Review – Gutter Magic #1
Gutter Magic #1 (of 4)
Writer: Rich Douek
Cover: Brett Barkley, Gabriel Iumazark (subscription variant)
Art: Brett Barkley
What happens when you cross World War II and wizards? On one hand you get the apocalypse, and on the other you get magic. Gutter Magic.
It’s the story of magic thief Cinder and his goblin pal, Blacktooth. We start out with Cinder and Blacktooth picking their way though the spells and potions of a powerful wizard. Their search ends very shortly when said magician comes charging in, and he doesn’t look too happy about Cinder and Blacktooth rummaging through his stuff. Immediately, the wizard start to utter cryptic incantations and sends out giant blasts all throughout the room and even out the window. Cinder and Blacktooth quickly take cover behind desks, and Cinder pulls out a gun with glowing blue writings on it to which the magician mutters “gutter magic”. The magic bullets don’t faze him, but Blacktooth throws a potion at him that almost kills the wizard, making their escape easy.
Down at the Smiling Mary’s (a pub), we get a decent backstory of Cinder. He’s been going around stealing from libraries, book dealers, and wizards in order to find a spell. The spell will grant him magic abilities, which everyone in his family seem to possess. However, even if he did find all of the spell, he has no magic to cast it, and no family willing to cast it for him because of the bad name he’s given them. Thankfully Blacktooth knows a guy. Sounds easy enough, except a powerful woman going by the name Morgue is looking for him. Cinder isn’t bothered by the news, but he should be, because a little imp has been listening in on the conversation. The little imp spills the information to a Ghost Knife, a henchman of the Morgue, and he’s off.
Our protagonists find themselves in a marketplace run mostly by goblins. They’ve come to find Blacktooth’s “guy”, but end up running into more Ghost Knives and the daughter of the Morgue. Not a good thing, especially after Cinder shoots one down and runs off. A headspinning chase ensues, but they are able to get away, and they find themselves at the booth of a very old Goblin and the supposed informant of Blacktooth. They present him with a spell and he gives them the name Oppenheimer. No one is sure who is or if he is still alive, so the search continues. Our characters should really watch their backs. The daughter of the Morgue comes out of nowhere and with an incantation, and a “bang”, takes out the entire stand. She tells Cinder that everything’s for sale, Even him.
I must admit that the setting of this story is great. A century after World War II, the world has started to rebuild itself. The city is a mix of Victorian steampunk alongside modern buildings and humans and fantasy creatures living together. The scenery is majestic and overwhelming in such a beautiful way. The bright colors of the magic being used are a great contrast against the many browns and grays, but they also look…. magical. The characters are all very chiseled. Brett Barkley is great with putting in textures to the hair and face. Facial features are very defined, especially with the fantasy creatures, and the wrinkles of clothes and patterns in buildings are great. The architecture is amazing, and even the night sky has its share of details. For some reason the huge amount of black lines indicating shadows make me think of webcomics. Less hatching and more solid shadows could be a good thing for this book.
Rich Douek paces this book really well. There were plenty of opportunities for predictable turns, but Douek surprised me with some of them. Of course you still have your common thief on the run story, but it is still a good read. The marketplace chase just might be my favorite scene because of how cool it is. Also, points go out to letterer Nic J. Shaw for putting up with those magic symbols and incantations. Now that the fantasy and steampunk side of the story has been set up, it will be interesting to see how the modern world will play into it.