Published on January 24th, 2018 | by Dana Folkard
MATA HARI #1 ADVANCED REVIEW
Summary: Mata Hari unveiled.
Mata Hari, international sex symbol and double-agent executed by French firing squad in 1917, is a woman who possesses an almost mystical allure for her colourful and audacious life. The myth behind this mysterious woman is explored by writer Emma Beeby and artist Ariela Kristantina, who have used biographies and M15 files to unveil the true story of the woman behind the legend.
We first meet Mata Hari (stage name of Margaretha Zelle MacLeod) in prison at the end of her life as she awaits her execution. She is writing her memoir, reflecting on her life as a courtesan, exotic dancer and spy. Margaretha wishes to reveal her wonderful, adventurous and ultimately tragic story to the world, so as to shed light on her life and the truth behind the accusations and her conviction. Throughout this issue we see short snippets of her life unfolding over the years, showing her during happier times when she travelled the world and lived a lavish life performing for the elite; and bleaker times in Holland when she was a little girl living through her father’s bankruptcy from which her family fell apart. These flashbacks are juxtaposed alongside events which have unfolded more recently, focusing on her capture, imprisonment and conviction by Captain Pierre Bouchardon in Paris. Her trial and conviction delve into the dehumanising mistreatment she had to endure as she was labelled an enemy of France.
As soon as I found out that there was going to be a comic exploring the life of Mata Hari, I was thrilled. This is a historical figure that I have always been intrigued by because of her remarkable life. There has been a lot of mystery surrounding who Mata Hari actually was and what her personal motivations were. With newly discovered letters and intelligence documents, writer Emma Beeby pieces together a compelling story about Margaretha, painting a revealing picture of her character and life during the charged atmosphere of war. In a way this is a story about female defiance and strength, as we see her remain powerful and stoic throughout the cruel and hateful mistreatment she had to endure, during a time when her unabashed attitude towards sex, sensuality and money conflicted against the expected female behaviour of the time. She was famous for her provocative and revealing routines, sporting a tight body stocking and bejeweled bra, claiming to be a Javanese princess. It was because of routines like this that fostered her reputation, bringing her into the world of the elite, increasing her fame and notoriety. Throughout history her name has been synonymous with lust, seduction, and sexual and national betrayal, however, there is so much more to her character and her personal life that until recently has largely been untold. Exploring her sad, tragic and incredibly interesting life in comic format allows us the unique opportunity to visually experience her life and legacy, revealing the realities and debunking the myths behind this femme fatale. I rather like how Beeby weaves the narrative back and forth from the past to the present, creating a sense of fluidity within her storytelling.
The art by Ariela Kristantina perfectly suits a period piece such as this. Her art effortlessly captures the sensuality of a young Mata Hari, working as an exotic dancer and courtesan. Her art is quite expressive, which easily reflects the emotional turmoil that Margaretha is experiencing. Whilst she is a strong and stoic figure, much can be revealed through her detailed expressions and physical movements. I also like how Kristantina overlays images in an interesting montage, which is an effective tool in visually translating her past and the passage of time in a neat and packaged way. The colouring by Pat Masioni works alongside the art in helping to heighten the overall emotional tone of the story. I rather like how the colour palette appears muted at times, giving everything a historical and aged quality to it. There is a lot of colour, but it’s subtle and toned down, which gives everything a softer appearance.
Overall, I highly enjoyed this introductory issue of Mata Hari, finding it to be a revealing glimpse into a thrilling and interesting life. The art and writing come together to create a compelling and immersive experience and I’m looking forward to when the next issue comes out, so I can delve into Mata Hari’s past once again.
I’m giving this issue 5 out of 5 stars!
CREATIVE TEAM: Emma Beeby, Ariela Kristantina and Pat Masioni
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PUBLICATION DATE: February 21, 2018
REVIEWER: Dana Folkard