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Previous part,

And so we come to the final part of the first storyline, taking place in New York in the 1930s. The experiences with London became the straw that broke the camel's back in regards to Xanadu's relationship with Europe and Asian, so she's gone across the Atlantic to make a new start like many an immigrant before her.

Right now though she's worried for two reasons, one: some major magical event is due to happen soon that is muddling her attempts to read the future, and two: the poppet of the Stranger has magically moved from the box she'd been keeping it for the past fifty years to materialise on her shelf, signalling the return of the Stranger.

Worried, she goes to see her current boyfriend: John/Giovanni Zatara, a man of high standing within the magician community as well as being a member of the Homo Magi, offshoot of the branch of humanity she herself is part of. He's also quite smitten with her, despite her refusal to marry him on the basis that she's foretold that in the future he'll have a wife and daughter who he'd love more than anything in the world, eclipsing all previous beaus entirely.

After having sex, Xanadu brings up the Stranger and asks if he's heard any rumours of the mysterious fellow. And it turns out that John has done more than hear rumours, he infact MET him!

I'd forgo the reason why John and Zatanna technically can't be descendants of da Vinci, but it's DC canon so I'll let that pass.

Zatara explains that the Strangers been meeting up with all of the top names in the magical community, Sargon, Ibis, Dr Occult... and that he'd presumed that he'd have met up with Xanadu as well in order to prepare her for the Big Magical Event she herself had foreseen.

Xanadu heads off, thinking that the reason that the Stranger didn't come to her was because she was wise to his plans of manipulating people for seemingly his own amusement (as she's come to see it). So she works a magically binding the poppet to trap the Stranger if he approaches her...

...Meanwhile, a bullheaded NYPD cop called Jim Corrigan has become engaged to a high society gal, though she's worried about his tendency to directly go up to high profile gangsters, punch them, yell his name and about how he's going to put them in jail...

Xanadu manages to get a bit more information on the approaching Magical Event, in that it's going to involve an overwhelming phenomenon, a power nearly beyond comprehension, born of violence, wrath... a Malevolent genesis....

Her cards and crystal tells her that if this incident, this anomaly, should be allowed to occur, it will retult in the creation of a immensely powerful and consequential supernatural being. Dark thoughts begin to come to her, should be allow the event to occur just to allow a thing to come into being, more powerful that the Stranger, JUST to spite her longtime frienemy?

It's at this time that Zatara contacts her, it seems that the Stranger appeared in his dressing room, bound in a magical cord of some sort, and is asking for her. She goes to them, and begins berating the two of them in such a way that Zatara soon realises that Xanadu was the one who bound the Stranger...

The Stranger takes himself and Xanadu outside of reality, to a place without linear time or analogous space to show her how he see's the universe and so the two of them will be able to talk as equals for once. She's kind of hurt that he describes their relationship as an "association", but realises that their companionship really wasn't what she thought it was. She admits that even after all of this time she doesn't even know his name... that he really is a stranger to her.

The Stranger says that this isn't her fault, and that destiny has stuck things as such this way, he's always going to be unable to have proper attachments due to being randomly flung around space/time in no actual pattern. He says that long ago his own indecision caused this mantle to be thrust upon him, so it's his fate to always have to shoulder it by himself.

This doesn't really help Xanadu much, who says that she had placed so much importance on the town of them, and at one point she even imagined them to be soul mates, bound by their solitude and perceptions. She then realises that the binding she placed on him doesn't even have any actual effect on at all, so why does it pretend that it does?

PS explains, as she knows, he has been gathering forces of sorcery... all in service of a new Age of Heroes that will soon begin to emerge. He had returned to New York to meet with her to get her on his side, and to mend any differences between the two of them in order to form an alliance for the common good. He knew that the meeting would be difficult, so he pretended to fall into her trap, and use the concerns of her lover Zatara so that she would at least be willing to speak to him.

Xanadu admits that it does seem very like the Stranger to resort to deception and lies even when he's trying to gain her forgiveness, but the Stranger admits that he's long ago abandoned all hope of getting forgiveness. She says that this doesn't surprise her, but that he MUST have some kind of endgame arranged to achieve his own redemption, otherwise what's the point? Or, Xanadu accuses, maybe admitting to such would render him too obvious and banal, and would rob him of the mystery that he appears to build around himself for his own amusement.

PS accuses her of being obtuse, and that he only ever wished the best for her, and that his actions were NEVER designed to cause her harm or pain. Xanadu says, with building anger, that she's not talking about herself, but about the others who have suffered from his manipulations and refusal to intervene, despite his excuses of being "forbidden" to do so. She accuses him of using that as JUST an excuse, he is as guilty as ANYONE else of the countless deathes he's caused over the years.

