As this second volume of Hatter M graphic novel collection opens, Hatter Madigan is still following the Glow, searching the world for Princess Alyss Heart of Wonderland, trapped in our imagination-poor universe instead of her own. And it is 1864.
The “Prologue” introduces Queen Redd and two mysterious mirror women who set the scene for us. In “Timbromania,” Hatter M tells his patron, Sir Lucius Oliphant Wellesley, that he has found traces of Alyss in America and is sent by him to find some Confederate stamps. “Amazing Grace” tells of Hatter’s arrival in America and finding of the “Glow Girl,” Sister Sally. He also finds a soul-stealing enterprise far too reminiscent of the one he had to destroy in Volume One of his travels. The next episode, “War,” finds Hatter M caught up in the insanity of the American Civil War, and especially of General Jubal A. Early. Despite a brief but surprisingly romantic interlude in “Love & Death,” Hatter finds himself gravely injured, deprived of his weapons and confined to an insane asylum under the tender care of Dr. Young and Dr. Frood. “Asylum” introduces his caregivers and fellow-patients. “Hat’s Off!” recounts the adventures of his hat as it travels alone across Virginia to find him. In “Revelation,” he makes his escape.
Unbeknownst to poor Hatter M, Alyss is safe in England, being raised by the Liddell family and befriending Lewis Carroll. (The fact that Carroll later betrayed her is immaterial. During this period they were very close.) His wanderings and suffering are for naught, unless perhaps the flashbacks to his youth and his relationship with his elder brother Dalton indicate that Hatter is learning things about himself that he needs to learn.
As always with Looking Glass Wars books, the back matter is at least as interesting as the stories. We have a sneak preview of volume three (Hatter Madigan seems to still be stuck in the Civil War), essays from the Hatter M Institute for Paranormal Travel, some gorgeous illustrations from Hatter M’s personal deck of cards, pages from Alyss Heart’s diaries bringing us up to date on what was going on with her during this period, bits from the process gallery and an excerpt from Arch Enemy, the final book in The Looking Glass Wars trilogy.
I enjoyed Mad With Wonder more than I did volume one. I think the main difference was the artwork. While I don’t really like Sami Makkonen’s style any better than I did Ben Templesmith’s in the first volume, I found the layouts slightly less confusing. Also, as this volume does not contain any retellings of stories from the trilogy; it stood on its own more and I wasn’t continually comparing it to what was probably the “real” version in my mind.
Frank Beddor’s website is here.
(Automatic Pictures Publishing, 2009)