By Arpad Okay. The conclusion to Gutter Magic is, like the series as a whole, incredibly bold. It brings it all home by reaching out and touching the cosmos, all while containing itself almost entirely in a life-and-death magician standoff in a single room. The finale is like a play, a long, cataclysmic Act that would make Sam Shepard proud. From the operating table, Cinder Byrnes pulls back the curtain and gets a glimpse of the infinite. What secrets are uncovered by Cinder’s quest for magic? All of them. The puppeteers pulling the strings. The source of power behind it all. The lengths to which family will go for family.
Rich Douek’s ability to pen almost instantly likable characters makes following the regular twists and turns of the plot effortless. The dialogue is charming and natural, as if the people speaking it have been around long before the comic’s run began. Everyone is sharp, quick with barbs that are equally likely to bring a wry smile or cause a clutch of the pearls. Not to imply there is only one voice for the variety of characters, only that the gears all turn in time as neatly as you would expect from something steampunk.
The forethought put into the puzzle of Gutter Magic becomes evident as the last of its pieces come together. Comics have an inherent trick that this miniseries often exploits. Having a third-person perspective — seeing the people doing the talking — can lead us to believe that we are impartially receiving the whole story. But our knowledge is actually bound to what we see in the moment and what we are told, so when there’s shocking news for Cinder and Blacktooth, it’s shocking for us too.
I said it was a book book once, something that reminded me of Cervantes. Well, it turns out Gutter Magic is really a mix of Carl Sagan and Hesiod. It steps away from the swashbuckling long enough to show us the true power of the star stuff that’s in our blood, not just Cinder’s. For Cinder, and Gutter Magic’s finale, this closes one door and opens another. He is transformed into Prometheus. He brings the fire to us, the readers, and thus our imagination becomes the storyteller now that this book has shut. That’s real magic.
IDW Publishing / $3.99
Written by Rich Douek.
Art by Brett Barkley.
Colors by Jules Rivera.
Letters by Nic Shaw.
8 out of 10