Thursday, October 20, 2005

1602/Thessaly - Witch For Hire

Currently reading: "Transmetropolitan" - Warren Ellis, "The Awakening" - Kate Chopin

Next up: "The Crimson Petal and the White" - Michael Faber

I've been on a comic binge recently...all Adam's fault. Anyway, he introduced me to two really great comic mini-series: one by Neil Gaiman called "1602", the other, "Thessaly - Witch For Hire", by Bill Willingham.

"1602" takes characters from the Marvel universe (Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Peter Parker) and sets them in 1602. These characters live in this world "before their time", and live lives in and around Queen Elizabeth's court. Sir Nicholas Fury is head of the Queen's intelligence. The X-Men are considered "witchbreed" and are pursued by the Inquisition. Magneto is the Grand Inquisitor. What I enjoyed most was how natural this interweaving of worlds felt. None of these characters seemed out of place, and the plot had me racing through each installment just so I could get to the next one. Neil Gaiman's grasp of history amazes me, and the fact that he made historical fiction out of this Marvel universe is a testament to that, as well as to his skill as a writer. I have to say, though, that what impressed me most about this mini-series was the artwork. Normally, story comes first with me no matter what I read - but I found myself just staring at each page for a while, because they were gorgeous. Andy Kubert, the illustrator, is the man.

"Thessaly - Witch for Hire", is a miniseries in an entirely different vein, though this, too, has its origins with Neil Gaiman. Thessaly is a several-hundred-year-old Thessalian witch - the last witch of her kind - that was one of the minor characters in Gaiman's "Sandman" series. Here, she gets her own story...and it's funny! Thessaly, a cute, slightly nerdy-looking witch, has spent years moving from place to place because people keep figuring out her "witchness." Anyway, she ends up meeting a ghost named Fetch (who has a crush on her in the worst way), who has, without her consent, gotten her involved in a monster-fighting "mission", when all she wants to do is isolate herself from the world. I thought this was such a great way for this particular character to be reinvented - Thesssaly With a Purpose is not to be trifled with! This miniseries is packed with humor, and at the same time with the eerie quality that we've come to expect from Thessaly. If you're interested in the Sandman characters (hell, even if you're not) this is a great, fun read!


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