Friday, February 25, 2005

More Promethea

So, I just finished the journey up the tree of life in Promethea, and I'm pretty satisfied with how it ended. I think the earlier issues were actually more effective, since they had more easily definable concepts. It's a lot easier to talk about intellect or emotion than to talk about the universal male essence. But, that doesn't mean that Moore hasn't done good work or that these aren't great issues. I feel like because they're discussing tougher concepts, it's going to benefit more from a reread than the comparatively simple first chunk of issues.

Anyway, the male and female isssues I see as companion pieces, and are another followup on the idea of wand and cup discussed back in the first book and in 'Sex, Stars and Serpents.' I think 'Sex, Stars and Serpents' does a much better job of conveying the essential nature of the two energies, and without it, I'd have been lost here. The best I can come up with is that the female issue is all about both compassion and sexuality, as represented by the madonna/whore. So, the cup is both a site of lust, and a receptacle for love. It's all one love, and this is about receiving the love.

The more interesting thing in this issue is Sophie's new costume, which features an open third eye. It's a good representation of the changes she's gone through as a result of her journey.

Then, the masculine issue, which is one of the most beautifully illustrated of the entire run. Williams does gorgeous painting to show this gray world. What this is about is the spark of ignition that mixes with the love in the universe, which leads to the big bang, which sets the material world into existence. I feel like this stuff is much more about Moore's cosmology than stuff that's really relevant to the real world. But, that's logical, considering this is supposed to be about a realm that goes beyond the material world.

Everything pays off in the final issue of the journey, where Sophie and Barbara make it to the level of God, and expierence what we are before we are born and where we go after we die. They make it to Heaven, and essentially discover the nature of God, as Moore sees it. The way I took it, the whole nine issue journey is about gradually stripping off aspects of worldly individuality, culminating when Sophie and Barbara are absorbed into the white bliss and experience what it is to be God. There's a really striking page where we see the prayers of people all over the world, represented in a variety of different languages. Then, we get a glimpse of hundreds of lives, and realize that God is present in everything, every moment of our lives, we're connected to something higher.

At the apex of their journey, Sophie and Barbara exist in 5D space, not held down by time or place, and are a part of every single person's life in the entire world. That's what it is to God, to be present in every facet of existence. Our lives (or afterlife) is a journey away from individuality to universality. That's what the serpent is, ascending up towards Heaven. Sophie and Barbara make it there, but she soon meets Stephen Shelley, and is reminded of her material existence. I feel like the point Moore is trying to make is that the love that Barbara and Stephen has is so strong it transcends this universal love and ties their individual essences together.

So, rather than merging into the bliss, all three decide to become doves and return to the material world. It's an amazing sequence as they descend past all the realms they experienced over the course of the journey. After going on this really long journey, it's refreshing to return to material things, not only for them, but for the reader too. It's difficult to decipher these issues after a while, especially seeing as how they become more and more complex. It really feels like you were with them on the journey and that's a tribute to Moore's storytelling.

There's something powerful in the idea that despite being in heaven, and having perfect bliss, all three of them decide to return to the material world. I think it's because once you ascend past emotion and all things human, it may be bliss, but it's impersonal. It's the emotions that make things real, and for Stephen and Barbara, their love is more important than the universal bliss they achieved up in sphere one. I like the idea that they're reincarnated, and get to explore the material world anew again.

For Sophie, the journey was all about moving beyond her own perspective, and coming to understand what's up with others, specifically her mother. The final scene is very sweet and plays off of one of my favorite moments in the whole journey, Sophie's encounter with her father.

Moore has set up a lot of stuff on the material world during the journey, and I'm really excited to see that play out. The whole journey was a very risky storytelling move, but it was a complete success for me. Together with JH Williams, he has completely changed the potential of what can be done with a comic book, in a way that no book since Watchmen has done.

I also think a lot of ideas were conveyed to the reader. I learned a lot, and I think he makes some important points. Over the course of the journey, individuality is broken down, and we understand the connections between everyone. The similarities between this and The Invisibles are striking, both have essentially the same message, and that's we're all the same, we're all connected, and if you just put in the effort to understand someone, you'll realize they're not so bad after all.

Related Posts
Promethea: 1-16 (2/22/2005)
Promethea: 17-19 (2/24/2005)
Promethea: Until the End of the World (24-32) (2/27/2005)

No comments: