Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars trilogy (only two volumes, The Looking Glass Wars and Seeing Redd, have been published so far) tells the story of Alyss Heart, rightful Queen of Wonderland. When she was seven, her parents were killed in a coup staged by her nasty Aunt Redd, poster-child of Dark Imagination. Queen Genevieve’s dying command to her loyal bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, was to save Alyss. Hatter M only partly succeeded. He managed to send both Alyss and himself to Earth, but they were separated during the journey. Alyss ended up in England, where she was adopted into a scholarly ecclesiastical family and raised as Alice Liddell. Lewis Carroll was a family friend and she told him her story. He sanitized it into Alice in Wonderland, much to Alyss’ horror. She was finally restored to the throne in the second volume, though of course things are never that simple.
While Alyss was growing up safely in England, Hatter Madigan was roaming the rest of the world looking for her and dealing with deadly manifestations of Dark Imagination. His thirteen-year search is told in a series of graphic novels. Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars, Volume One brings together four of them, based on work by the Hatter M Institute for Paranormal Travel, which exists to uncover and document information on Hatter M’s time on Earth.
The first story, “Where is She?,” is retold from The Looking Glass Wars. This is reasonable, because it sets up everything else. None of the others would make any sense without it. The others (“Children are the Juiciest,” “The Haunting of Hatter Madigan” and “Rage Against the Machine”) are original. Each has a short introduction by Hatter M himself.
The coolest thing about this volume is the back material. The Institute answers “Probing Questions” from readers such as S. Hawking and Dorr Bothwell, and reprints newspaper articles corroborating the book’s assertions. This section also includes art from the concept gallery, alternate covers and a short excerpt from the third book in the trilogy (the title is not indicated).
First, let it be understood that I liked The Looking Glass Wars and Seeing Red. Indeed, I liked them a lot. Why don’t I like Hatter M as well? Just this — the artwork. Ben Templesmith is more than competent, more than talented, but I don’t like his style. It’s nightmarishly appropriate to this twisted tale of a thirteen-year search through a psychologically handicapped world, but I don’t like it. I find it disjointed and hard to follow. This is probably a sign of something lacking in me, not a reflection on him.
Frank Beddor’s website is here.
(Automatic Pictures Publishing, 2008)