Radical Premier: Mata Hari


Radical Publishing continues to build a name for itself with edgy projects and a surprising talent roster that includes Nick Sagan (whose father, Carl, was kinda into astronomy), Shrapnel; Nick Simmons (son of some guy named Gene Simmons), Incarnate; Wesley Snipes and Antoine Fuqua (director, Training Day), After Dark; and many others.

We’ve talked about Radical before (here, here, and here) and we’re quickly growing into fans. To this point, we’ve seen a lot of interesting and dark science fiction and fantasy comics come out of Radical, so I wasn’t entirely surprised when I read an early copy of one of their latest efforts, Mata Hari, and came away ready for more.

We open with a mystery; not that of Mata Hari, which we’ll come to later, but with what must be the driving vehicle for the narrative thrust of Mata’s story: a teenage girl has been brought in to a police station after she is found in a grave yard with a shovel and a jar. The shovel alone is a signal of bad intent, but what’s in the jar convinces the police that she’s the kind of trouble they don’t like. But she won’t talk to them, so they bring in a clerk, a young woman that they hope will be able to gain the girl’s trust and get a few answers. And that’s where the story begins.

My preview issue ran only twenty-four pages long, but that was more than enough to get a sense of the artistic direction this story will take, and it’s beautiful. In this digital age, my eyes can be tricked, so I don’t know how this was created, but the artwork is lush with color and the layouts are equally vibrant. A few panels had me wondering if they were hand-painted.

A panel from Mata Hari

A panel from Mata Hari

And the story? Here’s the thing, as Mata Hari writer Rich Wilkes explains in his essay at the end of the preview issue, Mata Hari (the real woman, because she was a real person) is interesting enough on her own. To that end, she might just be the most important person in history that you don’t know about. Was she a spy for France during WWI? Yes. Was she also a double-agent? Maybe and maybe not. But her trial and execution helped to revitalize a French army that needed a jolt. Hopefully this essay is included in the issue Radical is releasing today, it makes for great reading.

Now, Wilkes isn’t writing a straight work of history, his Mata Hari will be more Femme Fatale than the real woman, but she’s not completely divorced from the real one either. She’s famous and desirable to the point that she easily has her way with the various generals and agents she comes into contact with.

Anyway, back to the story as I know it, we’re transported back to the days of WWI where we meet Vladim, a photographer in the trenches with the French army and who will become the uncle to the little grave robber we met in the opening pages (see the connection?). We get to know him in the time leading up to his first encounter with Mata Hari.

Before I take off, I’d better let Radical give you the official story overview (seeing as how I just spent a few paragraphs hamming it up). Here’s how Radical Press to sets up the story for Mata Hari:

Mata Hari. The sex symbol of her time. Internationally famous dancer. Shameless prostitute. Treacherous spy.

As a German double agent, she was blamed for the deaths of 50,000 French soldiers and executed. Her sensational trial shocked Europe. But was she really the ultimate black widow, betraying lovers on both sides of the war? Or was she a fiercely independent woman, scapegoated for the horrors of World War I.

Without scruple, without pity, leaving ruined lovers to blow their brains out, she was a born spy.” – Prosecutor Bouchardon

A compelling story about a time in world history seldom remembered combines with fantastically vivid artwork to create a story that you probably shouldn’t miss. Those are all the details you’ll get from me, but I think that if you have an interest in these sorts of comics, then you’ll want to pick this one up.

For more information about the preview for the coming graphic novel, check out Radical’s Mata Hari page.

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