"National Comics: Madame X" is the last of the first wave of "National Comics" one-shots (according to reports from New York Comic Con, there will be more) and it's also the first one to tackle a character that's already around in the DC Universe. Rob Williams and Trevor Hairsine (who worked together on the Com.X title "Cla$$war") take Madame Xanadu (whom we've seen in "Justice League Dark" and "Demon Knights") and rebrand her as Madame X. What follows is a compelling comic that works in part because of how well it mixes genres.
The idea of Madame X using her powers (seeing the future through the usage of tarot cards) to work at a law firm in New Orleans sounds like it could be destined for disaster. It's a strange alignment of fantastical and procedural, and then Williams goes one step further and throws in some horror in the form of voodoo and zombies. When described in dry, analytical terms it all comes across as a bit too much. The actual execution, though, has it all come together.
The best sort of mystery is one that mixes the solution with red herrings, and I feel like that's what Williams tries to do with "National Comics: Madame X." We get as much misdirection as we do hints about what really happened in the murder case that Madame X attempts to solve, and I feel that Williams finds just the right balance. There's as much genuine magic as there is fakery on display here, and puzzling through what's the truth and what's smoke and mirrors is half of the fun in this story. When everything wraps up, I felt like Williams had given us a strong "pilot" story that would work well as an ongoing series; considering that this is in many ways divorced from the character's portrayal in other titles, that's no small feat.
Hairsine's art in "National Comics: Madame X" is just as strong as Williams' story. I'd forgotten how much I liked Hairsine's thin, delicate lines that make up his art. The opening splash mage is gorgeous; every little hair on Madame X's head is carefully rendered, her half-lidded eyes grabs your attention even as it focuses elsewhere, and the swirl of tarot cards around her are beautifully conjured onto the page. With each new addition -- a rotting zombie, a bone-handled knife, the pile of dreadlocks -- Hairsine shows us what a strong and versatile artist he is. He keeps it up the whole way through the book, too; great reaction shots, easy to follow action, and strong page layouts. It's a pleasure to see Hairsine's art again.
The "National Comics" line hasn't been perfect, but "National Comics: Madame X" is a good one-shot that I think would easily translate into an ongoing series. Will any of the "National Comics" titles make the jump? Will we see more before long? To both, I can only say, let's hope so. If they're as good as "National Comics: Madame X" then I think we'll have good times ahead of us.