Dark Horse Comics 2018
Written by Emma Beeby
Illustrated by Ariela Kristantina
Coloured by Pat Masioni
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
Dancer. Courtesan. Spy. Executed by a French firing squad in 1917.
100 years on from her death, questions are still raised about her conviction.
Now, the lesser-known, often tragic story of the woman who claimed she was born a princess, and died a figure of public hatred with no one to claim her body, is told by drawing on biographies and released MI5 files. In this first part of a five-issue miniseries, we meet Mata Hari in prison at the end of her life as she writes her memoir--part romantic tale of a Javanese princess who performed ''sacred'' nude dances for Europe's elite, and part real-life saga of a disgraced wife and mother, who had everything she loved taken from her. But, as she sits trial for treason and espionage, we hear another tale: one of a flamboyant Dutch woman who became ''the most dangerous spy France has ever captured''--a double agent who whored herself for secrets, lived a life of scandal, and loved only money. Leading us to ask . . . who was the real Mata Hari?
She has become something of a cultural icon since the days she was active and has made herself more famous in death than in life and that is unthinkable for a woman born when she was. Since her true story was never really known to be revealed she’s been both romanticised and glamorised by feature film makers, writers and more for her bold daring ways and her ability to do what was required for her to live life on her terms. I like that the ladies are asking the question who was the real Mata Hari and delving into that here.
I am pretty impressed with the first issue here and how it is being told. Working backwards in a sense but it’s not for naught as her final request to the man who arrested her is to publish her memoir. That account of her life and what happened in it by her own hand, not for redemption or out of some sense of justice but to tell her story so people who she was, what happened in her life and what drove her to become who she was. I love that she’s unapologetic about all of it and from the sense of her I get she lived her life without regret and that cannot be said for most people.
I can think of no one better than Ariela to bring this story to life. She has this wonderful style and is able to bring the female form to the page with this exotic beauty, grace, dignity and power that takes this from pin-up playgirl to a woman of influence. Her use of page layouts and how we see the angles and perspective in the panels shows her eye storytelling and it’s beautifully grand. The linework and it’s different weights are superb and the attention to detail that she brings is amazing not to mention that she uses backgrounds better than most.
Monsieur Bouchardon is the man who brought Mata Hari into custody in France and it is he who we see her give her manuscript to and it’s he who has to live with what has been done. That we see as much of him as we do here and how instrumental he is leading up to the last moments of her life is great to see. I wasn’t expecting it and once we got it I couldn’t see this happening any other way. So if she had given him her manuscript you might wonder why it’s never come to light, read the story for one such explanation.
The life this woman led and if she was who they say she was then she put men to shame with what she was able to accomplish. Enter the world of what Mata Hari’s story could have been and make your own decisions but just enter this world, it’s one you won’t regret visiting.