Saturday, October 23, 2010

“Hatter M: The Nature of Wonder” by Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier & Sami Makkonen (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

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Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Reviews of “Seeing Redd” + “ArchEnemy

Hatter M: The Nature of Wonder” written by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier. Illustrated by Sami Makkonen. Cover art provided by Vance Kovacs. Release Date: October 15, 2010. Published by Automatic Pictures.

The Looking Glass Wars trilogy may have concluded with last year’s novel, ArchEnemy, but Frank Beddor’s extraordinary reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass live on through a series of graphic novels chronicling Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan and his thirteen-year search for Wonderland’s Princess Alyss who became lost on Earth after escaping through the Pool of Tears during Aunt Redd’s coup d'état. . . events that transpired in the first volume of The Looking Glass Wars trilogy.

In The Nature of Wonder—the third Hatter M geo-graphic novel after the Eisner Award-nominated and 2009 Silver IPPY Award-winning Far From Wonder, and the 2010 Gold IPPY Award-winning Mad With WonderHatter Madigan travels to Washington D.C. in search of answers and ends up crossing paths with agents Horatio Alabaster and Philomena Ark of the Bureau of the Illuminated Forces, the evil Colonel Obsidian Stoker, and Abraham Lincoln on the day of his assassination. From here, the graphic novel follows Hatter as he and Agents Alabaster & Ark go on a quest in search of the White Flower Tribe, which leads to a lengthy flashback involving Hatter as a Millinery cadet, his older brother Dalton, and the sisters, Princess Rose and Princess Genevieve. Concluding the graphic novel is a classic western tale of a small town terrorized by outlaws and the one person who makes a stand against them...

Like the other Hatter M graphic novels, The Nature of Wonder offers an entertaining mix of story and art, highlighted by Sami Makkonen’s psychedelic visuals and writing imbued with Frank Beddor’s trademark humor and wild imagination. Admittedly, the third Hatter M graphic novel feels a bit on the short side—probably because of a prologue and epilogue that fails to add anything significant to the story apart from referencing Mad With Wonder—but The Nature of Wonder features a colorful supporting cast led by Horatio Alabaster and Philomena Ark, and it’s once again fun to see how Hatter Madigan’s adventures on Earth intersect with actual history. Plus, I liked how the flashback sheds some light on Hatter as a person, and it was rewarding to finally see Madigan enter a hat shop that sold more than just hats.

Of course, what I love most about the Hatter M geo-graphic novels is the packaging—specifically the beautiful wraparound covers—and the awesome bonus content. In this case, the extra goodies include a 5-page preview from the upcoming fourth Hatter M geo-graphic novel, The Zen of Wonder; investigative reports on the Bureau of the Illuminated Forces and the White Flower Tribe; a gallery of paintings inspired by Hatter Madigan’s cards; journals and artwork composed by Alyss during her stay in England; and an excerpt from ArchEnemy, the concluding volume in The Looking Glass Wars trilogy.

As a whole, The Nature of Wonder is another lovingly crafted Hatter M geo-graphic novel that is a must-have for any true fan of The Looking Glass Wars...

NOTE: On November 10, 2010, Automatic Pictures will publish a brand new Hardcover edition (See Above) of the first Hatter M geo-graphic novel, which has been out-of-print for a while now. Besides sporting a striking new wraparound cover and the new subtitle, ‘Far From Wonder’, the graphic novel also features, among other new bonus content, two extra chapters illustrated by Sami Makkonen. The first, titled “Dublin”, finds Hatter Madigan squaring off against the creature, Spring Heeled Jack, with the aid of a thirteen-year-old Bram Stoker. The second chapter meanwhile, called “Siberia”, finds Hatter confined in a Siberian prison camp, questioning his duty to the royal family of Wonderland, with reporter Madga Pushkin making a brief appearance. Personally, I enjoyed “Dublin” more than “Siberia”, but both chapters shine in their own special way, while strengthening what is already an outstanding graphic novel. In short, even though Far From Wonder is a reprint, the graphic novel is a reissue that LGW fans will definitely want in their collection...

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