The Stranger, apparently realising at this point he's not really going to be able to win her over considering the restrictions he's under, decides to just pour more oil on the fire. He says that he finds it peculiar that she condems him in such a way, when she herself as forseen things and the result of her actions, or inactions, she's planning. She tries to deny this, but the Stranger points out that she's foreseen the future anomaly that will have repercussions that are so vast and cosmic, that the entire universe will be changed, perhaps forever. And all it would take to come about is the sacrifice just one human life.

She tries to deny she'd sacrifice someone just to act as a counterbalance to the Stranger, but the fact that such an idea HAS crossed her mind makes her pleas seem to ring increasingly false. The Stranger points out that if she choses to allow such a tragedy to occur unchecked, then she's just as "guilty" as him, and that her so-called "morality" is little more than an excuse for her own vanity.

This causes Xanadu to snap, yelling that the Stranger is the heart of deception and the soul of arrogance. How his ways are abhorrent to her and his very presence causes her anguish, and that she never, EVER wants to see him again. This causes the Strange to bring them back to reality, where he expresses regret that the rifts are too deep, and the wounds have festered too long for any peace to be found between them. The fortuneteller says that the patterns of what he does unbroken, and that the colours of deceit are slow to fade. He again says that his intentions have always been pure, and that he's sorry that she's been lead down a path that she see's as being repugnant. He then says that he'll try to stay out of her way in the future, and says goodbye.

Xanadu has a minibreak down after this, after so many years of anger finally coming to an end so suddenly. She then realises that after seeing the depths of her scheming, Zatara would never accept her back into his heart. So she writes him a breakup letter and departs herself.

She's still left with the question though, should she intervene in the events that she's seen unfold, where the detective Corrigan is murdered by some of the gangsters he was antagonising and rolled off a pier in a barrel filled with cement? Should she allow such things to happen, leading to the magical event she foretold, just so prevent the Stranger's actions from continuing unabated? Dare she allow such a power to come into come into being, unchecked?

In the end, she decides to not warn Corrigan, and collude with fate to allow whatever it is to come into existence...

The fact that she allowed the Spectre to come into existance JUST to spite the Stranger, doesn't have a good impact on Xanadu. Realising that she just released something absolutely terrible upon the world for petty reasons, having chosen the bad path despite seeing the good one and just ignoring it, how could she ever forgive herself?

Sometime later, she's decided on a means of making up for her horrible choice of action,

Notes: So this beings us to the end of the first of the Madame Xanadu storylines, which shows the subtle steps that had to be taken to bring about the age of superheroes, for good or ill.

One of the things that struck me as interesting about this series, personally, was while Matt Wagner's previous series, 'Sandman Mystery Theatre', dealt with the evolution of costumed superheroes (from costumed detectives similar to pulp characters to slowly more outlandish characters, which is reflected in the background with the shift from pulps to comicbooks being read by the public) as one of it's themes, 'Xanadu' shows the backstory of some of the Sandman's contemporaries.

SMT had cameos from Hourman, Ted Knight (SMT actually would have a direct tie-in with James Robinson's Starman along the line), Ted Grant etc. but it all ends before more of the JSA cast could appear. So to me at least, it's nice to see that part of the Vertigo part of the DCU explored a bit more. Particularly in the team-up between Xanadu and John Jones in the third story, that was AWESOME.

Date: 2012-10-24 03:34 pm (UTC)
shadowpsykie: Information (Default)
From: [personal profile] shadowpsykie
the team-up between Xanadu and John Jones in the third story, that was AWESOME

i think a very short scan of that was posted here.

also, one could argue that despite allowing Corrigan to be murdered so that there would be a presence to counter the Stranger, all she did was allow fate to happen.

though that in many ways makes her like the Stranger himself, who goes about assuring that Fate remains intact.

i actually really love this series, it's fun, but at the same time, there is this idea of an underlying morality (or something to that effect) if you know horrible things are going to happen, but these horrible things that happen happen in order to prevent other MORE horrible things to happen... do you let them happen or try to stop them?

both have good points, xanadu thinks that (until this book) she and the stranger should to all they can tohelp prevent bad from happening, but the Stranger has a wider vision than she does.

Date: 2012-10-25 02:28 am (UTC)
silverhammerman: (Default)
From: [personal profile] silverhammerman
I really enjoy the concept of the Spectre just being this monumentally terrifying thing, a force of nature out to enact a very specific brand of vengeance. It usually isn't written that well, but nonetheless it's an idea that I like.
I'd also like to chime in on how much I like the Golden Age related stuff from this era, Starman, Sandman Mystery Theatre and this do a really good job of making a very interesting and mature (instead of just "mature" if you get my meaning) setting. I wish we could see more of this stuff.
Edited Date: 2012-10-25 02:33 am (UTC)


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