Cities of Magick (#4 – 5) – Jakob Free

3 out of 5

As a big fan of the various one-shots of Jakob Free’s I’d read, I was very excited to see what could happen with more of a page count. I wasn’t sure how long Cities of Magick would run, but the creator’s full-sprint world-building and naturalistic character work arrived intact, granted more pages to flesh out both. The pacing changes of a larger series perhaps made the ramp up a bit uneven, but I was definitely onboard.

With this conclusion, I’m left kind of where we started, though: feeling like the focus was a bit unclear, but satisfied by how rich and promising the world of the book is, meaning that it will definitely support / encourage rereads. A bit more negatively, things are so compressed in these final issues – zipping past the consequences of some lore from issue 3; some huge revelations about this world’s origins – that I almost wonder if this was a series that was cut short? …If not, then it’s just more evidence of Free getting the pacing kinks out of his system, hopefully improved upon in a future ongoing / mini. However, adding to this sensation is the way the art (Will Tempest) feels over-simplified as well, losing a bit of character detail, as well as a more cinematic, paced vibe found in the first few books; action scenes in these two issues are very confusing, lacking a definition of space, and owing somewhat to being boiled down to characters brawling with goopy sorcerer powers – not much in the way of backgrounds, or more step-by-step choreography. Tempest has a balanced fluidity to his work that I enjoy, it just seems like there wasn’t enough time – maybe – to find a more ideal layout for some of these bigger scenes.

Still, I wrap back around to my wishy-washy praise: there’s so much potential in here, and so many unique tweaks to a steam-punky format, that it never became a bad, or disappointing read. While it definitely could use some smoothing out and tightening up to make it feel “complete,” it sits on the more positive side of potential, and makes me eager to see what’s next from Free.