Wagner continues to flirt with the supernatural corners of the DC Universe in this impressively accessible Vertigo series. The tenth issue of this book wraps up the story of Xanadu's altercations with the Phantom Stranger. In this issue, Wagner weaves in the history of not only Zatara, but the Spectre as well.
This wide range of subject matter gives Amy Reeder Hadley and Richard Friend a chance to dazzle. Hadley's compositions are anything but traditional, yet they aren't so extremely radical as to confuse the gentle reader. The ethereal realm where the Stranger and Xanadu have their conversation is unsettling and disorienting, made more so by the astute lettering of Jared K. Fletcher. Guy Major's colors are well suited for Hadley's artwork as they give the issue a more "traditional" feel, despite the obtuse subject matter and wide-ranging settings.
The implied and explicit declaration of Xanadu's responsibility for the path forged for magic in the DC Universe is astonishing and pleasing, giving the story to this point a dramatic conclusion while setting the stage for future stories and past appearances.
While not the most penetrable issue for a new reader, this issue is capably accessible to readers of the DC Universe, especially those longing for a chance to once more read of the Phantom Stranger, Madame Xanadu, the Jim Corrigan Spectre, or John Zatara.
The most perplexing aspect of this book, for me, is the blatant use of DC Universe icons. My understanding of the Vertigo/DC relationship is obviously incomplete, but why -- or rather how -- can Wagner use Spectre, Phantom Stranger and Zatara, but the DCU cannot even sneak in a subtle cameo from Swamp Thing?
At any rate, this series has surprised me with its story, art and characters to this point. I look forward to the next storyline, featuring art by Michael William Kaluta.