Mata Hari #1
Writer: Ema Beeby
Artist: Ariela Kristantina
Colourist: Pat Masioni
Publisher: Berger Books, Dark Horse Comics
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
As the inaugural lineup of Berger Books rolls out, it continues to deliver diverse stories filled with rich characters and ensnaring artwork, and Mata Hari #1 is no exception. This mini series tells the tragic tale of a Dutch exotic dancer convicted of espionage during World War 1, hated not only for her alleged crimes, but also simply for being who she was. It starts at the end of her life, which for us is very much the beginning, because what is most known about Mata Hari is how she died: executed by a French firing squad as a condemned traitor.
Though you may be drawn in by the circumstances surrounding her death, writer Ema Beeby doesn’t acquiesce to our readiness to pass judgment, and instead tells the story of a woman who is left without power. Beeby isn’t concerned with branding her an innocent victim or a guilty traitor, neither of these would do justice to the woman she really was. Mata Hari is a flawed character, marred by a life of suffering. She is at once unreliable, yet utterly captivating. With a coy smile or an impassioned plea, she keeps us guessing at every turn, yet does so by boldly laying herself bare, in more than just the flesh.
Ariela Kristantina’s artwork is exquisite, and her rendering of Mata Hari is impeccably accurate. Capturing her signature dress, seductive gaze, and mysterious smirk, Mata Hari’s larger-than-life persona fills every page and ensnares the senses like potent incense. Pat Masioni’s lush colours elevate the already richly-detailed artwork. The faded treatment he applies to flashback panels situates the reader quickly and beautifully offsets the rich colours of the present.
Buy It! With a beckoning finger, Mata Hari #1 invites you to confront and look beyond your own bias, to explore a life of courage, lies, and seduction. This first issue shows us the bits we already know about her profession, reputation, and conviction, but clearly frames it as the story of a charmingly naive, yet boldly seductive woman rendered powerless by the circumstances around her and how she will do whatever it takes to reclaim her own identity.