Review: Smoke and Mirrors #1

Script: Mike Costa
Art: Ryan Browne
Illusions: Jon Armstrong
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Color Assists: Aaron Daly

Rating: ★★★★½ 

There are comics you read, instantly love, and then want to share with all your friends. This is one of those. It’s a simple idea what if there was a world where magic was real, and a magician from our world ended up there. How would a world built on magic react to a magician relying on illusion and sleight of hand? That right there is an awesome idea, and a great way to explore both kinds of magic — it’s your basic contrast and compare. Take that and then add some character development and intrigue, and voila, awesome comic-book ensues.

The first thing that struck me when I started to read was that Mike Costa has decided to tell the story from the point of view of this other magic-based world. The lazy option would have been to select the lost magician. He hails from our world, so he would have provided something familiar to latch on to, and good eyes through which to explore a strange world. However, that feels like a story I’ve already read. Much better to pick Ethan, a troubled teenager from this other world.

The story starts with Ethan on a school field trip. A Steve Jobs type of innovator is presenting the latest in magic, Gesture, and our protagonist is bored. As soon as the presentation is over he gets into trouble, and the rest goes pretty much as expected. Long story short, we’re being introduced to Ethan and his world, and along the way we’re being shown how magic is weaved into this world. This is fairly standard, but it’s a good way to illustrate both how familiar this world is, and how different it is because of magic having replaced science and technology.

The best part though is Ethan meeting the magician from our world. To see that good old illusion can still impress someone who takes magic for granted is awesome. It goes against whatever rules their magic follows, and is still seemingly impossible. What better way to illustrate the beauty of this art? Also, the reverse of familiar and unfamiliar is brilliant. On the one hand you have the familiar teenager, but who hails from an unfamiliar world, and then you have the magician from a familiar world, but who is unfamiliar both to the reader and to Ethan. It’s a clever reverse that goes back to the choice of point of view, and make this debut that much better.

My only real complaint is that the end goal of this story is not exactly clear. There are hints that the company behind Gesture might be up to something sinister, but it doesn’t drive the story, so unless the reader either (1) really likes the premise or (2) becomes invested in Ethan’s character, there won’t be much reason to come back for the next issue. Fortunately, both of those reasons are pretty good by themselves. I’m certainly going to be coming back for more!

About: Alex

Alex is the guy that runs and edits this blog. He’s been reading comics for as long as he’s been able to read, and somewhere along the way started forming opinions that extended beyond just Batman is cool, or Spider-Man is awesome, and more importantly decided to share these. Lately, he’s been getting a little burned out on mainstream comics, but has found solace in the indie world. There’s also his inhuman love of heavy metal, but we do not speak of that.

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