Overview

Gutter Magic #1

Review

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Gutter Magic #1

Credits

  • Words: Rich Douek
  • Art: Brett Barkley
  • Colors: Donna Gregory
  • Publisher: Sixgun Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jan 2, 2013

Brett Barkley’s gorgeously realised visuals reminded me of the work of P. Craig Russell in places; that same breathtaking synthesis of the dreamlike and the fantastical with a familiar realism.

On another Earth a century ago, World War II begat an escalating arms race that centred on the proliferation of magical weaponry. It was a development that brought the planet to the cusp of destruction. One hundred years later Meridian, the mystical city built on the ruins of the former New York, is home to sorcerers and creatures of legend. But while the mystically affluent live in their daunting towers, delighting in the wonders of their wizardry, the bulk of the population can only watch on in jealousy. For the magical have-nots the chance to sample any tiny offering of this power is much coveted. These same inconsequential scraps are what the mages on high have dismissively labelled “gutter magic”...

In this debut issue writer Rich Douek introduces us to Cinder and his goblin partner Blacktooth, two thieves operating in Meridian, who are after a very special commodity indeed – knowledge! Cinder has a legacy to live up to but this member of the city’s underclass also has a complete inability to cast spells. It’s his quest to restore his connection to those otherworldly abilities that forms the basis of Gutter Magic #1. That and his remarkable gift for upsetting almost every faction of Meridian’s society possible!

Gutter Magic drops us into a fully formed alternate reality a century after it diverged from established history, leaving plenty of scope for the audience to be slowly filled in on the back story of this brave new magical world as the series progresses. If you’re looking for a unique selling point then it’s within that narrative groundwork that the title’s playful symbiosis of wild fantasy and historical fact offers the greatest reward. Characterisation is also strong with appealing protagonist Cinder having a roguish yet sympathetic charm and the gruff Blacktooth acting as straight man. If I have one small reservation about this opener it’s that a greater degree of introductory exposition explaining Cinder’s past may have provided more of a hook for the casual reader. That information is available elsewhere online but not so much within the body of the story itself.

Brett Barkley’s gorgeously realised visuals reminded me of the work of P. Craig Russell in places; that same breathtaking synthesis of the dreamlike and the fantastical with a familiar realism. Complementing Barkley’s layouts, Donna Gregory’s colours are slightly muted, reminding us that although this is an environment of high fantasy it’s also one where the minority are the elite and the majority live from hand to mouth in what is essentially an undercity.

A fast-paced and absorbing read, Gutter Magic is a book with a premise that has huge promise. In Meridian we have a sort of sorcerous version of Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One; a thoughtfully constructed environment with tremendous storytelling potential to be realised in its diverse corners, and a class-conscious social structure that just begs for further narrative elaboration in issues to come. Sixgun Comics most assuredly have one to watch on their hands here!

Comments

  • Jason Wilkins

    Jason Wilkins Apr 2, 2013 at 8:25pm

    This looks very intriguing! The premise reminds me a bit of Busiek and Pacheco's wonderful Arrowsmith from a bunch of years ago. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to pick Gutter Magic up somewhere this side of the Atlantic in one form or another :)

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