By Emma Beeby, Ariela Kristantina, Pat Masioni, Sal Cipriano
Mata Hari #2 continues the story of the titular femme fatale. As her trial continues, Margreet reveals more about her past, peeling back year after year. Beeby’s bare minimum storytelling is captivating, as it provides just enough to entice the reader further along. The constant flashbacks inspire curiosity, and Kristantina’s portrayal of Margreet makes it easy to recognize what point in her life is being shown. Colors by Pat Masioni give the entire book a weathered effect, as well as provide emotional backdrops. The creators are able to take a real story and inject it with nuance.
This issue provides more insight as to who Margreet is through several flashbacks of her adolescence. Her struggles are made plain so that readers understand who she is. What’s interesting about her story though, is that her difficulties are likely similar to those of other women during this time period. They all point in one direction: men. Margreet, like many women, believed her purpose was to marry and please men. This issue reveals how this belief manifests itself in ways that are disheartening and hard to swallow, but important to acknowledge. But, even by revealing these important parts of Margreet’s life, Beeby holds the most valued information close to her chest. This issue provides only nibbles at the greater mystery of Margreet’s guilt or innocence.
Kristantina’s work on art is equally as interesting. In a few spreads, Mata Hari adorns layouts in what appears to be a ceremonial garb, brightly colored to contrast the darker tones surrounding her. Not only is this eye catching and enigmatic, but her placement helps guide the narrative. When several panels might otherwise seem jumbled together, Mata Hari’s arm or gown is placed as an implied line to guide the reader through the correct reading order. In one case, it seems as though Mata Hari shields the reader from one of Margreet’s more powerful memories. The implication is perhaps that even Margreet herself tries to forget what happened to her. The most memorable of Kristantina’s work, though, is the thousand yard stare on Margreet’s face; when her dialogue says she’s fine, but her face says she’s far from it. This appears in one particular panel and bears heavy implications for the character. It’s these small moments that set this book apart.
Mata Hari #2 is another good read for fans of historical fiction looking for a woman to take the lead. It’s honest about the main character’s strengths and vulnerabilities, breaking the disparity of about a hundred years and bringing the reader closer to Margreet. Her story is appropriate for our time, as it highlights many issues beyond the obvious. Not only this, but Beeby, Kristantina, Masioni, and Cipriano mold these elements into a compelling, well done comic. The trial of Mata Hari, told in the structure of this comic, is a mystery surrounding ever-more interesting characters.