By: Vince Hernandez (writer), Khary Randolph (artist), Emilio Lopez (colorist)
The Story: The most evil and dangerous criminal magician is about to escape, and you know what that means? Pulped apples!
The Review: What makes for a compelling first issue, one that will keep you invested to see how the first arc goes? Well, pretty much the same things that make compelling second, third, and all issues that come after: engaging characters, appealing art, and fresh storylines. The only real difference is you have to hit the ground running—you don’t have the luxury to offer a weak, or even a mediocre issue; the series’ livelihood is at stake.
Charismagic #1 establishes the right tone by clearly showing it knows what it wants to be and where it’s going. Having spoken before on the importance of setting some ground rules for magic (however tenuous and breakable they may be), I’m glad they delve into some magical physics right from the get-go. Even better, the way magic exists in this world ties into the threat to come, so from the beginning you know what’s at stake for the characters.
The cost is a long, doom-ridden, explanatory monologue, which is an old fictional tool, but one that really drains the pacing in comics. Hector’s rambling warning tells straight out the danger ahead, but it also feels leaden and awkward, so it doesn’t all work. When he tries to make a point by crushing that apple, it comes off unavoidably melodramatic. But it gets the expository stuff out of the way pretty effectively, saving future issues from having to deal with it. It’d have been nice to see how magic works prior to shaking things up, however.
What’s nice about Zatara-analogue Hank’s conversation with alcoholic, magic-knowledgeable Hector is the dialogue flows naturally, showing the characters already have some history in place. Hernandez gets across the subtext of their interactions so well (helped by the occasional, revealing thought bubble) that you get a good sense of their relationships without having them spelled out to you. Even the spats between Hank and girlfriend/showgirl Alle have layers—despite their irritation, they still possess a degree of caring and empathy for each other.
Almost every first story arc involves a huge threat of some sort, but not every writer can sell the danger involved. Up until the last few pages of the issue, you might have been ready to dismiss the coming threat to Hank’s world as the typical “escaped all-powerful wizard from another dimension” plot. But when Hank steps out of his limo to find that Las Vegas’ (possibly the world’s) entire population has suddenly vanished except for him and a talking cat—well, that brings home the idea that perhaps this menace is worth taking a little seriously.
Randolph’s art is fine, but somewhat unsuitable for the tone this series is going for, at least the way it looks now: a little too kinetic and cartoony (the exaggerated facial expressions and character figures, especially the V-shaped women). The dramatic scenes lose the tension they need as a result. Still, Randolph puts some wonderful details in his work, especially the settings—that splash of a depopulated Las Vegas (with perfectly eerie colors by Lopez) really sells the monumental danger we’re dealing with.
Conclusion: A respectable first offering from Aspen’s newest series, but a lot will depend on how the initial story elements get played out before you can really put your money into it.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – You have to admit, it takes some guts (more aptly known as relentless stupidity) to call a woman with glowing green eyes and a voice of doom, “Freakshow.”
– Not that teleportation isn’t cool, but I hardly think a twenty-foot jump makes for a wildly popular, successful stage magic show. David Copperfield walked through the Great Wall of China once.