M Volume Three:
The Nature of Wonder
Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier
artist: Sami Makkonen
Fantasy has just declared war on reality,
or so an early tagline for Frank Beddor's The Looking
Glass Wars had it. A rich vaguely science fiction-oriented
retelling (or unveiling of the truth) of Alice in Wonderland,
the trilogy has been popular with the coveted Young Adult
readership, and set up a world with lots of nooks and crannies
for more stories to be discovered.
Case in point: in the first novel, royal
guardsman Hatter Madigan follows the Princess Alyss through
the Pool of Tears and into Victorian England. While the
rage and ruin of the Red Queen wreak havoc in Wonderland,
Hatter Madigan wanders Earth for seventeen years - seventeen
years unexplored in the novels.
So Beddor, writing partner Liz Cavalier
and now artist Sami Makkonen reveal those seventeen years
in a series of graphic novels, the third of which, Hatter
M: The Nature of Wonder, hits this week. With it, Beddor
may be countering his own argument: it's not that fantasy
declared war on reality; it's just that we turned our backs
on what reality could be.
After the events of volume 2, Mad with
Wonder, Madigan finds himself in the waning days of
the Civil War. Escaped from an insane asylum, where the
inmates now endlessly re-enact the war in Wonderland as
they know it - that's crazy, nobody would re-enact war
-- Madigan chases "the glow." While he searches for this
whit energy that should lead him to Alyss, dark energy has
infected a cadre of confederate soldiers, turning them into
monsters headed straight for the White House.
The journey has him crossing paths with
a 19th Century version of the X-Files, portrayed in an exaggerated
fashion that teeters on the edge of parody, filled with
soap operatic allusions as if we were coming in late to
Technically, I guess, we are, and since
Beddor has written three novels, a children's book, an online
card game and who knows what else about the Looking Glass
Wars, it's interesting to see what other concepts he can
offer without losing the core. (He hinted at this in the
first Hatter M graphic novel, though that has since
seemed to fall in line - crediting most dark supernatural
powers to the Red Queen's influence.)
It also fleshes out the influence of Madigan's
"imaginary" world on ours. Others have crossed over before
him, and he also uncovers a parallel tradition from the
early days of this continent. Note continent, not nation.
Indeed, Beddor would have you believe "flower power" predates
the Haight-Ashbury by at least a millennium.
If you haven't read the novels, the graphic
novels do a good job of being relatively self-contained.
Of course, in some ways you'd have a sense of dramatic irony,
knowing the end of Madigan's quest. But Beddor and Cavalier
also give us information about his background we've never
seen before, exploring his early days looking up to his
brother, one of the greatest Royal Guardsmen of them all.
Hey, until now, I thought Hatter was the greatest.
At times The Nature of Wonder veers
into ridiculousness, which is a little at odds with Makkonen's
scratchy but dreamlike artwork. But Beddor's Wonderland
has always danced lithely from charmingly insane to grotesque
to poignant to back again, all the better to give his target
audience a little from every plate.
Or should I say from every tea cup?