Thursday, 12 April 2012

Comic Spot: Smoke and Mirrors #1

Smoke and Mirrors, Cover A
Produced: IDW                                    Cover price: $3.99
Written: Mike Costa                             Art: Ryan Browne
Illusions: Jon Armstrong

Enter the world of magic! With just his slight-of hand skills, stage magician Terry Ward finds himself in a world he didn’t make, a world where sorcery is real! When he befriends a kid from this world, will danger come calling? You bet it will!

Smoke and Mirrors, page 1 previewSmoke and Mirrors appealed to me as soon as I found out it featured magicians. I always loved magic as a child for its amazement and wonder, and as an adult that love changed respect and admiration. So discovering that Smoke and Mirrors is created with a real life illusionist on the team? Immediate win! The illusionist in question, Jon Armstrong, is not only the 2007 Close-Up Magician of the Year but a "Consulting Imagineer" at Disney and a consultant on The Mentalist (another win, I'm afraid). With that kind of an input, you can only expect good things.

The concept of Smoke and Mirrors is an interesting one. Essentially, the world is full of magic similar to the Force and it's used to power everything - cars, phones, TVs etc. A company, remarkably like Apple, creates spells to harness this power for everyday use.

Smoke and Mirrors, page 2 previewThe first issue follows a boy called Ethan and his school trip to the company that makes spells (very Spider-Man like). It's nicely written with some pages having a lot of dialogue and explanation of the world, and other pages delivering bold striking images, which lends well to the character of a lonely troubled kid. Browne's art complements the writing nicely. It doesn't try to dominate the page - it sits back when Costa is telling the story and shines through when the action happens. Fiona Staples deserves a mention too, as I'm really impressed with the art she did for Cover B (mouseover the top cover). If you have to judge a book by its cover, then this is perfect. 

Towards the end of the issue, Ethan meets a street illusionist, Terry Ward, performing card tricks on the street and this is where you experience the clever writing and real strength of Smoke and Mirrors. The reader experiences an actual magic trick from a first person perspective - you're asked to pick a card and, after turning the page, you discover that Terry has magically removed your card from the five original. The scene is delivered brilliantly - the art is clear and bold and employs different illusions to keep those pages moving. This is clearly where Jon Armstrong's talent comes in, but the part I most enjoyed was how Ethan worked out the trick. Usually illusions defy logic so you have to assume Smoke and Mirrors, page 3 preview the answer is magic, whereas in this world Ethan does the opposite by removing all signs of magic which only leaves logic. It's a clever twist and shows that the writers fully understand how to deliver the story, as far too often great concepts are let down by bad writing.

I really like the first issue. It sets up the series well - like a true magician, it's shown you one trick and now you want to see more. You get a new concept, amazing writing, great art and more importantly - magic! A combination like that just can't fail. I would recommend this to anyone with a love of magic or just looking for something different as it's not everyday you get to experience magic tricks in your story.


Click here to purchase a digital version of Smoke and Mirrors #1.

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