly).

Tony Chester

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