Scott Larson returns to the mystery and magic of the Chicago World’s Fair in his annual tribute to old Chicago, Visitations #5: The Snake Lady of the Fair. This installment begins later in the Windy City’s history, late ’60s/early ’70s, with a focus on the semi-reclusive, book-loving Vietnam vet Lawrence who gets sucked into Blackwood’s complex legacy when a mysterious book marks him as a chosen one…
Lawrence is the frame narrative for the primary focus, and he experiences the plot as a pair of unique comic strips, Mooney and Anne and City Hall. He must piece the two stories together to fully understand their meaning and how the two weave together to affect Chicago’s history.
I loved the concept of a character reading comic strips that become the main story, but I can’t hide that I preferred Anne and Mooney’s adventures over the tale of police and investigators working for the city of Chicago. Anne is Nellie’s beloved niece (introduced in Visitations #4), and the little girl possesses her own ties to the supernatural. Because she’s been neglected while her mother obsesses with séances and occult ceremonies, Anne discovers that she can talk to the spirits in the nearby cemetery which gives her an edge when she stumbles across a mysterious snake lady underneath the Chicago World’s Fair. Although I didn’t find the City Hall characters as engaging as little Anne and her talking doll, Mooney, the team are Blackwood supporters who will definitely play a pivotal role in later issues. Patrick Pendergast undergoes brainwashing of some type at the Bajardo team’s hands that I fully expect to become important as the overall plot continues to develop.
The Snake Lady of the Fair is more about evoking the feel of the Chicago World’s Fair than focusing on a key historic event, but, as a belly dancer, I loved the discussion and imagery of Cairo Street. While modern belly dancers would shy away from trying to fetishize the traditional dance of the Middle East, the portrayals in this comic match the photographs and writings about the time perfectly. Anne also briefly experiences the origins of Chicago with the native peoples of the region and is gifted with a vision of how the colonists morphed the area into the early 20th century city.
The changes in art styles in Visitations #5 are impressive. Both comic strips, Anne and Mooney and City Hall, have distinct styles, plus Larson continues with the established art style for the series with full-color panels showing the World’s Fair, creepy snake cults, Lawrence and his bookstore, and much more!
I didn’t love the presentation of Egyptian mythos (at least I think it’s fictional Egyptian mythos.) as the basis for a death cult, but given that snakes played a major part in Visitations #4, it’s not completely out of left field; however, I loved Anne’s story and how it tied into her aunt’s legacy as a Visitation. Overall, the story is great fun and adds another layer to Blackwood’s, Fajardo’s, and the other Visitations stories. There are so many places to take the cast from here, and I know I’m willing to be along for the ride.
4 Powerful and Meaningful Tiaras out of 5
Creative Team: Scott Larson (Story and Art) Len Strazewski (Creative Consultant)
Publisher: Visitations Comic
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