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Book Review: Hatter M: The Nature of Wonder by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier, Illustrated by Sami Makkonen

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

After his lengthy jaunt across 19th century Europe, royal bodyguard Hatter Madigan takes a trip to the New World in the latest installment of his ongoing “geographic” adventures, The Nature of Wonder. It’s a refreshing change of scenery for the character and readers, but Madigan’s principal quest remains the same: locate the missing heir to the Wonderland throne, Princess Alyss Heart. What originally started as an idea for a brief web comic to expand upon and promote the Looking Glass Wars trilogy of prose novels has turned into a monumental project that has taken on a life of its own and will shortly eclipse its source novels in total volumes.

The latest adventures are chronicled by series creator Frank Beddor along with co-writer Liz Cavalier, ensuring cohesive continuance of the ever-evolving tale of Madigan’s adventures in our world. As in past volumes, Madigan continues his search for Alyss by attempting to follow the Light, better known as White Imagination, a particular strain of good magic native to Wonderland. This volume starts in 1865, marking it as the approximate midpoint of Madigan’s 13-year quest in our world.

This time Madigan’s search leads him across the U.S., with notable stops along the way. In Washington D.C. , he briefly encounters President Lincoln (who greatly admires Madigan’s similar choice in haberdashery), as well as members of a paranormal investigation bureau founded by Lincoln , something like an X-Files precursor. Then it’s off to Arizona where he meets an Indian shaman with a particularly strong affinity for White Imagination and helps her defend her tribe from soldiers corrupted by Black Imagination. Finally, he journeys further into the wild west in California where he meets a milliner from Wonderland, providing him a brief respite and full rejuvenation of his otherworldly weapons. Unfortunately, still no sign of Alyss, but it appears from the included sneak peak that he will continue his search in the Far East in Volume 4, Zen of Wonder.

It’s great fun to see Madigan’s adventures in the U.S., but the biggest surprise comes from a lengthy flashback to Wonderland where it’s revealed that Madigan has an older brother who was also a highly talented and respected royal bodyguard and also journeyed to our world, a certain setup for a future family reunion but an interesting development nonetheless. The Indian shaman is also surprising due to her significant White Imagination power, forcing Madigan to rethink everything he knows about Wonderland’s exclusivity as the primary domain for Imagination magic and as an independent world.

As in Volume 2, the art duties are masterfully handled by Sami Makkonen, showing even greater range as he fully asserts himself as the visual artistic force of the series. His engaging and extremely original art style continues to work very well for the material.

The book is supplemented by dozens of pages of bonus features including additional background about the places and people Madigan visits, full-page artwork of custom Wonderland cards, art and journals from Alyss (I believe originally published in the now out-of-print Princess Alyss of Wonderland), and a brief sample from Volume 3 of the Looking Glass Wars novels. This wealth of features along with the great story combine to make the book a highly enjoyable read and left me anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Of special note and a further nod to Makkonen’s skill, Beddor is re-releasing Volume 1 (Far From Wonder, with art by Ben Templesmith) in November with two entirely new chapters drawn by Makkonen. Those chapters are largely inconsequential to the overall story, but chronicle Madigan’s encounter with Spring Heeled Jack in Ireland as well as his temporary incarceration in a Siberian prison where he again crosses paths with intrepid reporter and ally Magda Pushkin. Fans of the series will appreciate the extra dose of Madigan, and the new cover art now nicely ties the book in with the other volumes.

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