Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted
Matt Wagner (Writer), Amy Reeder Hadley (Pencils, Inks), Richard Friend (Inks), Guy Major (Colors),
Jared Fletcher (Letters)
Reviewed by Covert
This is the first trade paperback of a series following the life of Madame Xanadu, a seer and magical
consultant in the DC/Vertigo Universe. The series starts out in medieval Britain as the DC version of
Camelot falls and Nimue (as she is known then) tries in vain to stop the fall. In the process, she loses
most of her powers and spends the rest of the book (and the next thousand or so years) regaining them.
I cannot sing the praises of this book loudly or often enough. This is one of the most accurate and
sympathetic treatments of a Pagan character in a comic that I’ve ever read, frankly. Nimue has a distinct
love of life and her home (whether that be Britain, China, France, or the States), and does what she can
to protect that. Unfortunately, when history and her efforts to protect her friends and home collide,
history always wins. Madame Xanadu is flawed, she’s impulsive and naïve and lets her anger get the
better of her. But we see her grow. We see her learn where her place is in a fast-moving world, and how
she can help those she loves. That really endears the series to me.
Plus, Disenchanted is littered with Pagan/occult elements and themes. Most obviously, in the beginning
of the book she prays to Brigid and Arianrhod, uses everything from the elder futhark to tarot (which
she invented in this universe) to divine her and others’ future, and deals with fellow Fae, demons, and
even Death herself. The theme of fate versus free will, tempered with divination, is something that is at
least touched upon in the life of every Pagan or magician who tries to predict the future. The treatment
of this theme in Disenchanted is interesting to say the least, and occasionally calls to mind the Greek
tragedies where knowing of and trying to avoid destiny creates it. The theme of the isolation created by
practicing magic (and being a centuries old member of a magical race) is sadly more resonant with me
than it really should be.
Overall, this is an amazing start to a good series. The other trade paperbacks are Exodus Noir, Broken
House of Cards, and Extra-Sensory. I recommend Broken House of Cards, and Extra-Sensory if you
particularly liked the first and third volumes. Do not read Exodus Noir unless you really feel the need
to finish the series. The art is atrocious and the plot is so mediocre that even the presence of Madame
Xanadu in a relationship with a woman is not enough to make me like the book.
Note: This book is for mature readers, and contains a rape scene and the word g**sy. The treatment of
the rape is period appropriate, and Madame Xanadu is appropriately appalled. The use of the slur is not
to harm or dehumanize a character, but instead to excoticize Madame Xanadu.
Five pawprints out of five for this book, four for the overall series.