Writer: Rich Douek
Art: Fei Chen
Letterer: Sean Rinehart
Publisher: Source Point Press
Price: $3.99 Indiviual Floppies (on sale for $2.99); $14.99 First Arc Trade (on sale for $11.24)
Available: Now (first arc, first issue of Smoke and Mirrors)
I was lucky enough to win Rich Douek’s collection of Gutter Magic in the recent #Creators4Comics auctions, and was even luckier enough to interact a bit with the creator, and learn that this outstanding series would be growing by an arc in the very, very near future. So, without further ado…
Out this week is the first issue of Smoke and Mirrors, a new, four-part Gutter Magic arc from Rich Douek (Sea of Sorrows, Road of Bones, Wailing Blade) via Source Point Press. Equal parts urban fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons and alternative history, Gutter Magic presents the tale of Cinder Byrnes, gunslinging rogue in post-WWII Manhattan (only in this second world war it was great mages battling each other) and among the few members of a magical extended family NOT born with the enhanced gene, despite being the one family member most passionate about the arcane arts.
Several months’ time has passed since the events of the first GM arc. Cinder has his magic, but is learning that the theory of power and the reality of its practice are two very different things. The Morgue has been deposed, her absence creating a power void in Manhattan’s criminal underworld—with no shortage of rivals vying to rise to power. The Thorn, the Scarred and the Redeyes are all hunting down members of the Ghost Knives, leaving Shiver, former enforcer for and daughter of The Morgue, to protect her erstwhile mates…but what goals does she really have? She departs early in our story, but who really believes a force like her is going to remain latent for long? And what interest does new enforcer Smoke and her devious and mysterious employer Lord Summervale have in Cinder’s recent ascencion?
Anyone who’s read Rich Douek’s Road of Bones (or the upcoming Sea of Sorrow) knows Douek’s at his best writing period-centered historical fiction. Except that anyone who’s read Wailing Blade knows that Douek’s at his best writing urban fantasy fiction. Well, lucky you if you haven’t taken in Gutter Magic yet, because two degrees of Rich Douek at his best is several degrees of awesome.
GM, Douek’s first comic creation (it actually started as a long-format short story in a variety of iterations)is fun: a full blend of character types, all with strong depth and motivation and centered around our earnest if flawed protagonist and his much more grounded if morally questionable goblin pal; a really cool alt-history/alt-universe Manhattan with just enough of a steampunk flavor to keep things fascinating without bogging down on the details; and richly involved storylines and metaplots. Dialogue is crisp and interesting with enough humor to keep things from getting too heavy, and each character has their distinct identity, even among their individual type (ie, the several baddies are their own baddies, their styles, personalities and drives their own and not some generic “Evil League of Evil” plot pieces). All in all, an exciting, interesting read. But as Douek himself has stated, GM is ideally presented as a graphic medium. And so—enter…
Fei Chen takes over the artistic reigns on Smoke and Mirrors after having created new covers for Source Point’s re-release of the original arc this past winter/spring (Brett Barkley handled the linework in the original series). Chen’s lightly-stylized (a touch of manga) but mostly realistic renderings are an excellent match to the quasi-historical urban fantasy genre Douek deposits his characters into. Her nuanced facial expressions, in a book focused on multiple layers of meaning and deception among characters, and her execution of the various spells cast by Cinder and Thorn are particularly effective.
Sean Rinehart handles the lettering with aplomb. Dialogue is clear and easily read without cluttering Chen’s art, and Rinehart has some fun with sizing and emphasis where appropriate—and his lettering for Cinder’s spell-casting is just damn cool (and including the interpreted spell names at the bottom of the panel? Seriously nice touch, guys!).
All in all, Smoke and Mirrors looks to be a worthy and vital addition into the Gutter Magic mythology, one I’d highly recommend you add to your Pullbox.
Having reissued the original 2016 four-issue IDW/Comics Experience GM run this spring with new covers by current interior artist Fei Chen, Source Point will also be offering a collected trade of that arc next month for those who’d like to get caught up; it’s currently on sale via https://oxeyemedia.com/pages/source-point-press for $11.24. Individual issues of Ghost and Mirrors will be available monthly (we anticipate) starting this week from your Local Comic Store as well as the Source Point website, for $3.99 (though currently all are on sale for $2.99 on the Source Point site—including the reissued floppies) per issue.
Stay well, be safe, and read on, True Believer!
Review by Andy Patch
Contributing Editor, thePullbox.com