Smoke and Mirrors #2


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Smoke and Mirrors #2


  • Words: Mike Costa and Jon Armstrong
  • Art: Ryan Browne
  • Story Title: "Cut and Restore"
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Apr 11, 2012

Although a solid second issue, the magic may already be fading for IDW’s Smoke and Mirrors.

Let me start off by saying, I really love the premise of this series. The idea of combining two marginalized mediums of artistic expression, such as magic and comic books, is so simple, brilliant, and not to mention, appealing, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before Smoke and Mirrors.

Although I raved about Costa, Armstrong, and Browne’s first issue in a recent column, my praise for the second chapter of their creator-owned series is, of a necessity, a little more reserved. That isn’t to say I thought this issue a poor representation of the artform. It simply lacks some of the opera of the opener; that distinctive energy signature of sheer creative excitement felt a little less exuberant this time around.

There are still some sparks of brilliance here, particularly in Browne’s characteristic clear, concise storytelling and innovative layouts. His inspired use of double-page spreads, specifically the sequence depicting Ethan’s mentorship by the mysterious, seemingly otherworldly street performer Terry Ward, showcases an intuitive understanding of the complexities of visual storytelling.

Similarly, Costa and Armstrong also perform admirably in this second issue. Costa develops his characters with obvious care, craft, and insight. Even as he drops hints about Terry’s otherworldly origins, he adds a layer of depth to their relationship with their strained collusion. Armstrong’s contributions, while not as apparent until the end of the issue, are still evident in Terry’s informed instruction of his petulant protégé, as well as in the clarity of Browne’s illustration of the tricks Ethan learns.

All of this is well and good, I suppose, but my main hang-up with this issue was its lack of interactivity. The first issue wove simple sleight-of-hand illusions directly into the script, whereas in this sophomore effort fans are asked to mutilate their brand new comic by cutting it into a serviceable pack of cards. Taking a pair of scissors to a comic book in today’s sketchy economic climate probably isn’t the best strategy.

Having said all of that, I still can’t help but like this book. Truth be told, I expected a stumbling block or two along the way with Smoke and Mirrors. You can’t make a truly delicious omelet, without breaking a few eggs. I was just hoping the magical afterglow of the first issue would last a little longer.

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