By: Alan Moore (script), Moore & Malcolm McLaren (story), Antony Johnston (sequential adaptation), Facundo Percio (art), Hernan Cabrera (colors) & Jaymes Reed (letters)

The Story: Doll returns to her crappy old neighborhood for a visit.

Review (with SPOILERS): This wasn’t quite the massive success that last issue was, but it is still a pretty complex story that keeps revealing more about itself the more you think about it.

Last issue featured both Doll and Celestine finding refuge in the same dark attic design studio.  Celestine was there because his spiteful – and deceased mother – told him he was horribly ugly, when he was actually a very lovely man.  So, he became a recluse and designed fabulous clothes that captivated a country going through an awful nuclear winter.  In contrast, Doll fled to Celestine’s attic because she was too popular.  This poor, cross-dressing and shallow boy was taken in by Celestine’s fashion house and turned into the top model in the city, until it became too much for Doll and she/he had to get away.  It was a wonderful bit of contrast: Beautiful man with spectacular talent who thinks he is ugly because his mother only allowed him a warped mirror Vs. shallow boy with no talent who is only popular because he/she has been dressed by someone else and viewed through the public’s warped mirror.  Clever, clever, clever….

If last issue examined the idea of hiding, this issue dives into escape and the importance of having others around, but the Moore/McLaren/Johnston creative team still looks at this question as a style vs. substance question.

The issue focuses highly on Doll and her trip back to her own neighborhood.  As you can imagine, nothing is quite the way she left it: The neighborhood has lost its fascination with fashion and she/he is no longer a star.  The poor people of the area are no longer interested in wearing cheap knock-offs of Celestine’s clothes and going out to clubs all night.  It would have to be frustrating for Doll; just as she/he has “made it” nobody cares anymore.  She/he had that 15 minutes of fame, but that might be it and then she is left with nothing.  Doll wasn’t famous for doing anything of substance; he/she just wore someone else’s clothes.  Doll isn’t even really a girl.

Meanwhile, we see that Celestine had his own plan to “escape”.  When Doll returns to his attic, she really just wants to hunker back down and go back to being the famous fashion model in this very fake – and shrinking – world.  But, she finds that Celestine had taken a different path to escape: He has killed himself (or at least slashed his wrists–maybe he isn’t really dead).  Again, the contrast of Celestine and Doll is pretty interesting.  Her idea of escaping the attic was to check out her old neighborhood and club; his idea of escape was to kill himself.  Doll was doing something symbolic to escape; Celestine was doing something of substance.  It’s really quite clever.

But, as with most things Alan Moore is associated with, there is another layer to the complexity.  When Doll goes back to her old neighborhood, she runs into this boy who lived in her old boarding house and who works as a minion at Celestine’s fashion house.  I forget the boy’s name, but he proceeds to give Doll this long and windy lecture about how Celestine’s idea of fashion is so fake and how the fashion of the “people on the streets” is more pure.  He goes on and on about true passions and honesty and being who you really are.  It’s really quite the put-down to Doll, until she reverses things on him and points out that he is a university educated know-it-all whereas Doll is/was actually a poor person who knows what the poor people are really like with all their seedy habits and hatreds.  So, in a way, the boy lecturing her is a fake; he’s kind of a “silver spoon liberal”.  He’s a well-educated person who is enjoying wallowing in being poor.  And Doll suddenly has more authenticity than ever when she drops her facade and shows us the poor person she/he really is.  I’m sure that if you kept digging at this, you’d find more statements about style versus substance.

The artwork is also pretty compelling too.  I wouldn’t call it beautiful from a strictly aesthetic standpoint, but Percio has to carry so much of the storytelling that he really does deserve a lot of credit.  For example, there is this one clever scene where Doll revisits her old club hangout: The Catwalk.  When she walks to the club over a series of panels, the art is arranged so that you can see the name of the club “Catwalk” and see Doll walking straight to the door.  She really is kinda walking a figurative “catwalk”, except that suddenly she has almost no admirers beyond a couple of police officers.  Meanwhile, written in the grafitti on the side of the building is a ghost (a Pac-Man ghost) and the word “Believe”.    I’m sure there is some statement there about fame being intangible like a ghost and deeply related to your belief in your own fame.  The entire issue had spot-on storytelling.

Conclusion: One of the deeper comics being published right now.  There’s plenty here to think about if you set your mind to it.

Grade: A-

– Dean Stell