Rich Douek gives us a story we can all get behind: Being bereft of the innate power of magic that ought to be his birthright, Cynder Burns is piecing together evidence to find a “cure” for his condition. Part Indiana Jones, part hard-boiled detective in the vein of Harry Dresden, part “accidentally getting things right” a la Robert Aspirin’s Myth Adventures (The Goblin Market feels just like Skeeve and Aahz's trip to the bizarre Bazaar across the dimensions.), this book has some phenomenal action with enough wit and snarky comebacks to make anyone smile. There’s a solid foundation to the story, and we get to learn it alongside our would-be hero.
Brett Barkley lends his talent to this book, and he has a great style that makes the fantastical seem real, and in parts reminds me of Bioshock Infinite and Batman: The Animated Series, especially the cover with the billowing coat and airships gracing the skies. The illustration of the magic in this world is beautiful to behold and fuels our yearning for more as much as for our protagonist. The visual cues given to us by Barkley keep us guessing, and just when you believe you know where the big betrayal is coming, you get sideswiped hard in an amazing turnabout moment. There’s also a wonderful fight with a large, mythical creature that I don’t want to give away, but it’s at once one of the most exciting and surprisingly intimate action sequences I’ve seen recently, but I will say there are some trigger warnings for people who have issues with razors.
Filled with subtle genius and incredible direction and purpose, Gutter Magic is a perfect read for anyone who reads comics. The style and tone are reminiscent of masters past, and I really, really hope that we get to go back to this world soon.
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