Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hatter M: Zen of Wonder Vol 4 Review

Written by Frank Beddor & Liz Cavalier
Art by Sami Makkonen
Automatic Pictures Inc.


            This is a graphic novel so, I am gonna sum up stuff here without getting into too great detail. Our adventure starts a Cat Buddah Statue seemingly stolen back in 1859. We go one year later to where Japanese immigrants came to San Francisco and things REALLY get started a decade later.

            Our hero, Hatter, ends up finding that his enchanted hat … go with it … can also be manipulated by a mysterious girl known as Nekko. This girl, according to our main character is special because of that … and for making him jump after her in the roof tops of San Francisco in 1870s. Hatter ask Nekko questions but Nekko answers only  2 at first, after convincing him to put a stop to a Missy Tong, a crime boss, in San Francisco. They go there to get a sword that Hatter was looking for only  to find that the sword and a bunch of men get shangha-ed to be part of a crew. The captain of said crew has a sword with a special insignia.

            Hatter ends up going after the ship with Nekko and a girl named … and I am being serious .. . Lil Dick …and kick the captains ass. The journey takes Hatter and Nekko from San Francisco to Hawaii to Japan where Hatter ends up finding what he was looking for original … after dealing with some demons and more.

            The epilogue to the story leads to some weirdness about Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and English Prince Leopald … but does tie up exactly what happened to the Cat Buddah Statue from the beginning of the novel.


            Makkonen’s style is very unique and very sketchy. He blends some wonderful backgrounds and some really great pictures as he fuses styles from East and West for this novel. There is no super hero type drawing but there are some sensibilities of the West added to a very Eastern style of art that gives the book a great texture and flavor to this journey. And while the style is a bit messy looking, people do look distinct enough that you can tell a difference. Makkonen’s style checks a bit for the epilogue but still works well.

            The colors help set mood and tone for the scenes that go on within the book. There are some truly beautiful panel work within the pages of the graphic novel. When in Japan, there are all sorts of Japanese touches that he makes to the book, including uses of words and certain manga expression that he uses in the background which is inventive and adds authenticity to the stories in Japan. Yet, there is a flaw in Makkonen’s art that make turn off readers and that is a lack of consistency. There are times where he draws faces and people well. Yet, there are other times where the same people he just drew a panel or 2 before may look different because their heads are flatten or their faces stretched out on the panel. And this happens multiple times in the book. Not too much but enough to be noticeable. There are times where the action looks great and other times, it seems a bit confusing because of the style or where the panel goes to from one scene to the next.  Again, this does not happen often but I was confused when the captain brought out two swords … did he just drop them or threw them?

            Otherwise, this is a uniquely drawn and engrossing graphic novel to look at.


             I will say that I liked this novel. It was good … but not great. The pacing was good. The characters were varied, full with realized personalities and entertaining to watch. The use of history and references to Alice in Wonderland were used well. Hatter was a great main character who was not perfect but noble. Easy to relate to. Most of the other characters were distinct and fun to read about.

            Yet, let me get to the things that irk me about this book and those are 2 things that are strongly related: Nekko and all the Zen talk. I get that the overall theme of the story was to stop looking for a particularly thing and you will eventually find it among other themes but did Nekko and other parts of the book HAVE to talk Zen nearly every other sentence?  While I understand Nekko’s role … thanks to the epilogue at the end …it was grating after a while. The constant uses of Haiku and remarks … while I understand is a big point to the book became more and more annoying after the first half of the graphic novel.

            I understand that Beddor and Cavalier want to tell a story and provide wisdom but it felt like I was having it crammed down my throat. I will say that this book does give me a lot to think about in terms of life, what and how I am doing and more. Yet, the over use of Zen just annoyed me after a while. Oh yeah … the whole demons stopping their attack and not doing anything after Hatter and Nekko get rid of them made me scratch my head.

           We got solid development for Hatter, Lil Dick and several other characters. We got some great twists and turns dealing with the sword, Hatter's quests and even Nekko. And I loved how some of the fights were more inventive than others ... allowing for some conflicts to be resolved not from fighting. This definitely was an innovation that was welcomed and executed extremely well in this graphic novel.

            Overall though, there was great action, wonderful character development, good history lessons and some really good twists. Kudos to Beddor and Cavalier for a good job there.


            This graphic novel is interesting. While it is part of a series of graphic novels, I found this graphic novel interesting, enlightening and entertaining. It gave us a good, epic journey of a man. We got interesting conflicts. We got stylized art.

            Yet, the overuse of Zen from Nekko and the dropped potential with the demons was disappointing. And artistically, it needed to be a little more consistent.

            Still, I would tell people to read this graphic novel and enjoy the journey it gives you.


            I give Hatter M: Zen of Wonder Vol. 4  a 7 out of 10. It was good, but could be better. Still a great ride. 

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