It seems to me there’s some parallels between Promethea and “The matrix Reloaded, despite the radically different presentations.
In the “Real World”, both Neo and Sophie live marginal existences. I can’t answer for Sophie’s independent lifestyle (I haven’t seen it) but her lot in life in New York was pretty low-rent. This parallels life aboard the Nebuchadnezzar or at Zion. (Did anyone else besides me think Zion’s all-white, seemingly squeaky-clean control room was out of place?) I put the words “Real World” in quotes because in both Promethea and The Matrix Reloaded, the real world is treated as another fabrication.
Both universes have layers to reality. There are three layers both seem to go through. The first layer is just existence (Sophie or neo prior to the start of their movie or comic book), they the first awakening to the presence of genuine good and evil. This reflects Sophie’s first experiences as Promethea and in the first matrix where Neo is taught how to bend the programmed world of the matrix. Then simplistic definitions of good and evil crack and fragment. That starts with Cipher in the Matrix and Jack Faust in Promethea and accelerates as both go on. Zion has its rivalries and divisions as does the “Cosmic Chorus Line” of past Prometheas. The bad guys have their divisions too. The agents and the dreadlock-ghosts were just as much at odds with each other as either was with the Good Guys. You get to the point where good and evil don’t make sense. It’s all just people and good or evil *actions* I think Alan Moore jumped straight there without exploring too much Evil vs. Evil.
Put another way, when you’re fully asleep as Neo and Sophie both were at the start, standard realty seems real. When good and evil are unveiled, a new layer of reality opens up (or perhaps the other way around). And now this reality seems to be the real thing. For Neo it’s the “Real World” of the devastated Earth and Zion. For Sophie, it’s the Immateria and the kaballah-as-relaity. Several hits were laid in The Matrix Reloaded that there was yet another layer to reality and Zion was as much a fabrication as the programmed world of the Matrix. There is something still deeper. Subtler hints have been dropped by Moore about the kaballah as well, such as when Aleister Crowley says of being Ipsissimus, “It’s higher then Kether.”
Both The Matrix and Promethea explore consciousness. Promethea takes the path of direct expression and experience whereas the Matrix movies ask the questions and make you think about the answers.
Both proceed toward an apocalyptic ending. A fundamental change in the way reality functions. Both are going to precipitate a fundamental change in reality. The destruction of the world of man pretty much amounts to unplugging 6 billion souls from the reality that has been all they knew. 6 billion soulds suddenly and possibly abruptly “seeing the light.”
A big problem both heroes face are the agents of the established order, who have a stake in the status quo. Ball and Brughel, and apparently Tom Strong, play this role in Promethea. I don’t need to do more than mention the Agents from the Matrix movies.
So where does The Painted Doll fit in this? I think his analogue in The Matrix is now-former Agent Smith. They are both amoral X-factors that nobody seems to plan on, but whose actions are integral to everything unfolding as it should. Like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. I believe Smith exists (metaphorically) as Neo’s Shadow, all the part of himself that he denies, represses and tries to ignore. It kind of works for Gollum and Frodo (I haven’t thought much about that). It’s kind of interesting to think of The Painted Doll as Sophie/Promethea’s Shadow. He’s the only character who is as perennial as Promethea herself. I may be reaching with the Painted doll, but Moore has invested a lot to time in developing the character. The gun has been put on the shelf. Seven issues to go or not, I can’t believe Moore won’t pull the trigger. The Painted Doll and Promethea almost have to meet. And with only seven issues to go, how can he not have a role to play in the final act of the comic?
Who’s Who of Promethea and The Matrix
Sophie/Promethea = Neo. This is obvious. Both are the One of their respective worlds.
Jack Faust = Morpheus. Both are the “Old Man/Mentor”. Both teach their respective One their magic.
Barbara = Trinity. There is a fire and focused will to both characters and both are intimately involved with their respective One, but in different ways.
Grace/Gracia = Cipher. Both are Judas to their respective One. Cipher pointedly leads the Agents to the Good Guys, and it’s the fight Gracia picks with Sophie that brings the Feds down on Sophie as well as Stacia and Jack Faust. Painted Doll = Smith. This is discussed elsewhere.
Babylon = The Oracle. Both seem to speak as if from a very deep and resonant perspective. The three faces of the feminine are the Maiden, Mother and Crone. Both speak from the Mother. Being less godly, the Oracle is more approachable, but both personify the feminine.
Stacia: There is no parallel that I can find to Stacia by herself. Nobody in or out of the Matrix is close friends with Neo the way Stacia is to Sophie. There was no room for a “buddy” in The Matrix so no real Stacia-equivalent. Tank maybe, but the comparison is weak. Trinity when she is out of the Matrix is the closest parallel that I can find and I’m not satisfied with that.
Neo and Sophie are, even when fully asleep, still seekers. Neo’s a hacker, seeking things inside the ordinary networked work and apparently not above any number of computer crimes. Sophie chooses a difficult topic for a class essay, the media incarnations of Promethea. Neo finds himself trying to track down Morpheus.
The last thing Both Neo and Sophie have in common is that they both innovate outside the common wisdom, they don’t blindly respect a rule just because it’s a rule. There’s a rule that says “one Promethea at a time.” And Sophie blew right past it when the entire Goetia descended on her hospital. Neo’s attack on the place the Agents were holding Morpheus in the first Matrix is the same sort of thing. They both come at problems sideways.