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Promethea #32
Written by Alan Moore
Art and Design by J. H. Williams III
Published by America's Best Comics; $3.95 USD

The thirty-second and final issue of Promethea is not designed as a typical comic book. Rather, it is meant to be disassembled and carefully reconstructed as a large, dual sided poster, which tells a story and also reveals two larger images on either side. The instructions found on the inside front cover claim the comic book can also be enjoyed by simply opening the book and turning the pages in the traditional fashion, but I opted to dive right in and get the full experience, so I have no idea if this is true.

As I was carefully removing the staples and arranging the pages to be taped together so that I could properly experience the final installment of Alan Moore’s magical treatise in comics form, it occurred to me that the experience of this final issue was a kind of metaphor for the series as a whole, which I suppose was rather the point. That is, each took a very long time to finish, requiring much concentration from the reader, and in the end added up to not much more than some interesting if not wholly original ideas illustrated by some very nice drawings.

Well, that’s perhaps being a bit harsh, but I want to make it clear up front that, while I enjoyed Promethea very much for most of its run, I would not place it in the same realm as Moore’s “great” works, such as From Hell or V for Vendetta. I admire the formal experimentation and philosophical ideas presented in the series, but in the end I really don’t regard it as being much more than an above average genre comic book. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In any case, an evaluation of Promethea the series is beyond the scope of this review, so I’ll return to the issue (poster?) at hand.

The story presented here consists of a naked Promethea offering us a friendly lecture on the nature of the universe and man’s place in it, peppered with occasional asides as to the benefits of hallucinogenic mushrooms and a suggestion of comics as the ultimate form of human artistic expression and understanding. It reminded me of the final episodes of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, in that the serialized narrative has been put aside in favor of a more direct communion between author and reader, with Promethea functioning here more as a cipher than she had previously. And I guess that gets at one of my main problems with this issue, as we don’t really get much of Promethea’s personality in the straightforward and rather bland presentation of the information, and it is this personality that had been so integral in maintaining reader interest throughout much of the series.

The artwork is very nice, if hard to read at times. One side of the poster has line drawings of Promethea against a yellow and pink background, while the reverse side has similar images set against “cooler” blue and purple colors. It’s lovely to look at, but my eyes did strain a bit in order to make out the words in the transparent balloons. As for the “hidden” images, well, these I’ll leave for you to discover, suffice to say that they probably won’t unlock any universal truths for you, but might look pretty cool hanging on the wall of your dorm room.

I certainly appreciate the level of innovation and craft that went into the construction of this final issue, but for the most part I think Moore had already said everything he needed to say in the previous thirty-one issues, making this comic sort of unnecessary. Still not a bad way to spend a couple of hours, and it was nice to have the chance to say goodbye to an innovative series whose type we probably won’t see again for quite some time. Grade: 3.5/5

-- Pat Markfort



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