The National Comics one-shots are “pilots” (to use television terminology) for potential ongoing series, starring more obscure characters, mostly completely reinterpreted from past incarnations. But one thing that’s been consistent is the slight Vertigo vibe, with each title having both a supernatural and a real world feel.
With ‘Looker’, I was slightly puzzled, because Looker seemed to already exist in the New 52, having popped up in a different form briefly in ‘Batman Inc.’ But there have been other inconsistencies in the New 52, so I just shrugged it off.
With this this issue, I realize that these books are not set within the New 52-niverse, as this title character, Madame Xanadu is already established in two books, ‘Justice League Dark’ and ‘Demon Knights’, and this character isn’t the same.
The book is set in New Orleans and Madame X (real name Nima) is a clairvoyant, who uses tarot cards to predict the future in service of a law firm. She was also once a celebrity, but had a fall from grace… as is mentioned several times. She’s kind of a frumpy, disheveled mess, actually. The firm’s latest case is to defend voodoo queen Lauren Goucuff, who is accused of sending a zombie to kill City Councilman Ben Meachum, with whom she had been very publicly feuding. Goucuff wants to become the new Marie LeVeau and Madame X and a lawyer named Salinger must investigate Goucuff’s enclave of voodoo worshipers, in a tale that seems to borrow heavily from all those police procedurals on the air now.
The story is structured nicely. There’s a real layer of realism here as it isn’t explicitly stated that Madame X even actually has any magical powers. Some characters, like Salinger, are sceptical. The same is true of Lauren Goucuff. Madame X doesn’t believe she has any real powers… but then how do you explain that zombie? The idea of a psychic working for a law firm seems rife with future story potential.
This book is well written overall, but it’s a bit formulaic in a few areas, including the solution to the mystery. Also, the use of voodoo is very cliche, with the same tropes used in every story ever written involving the subject. And the dialogue is clunky in a few spots. But overall, it was a decent read.
The artwork is very nice, though. There’s a roughness to it that suits the very grounded story, but the detailing is excellent. Madame X herself is really interesting to look at, because she’s not at all glam. She’s pretty enough, but like I mentioned she’s kind of frumpy and not well put together. I found that pretty bold and refreshing in a comic that is borderline a super hero title.
It’s worth a read. It’s not my favorite and I’m not sure I’d read the entire series if it goes that far, but it’s certainly above average.
NATIONAL COMICS: MADAME X #1
Written by Rob Williams
Art by Trevor Hairsine
Cover by Fiona Staples