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By Arpad Okay. Cinder is burning every bridge he comes across to gain the magical powers that would otherwise be his birthright. Yet it seems as if every step that draws him closer to that goal falls on a landmine. The world explodes around him, ruins the livelihood of his friends, puts his family in mortal danger. It seems like it’s all going to catch up with Cinder eventually, but he continues to walk through the storm unscathed in body and undeterred in vision. Nothing will stop him from getting what he wants. No loss will halt his progress.

So let’s instead pause for a moment and place our focus on a pair of black goggles, worn by a man with his mouth sewn shut, someone who probably doesn’t have eyes in the first place. Sometimes under an umbric lens lies an empty socket, sometimes a lens becomes a mirror from which eyes turn into tiny skulls. Our view of the scene is from an expressionist angle, spying on a room from beneath the couch. And then we’re right in some poor soul’s face as a bullet flips them head over heels. The man without a mouth is an oracle, a classic figure, but something more than what has come before. Something nobody has seen outside the pages of Gutter Magic.

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It’s not just the oracle, it’s everybody in the comic. Another character who struck me as mightily distinct barely gets more than a panel. He’s got a top hat and a mustache and an eye patch in addition to the standard Ghost Knives gang tattoo of a skull over his face. Amid all this mise-en-scène, I wonder who’s in charge of the many tiny decisions that make the pages of Gutter Magic so unique. The eye patch, was that written in to the henchman’s description, or was the artist compelled to heap on the eccentricities? Honestly, I barely noticed the skull-faced dandy at first, as those little delightful peculiarities of his are mere icing on this drama’s cake. I was reading fast because I was having my emotions jerked around: from shock (over the death of a character I liked), to wonder (over the fact that this is but the second issue of the series and I have apparently picked a favorite), to elation (upon being reminded that you cannot kill what is already dead).

Gutter Magic is doing a spectacular job of pushing the walls of the world back and giving the folks in it more space, more room to breathe and grow and show how much is written into them. Everything feels real, yet that everything is imbued with monsters and witches and sassy gargoyles and I don’t even know what. It is all coming together, the real and the fantasy, with Cinder at its center. The many untied ends in his wake are still drawn to him. Perhaps they’ll come together to form a noose.

IDW Publishing / $3.99

Written by Rich Douek.

Art by Brett Barkley.

Colors by Jules Rivera.

Letters by Nic J. Shaw.

8 out of 10

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