“Oh Victor, you foolish child. I never ask. I command.”
– The Morgue
Having just devoured the opening two issues of, Rich Douek’s, otherworldly wizarding tale, Gutter Magic, I can honestly say I’m hooked.
The opening shots paint a wonderfully rich picture of a magical world fraught with strife. There are faint hints of Harry Potter and Terry Pratchett in the air but not to the extent that, Gutter Magic, doesn’t stand tall as its own beast. There’s a definite cinematic quality to the unfolding story too, and a deepening of characters that really carries the tale at a solid pace and kept me as reader firmly lost in the words throughout. In fact the only disappointment came at the very end of issue one when I realised the story is only set for a four issue run. Four! I need another nought on that number at the very least!
But let’s continue for now and moan later.
The story takes place in an alternate universe, one where World War II spirals out of control at the point wizards enter the fray. The resultant destruction brings the world to the brink of Armageddon, and in the aftermath a new civilisation begins to form from the crumbled foundations of the old world. Ordinary folk, sorcerors and fantastic creatures rebuild the world from the ground up and a class system starts to form. The magic wielding wizards live high above the cities in towers, while all other creatures, human and otherwise survive from the scraps far below. Desperate to taste the life of the mages above them, those below grasp at charms and talismans of their own, powers the wizards term, Gutter Magic.
Within this mix we encounter, Cinder, a human from a wizarding family who lacks the magical power in his blood and now seeks a spell to bridge the gap and deliver him the magical abilities he craves. Alongside him is his goblin sidekick, Blacktooth. The two make quite the partnership, bouncing witty dialogue off each other as the writing quickly displays the bond the pair enjoy. Reading, it becomes instantly apparent that they have each others back through thick and, more often than not, thin, of which we get the impression there has been much.
We come to understand that via the continued theft of various spell parchments and the like, Cinder, has fallen on the wrong side of, The Morgue, an immensely powerful wielder of magic who now hunts him down for revenge. We meet, Shiver, daughter of The Morgue and the sort of woman who gets pissed off when taking a bullet to the forehead, and her gang, the wonderfully named, Ghost Knives, we encounter a market that looks after its own, an undertaker who communes with the dead, and so much more. Considering the story is only two issues in the wealth of lore, characters and great ideas is stunning!
I do harbour concerns as well though. They come in the form of the usual with this sort of comic release, is four issues going to be enough? At present I see Gutter Magic as something that could run and run and hope dearly the closing two portions aren’t trying to hurriedly cram too much into too small a space. I’ve read comics that have fallen foul of that before and it always comes as a great disappointment when it follows such impressive openings. Fingers crossed, Douek, has everything under control.
The artwork from Brett Barkley is outstanding and continues with the cinematic feel of the comic as a whole. Fantastic lighting merges with intricate facial details and superbly realised locations to deliver something that really leaps from the page. The mesh of such a rich world and artwork that manages to breathe life into the words is wonderful for the reader.
As a complete package, Gutter Magic, is a truly spellbinding read. I relish getting my teeth into the next instalment but equally want to savour it and eke out every tiny detail, as the knowledge that in another two issues the journey is done fills me with sorrow.