I’ll admit that the initial issues of “Madame Xanadu” didn’t grab me enough to keep reading. Something just hadn’t quite clicked for me, and with so many different comics being published, it’s sometimes best to just move on. When I heard that Michael Wm. Kaluta was coming on board for a guest artist stint, though, I quickly decided that perhaps I’d give “Madame Xanadu” a try. So far, I’m quite happy that I did.
Since my absence, the comic has moved into the 1940s, with Madame Xanadu running her fortune-telling shop in New York City’s Greenwich Village. When a young woman’s father is murdered, Madame Xanadu is hired to solve the problem, but of course things are never as simple as they look. Matt Wagner’s script feels a lot stronger here than I remember from the earlier issues of the comic. Shifting between 1940 and 1493, Wagner continues to build on Madame Xanadu’s long-lived past but in a way that keeps my interest going, even as early connections between the two stories seem a bit slight. Still, it brings the real-world Spanish inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada into comics, and Wagner does a good job of making him feel sinister and scary. Torquemada’s presence in the past makes the “present day” story not having a visible villain still feel solid, and the hints that Wesley Dodds might be showing up in the remaining issues of this story have me jumping with joy.
I have to say, though the art is the primary reason to pick up “Madame Xanadu” #11. It’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and that’s not an overstatement. The early splash page with Madame Xanadu in her chair is amazing, all of Kaluta’s carefully detailed lines giving everything such a rich look. From the fringe on the lamp to Madame Xanadu’s robes, Kaluta pays attention to every single element on the page. Moments as simple as handing over a photograph, to the shuffling of a deck of Tarot cards, it’s all handled with such beauty and style that I could look at these pages for hours.
I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong, and “Madame Xanadu” #11 has proven that I need to give the title another chance. Even without Kaluta’s contributions, this would have been an enjoyable comic, so clearly it’s time to stick around and see what happens next. Of course, the fact that Kaluta still has four more issues? Well, that makes the decision that much easier.