MATT WAGNER'S REBOOT of DC Comics' Madame Xanadu—on their subsidiary Vertigo imprint—explores the origins of the character in various periods throughout history; she's actually Nimue, younger sister of Arthurian villainess Morgan le Fay (here called Morgana). Portland artist Joëlle Jones contributes to the two newest issues of Madame Xanadu (#19 and #20), which interrupt the ongoing "Broken House of Cards" storyline for a closer look at Nimue's childhood relationship with her ambitious, scheming older sister Morgana.
Jones' pencil work is a refreshing change of pace from regular series artist Amy Reeder Hadley. Jones employs a cartoony, almost innocent femininity for the storyline, perfectly matching the backdrop of Nimue's and Morgana's girlhoods in a pastoral, still-magic Europe. Parts of each issue are interrupted by storybook prose, with appropriately formal pane artwork that bleeds into the comic book action; Wagner repeats this storytelling gimmick a couple too many times, but Jones uses the contrivance as a way to visually marry the legend with the characters.
This two-issue interlude in the Madame Xanadu line examines the origins of mystic, feminine power, and how it can be put to either benign or malevolent use—which, in turn, is the underlying theme of the series as a whole—and, while the final book is brightly and cleanly depicted, Jones' unadorned art even better captures this period of innocence before the fall.