Editor’s Note: This book is a Comics Grinder Giveaway. If you would like your own free copy, contact me and I’ll get it out to you.
After Houdini is a graphic novel that truly lives up to its promise: a rollicking adventure that taps into the mystery of grand illusionist Harry Houdini. You have here another riveting original tale with high production value from Insight Comics. The steampunk vibe is natural and spot on. Overall, the work looks and feels like it was fun to create. Written by Jeremy Holt; illustrated by John Lucas; Colors by Adrian Crossa; Lettering by A Larger World Studios.
Teddy Roosevelt runs a tight ship!
You are quickly swept up into a supernatural world with this comic. I think it’s the strange energy that all the characters are feeding off each other that is the true star of the show as opposed to any set of characters carrying the story. And I think that subtle distinction makes this special. By all the rights, the main character is Josef Houdini, son of Harry Houdini. But, as I say, it’s the magic in the air that overshadows everything. No one, not even a Houdini, is going to upstage that. It’s a challenge to convey that but this comic does it with wonderful pacing, gorgeous art, and one quirky tale to tell.
The steampunk vibe is natural and spot on.
All you need to know is that it takes a Houdini to rescue a Houdini. That’s an important point. The rest is, well, a fun and intriguing read. Any story that thoughtfully manages to include Teddy Roosevelt and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as active and viable players is fine by me. I see that another graphic novel, Before Houdini, is an upcoming follow-up to this book and I look forward to it.
After Houdini is a 112-page full color trade paperback. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Insight Comics right here.
“Thomas Alsop,” is written by Chris Miskiewicz, with art by Palle Schmidt, and published by BOOM! Studios. What I find appealing about this comic, and I believe you will too, is Chris Miskiewicz’s love for New York. “I love New York.” That phrase never got old, even if it ranks as one of the most popular of all time. Time and New York. It is a city at once rapid and methodical. Many stories. Many possibilities. And many ghosts. Miskiewicz taps into what we find fascinating about NYC through the story of a man destined to act as an avenging angel in the service of the island of Manhattan.
Paul Tobin is a very thoughtful writer and that’s what makes for immersive work like, “The Witcher,” his latest comic with Dark Horse Comics. Tobin is a seasoned pro who has written for all the great superheroes. He has a keen mind that likes to play so it makes sense he’d want to see what happens when you set a story in the Middle Ages and throw together the fates of a warlock and a hunter.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” reminded me a bit of another comedy about another delusional magician, 2008’s “The Great Buck Howard,” starring John Malkovich. That is a case of a drama with a touch of comedy. “Wonderstone” falls into a special brand of comedy, high on irony, with touches of drama. It stars Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, and Jim Carrey, all masters of that form, in this hilarious, and heartfelt, movie.
This is a buddy movie. It’s the story of two partners in magic, Burt Wonderstone (played by Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (played by Steve Buscemi). We follow them into the spotlight and a long run at a major Las Vegas casino. It turns out to be a much too long run, as far as the casino tycoon Doug Munny (played by the late James Gandolfini) is concerned and he’s ready to end his contract with the guys. The act has become a caricature of itself, beyond stale, with the same lame old stunts played out to Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra.”
It wasn’t always so sad. The first scenes with the kid versions of the leads, Mason Cook as teen Burt and Luke Vanek as teen Anton, are pretty moving. Back when “Abracadabra” was a hit, everything was so fresh and full of promise. It was magical! When Burt, after suffering yet another thrashing from bullies, is given a magic kit as a birthday gift, his future suddenly seems brighter. He pops in the VHS tape and there’s Rance Holloway (played by Alan Arkin) ready to sweep him away from his worries and open up a whole new world of magic. He shares his new insights with his best pal, Anton, and they’re off and running.
Over the years, we’ve had some very successful comedies, from Mel Brooks to Judd Apatow, that have had us pull back from traditional sentiments and yet still invest something in the characters. When all the stars are in alignment and the story is properly synchronized, it can make for some surprisingly good results. Who would have thought that “The 40 Year Old Virgin” would have gotten to you on more than the most superficial level? Well, comedy is a very funny thing. Director Don Scardino (2 Broke Girls, 30 Rock) should know. And screenwriters Johnathan Goldstein (The Adventures of Old Christine) and John Daley (Bones) also know. If one buys into a premise, no matter how full of silly jokes, it is possible to create something meaningful.
