When talking about icons of the graphic story medium, writers don’t come much more iconic than Alan Moore, whose credits include Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The Ballad of Halo Jones…
Originally published as a 32 issue series of comics between 1999 and 2005, Promethea was then collected into a set of five graphic novels with each comic as a separate chapter. Book 1, which I really enjoyed, collected the first six issues and Book 2 covers issues seven to twelve. And it’s here that things start to go a bit awry.
The series tells the story of Sophie Bangs, a student in an alternate version of New York, who (in Book 1) comes to embody a god-like entity known of Promethea. This is a character that keeps recurring in stories down the ages and, we discover, is brought forward when someone uses their imagination to make her real, becoming a version of Promethea.
There is a lot to like in this concept. Not only does it allow for the relationship between fiction and reality to be explored but it also, with the different incarnations of Promethea, underlines the way in which the same thing — or person — can be interpreted differently according to the viewer.
Book 2 starts suitably spectacularly with a potentially world-shattering Y2K bug, closely followed by a demonic attack. In the course of this attack, Sophie’s predecessor is fatally wounded and Sophie sets out to find out more. And this is where things start to go awry.
For the last three chapters, Moore simply stops bothering with the story and decides, instead, to treat us all to a lecture on his rather idiosyncratic views on sex, magic and history and the final chapter, quite frankly, is a mess.
Alan Moore’s writing has always had a polemical edge to it and this is something that, normally, I really like about him. In this case, his opinions aren’t particularly interesting and this is a problem compounded by the complete absence of anything resembling a narrative.
Carissa made a relevant point recently in relation to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere when she noted that she was already older than the target market when she read it. I have a feeling that this also applies to me and Promethea: I’m just too old for this stuff.