For a comedy that you’d think should not be taken seriously, it packs some good lofty thinking. There’s quite a bit of angst and searching for meaning going on here. Burt and Anton are at a major crossroads. Their whole existence is being called into question. They are in the throes of an identity crisis. And to add to it, an ominous figure emerges, Steve Gray (played by Jim Carrey), who taunts Burt and Anton by having them doubt their very purpose in life. Steve Gray represents the new breed of illusionist who mocks the traditional craft of magic tricks and has become famous for his stunts, like going a week without urinating. He is supposed to be the future. And Burt and Anton are supposed to be the past.
Things only get worse before there’s any hope of them getting better. Just as Burt appears to have suffered through all possible humiliation, he crosses paths with his old mentor, Rance Holloway. Alan Arkin, a legend in comedy, is quite up to the task of providing the heart and soul that could makes things right. Add to that, there is Burt’s mistreated assistant, a sexy young woman, Jane (played by Olivia Wilde) who, by all rights, shouldn’t even be anywhere near Burt. But, as if my luck and magic, Jane remains nearby doing her part to provide incentive for Burt to fully redeem himself.
Comedy and magic share a lot in common. They can both be very direct pure entertainment. They can both have the quality of being very unreal while affecting us in a very real way. This story about magic is handled with love, and the right amount of irreverence, to keep it relevant and magical. It’s impressive how artful this movie really is. When you stop and think about it, Steve Gray, the flashy illusionist, is there, despite himself, to push Burt. He’s delusional to a toxic level but he’s also, inadvertently, confronting the whole purpose and intent of entertainment in general. Does the public only want spectacle? Wow. The talent behind “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” has got some answers for that and they will also make you laugh.
By the way, if you have caught the magic bug, you’ll want to check out Market Magic Shop here. And, if you’re in Seattle, you can visit them at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Since I’m in Seattle, I get to visit whenever I want. My last visit inspired me to write this movie review. Here’s a look at me dabbling with a little magic:
And be sure to visit “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” official website here.
With this new arc, “What You Want, Not What You Need,” the scope of this saga hits you. A story has been allowed to breathe freely and unfold luxuriously. It feels well lived in and we don’t want it to stop. You don’t care, on some level, if Rupert Giles ever comes back to life. Part of you knows it’s just wrong. And part of you knows that some things just need to happen. And that’s okay. It’s not like the characters are totally in agreement on what should happen next! That’s okay too. We want conflict. And, you read it here at Comics Grinder first, there’s a lot to be said for taking this whole thing and turning it into an animated movie! That says a lot for the comic, is what I’m saying, really. It does engage you in such a way that you get lost in the characters. Now, the fact is, stories should get to breathe and follow one thought to the next. That is what supposedly happens when you have an event comic but, in reality, that is too often an opportunity to just string along a fan base. Not so here. Dark Horse Comics cares about its readers and “Angel and Faith” is an excellent case in point.
We love Christos Gage in charge of the script. We love Rebekah Isaacs in charge of the art. The whole look and feel is outstanding. And where did Faith’s tattoo come from? I’m sorry, maybe that’s from the original television series. Well, I’m sure it is but I have only seen a few episodes. Not a true believer, huh? I have to do some marathon viewing someday. Is anyone rocking a Faith tattoo? You’re probably out there. Ah, those little details. Then there’s Angel’s nipple ring! We know, for sure, what that’s all about. It is a little relic that helped in the hunt for remnants of the soul of Ruper Giles. And here we are, all the elements to the Giles soul have been safely gathered into a magic bowl and the body of Ruper Giles has been carefully preserved and sits nearby on an operating table. The question is, What to do next? Proceed? Or run like hell? Well, there’s always that tricky question of getting enough super magic juice to jump start this project. That sticky issue comes to a head here because where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Is that Pearl we see reflected in Faith’s sword on the cover art above? Why, I believe it is. And why would that be, do you think? Well, Pearl and Nash are the baddies feverishly looking for any bits of magic still around. And you’ve also got Whistler, Angel’s former mentor, now arch-nemesis, in on the hunt too. Since Angel needs magic like nobody’s business, there’s a strong likelihood of there being a clash and so it is in this issue. It is a wonderful clash, interlaced with the action involved in attempting to bring Giles back from the dead! When you think of all the explanations out there for time travel, some tend to be more poetic and some try to sound as authentic as possible. We’ve got a little of both going on with the Giles resurrection project. Alasdair Coames, in all his fuddy-duddy wizardy, leads the operation in a brilliant fashion. But, as the title for this final arc suggests, is it all for naught? Or worse yet, should one really give pause and ask if they should be careful for what they wish for? At such a late date, should this still be a question? Well, read and find out.
“Angel and Faith #21” is available as of April 24. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics here.