4 out of 5
The first issue of Cities of Magick was a engrossing combination of exciting world-building and engaging character work, only slightly hiccupped when trying to set up said character – the magick-adverse Lev – for a cliffhanger: he’s been poisoned by magick. Because writer Jakob Free so casually establishes the dense history of the growth of various sorcery factions in this alternate US, and then tosses Lev into things, favoring the analog in a world of flying shoes and transportation spells and suddenly caught in the middle of an outbreak of said factions, it feels a little redirecting to immediately limit our introductions to this character with a death sentence.
The second issue helps to smooth that out, though, by leveraging it into a mission: Lev can get a cure by going into enemy territory and fixing a magick-spewing machine. Some of this is a bit hand-wavey – like, why Lev, the one person who wants nothing to do with this stuff? – but Free at least addresses it, and then wholly distracts us with more world-building, and more lore, woven around Lev’s amusing, grumbling dissatisfaction with the world’s addiction to magick (which is, in turn, an ironic commentary on our modern day obsession with technology). We also get occasional dips into a surreal dreamtime locale in which more intriguing exposition can be dropped, all supported by wonderful, energetic art from Will Tempest. So we get action, we get some humor, we get some intelligentsia, flowing along just incredibly organically.
As with that first issue’s slight redirect, this double-sized collection has something similar as its cliffhanger in the form of a flashback; while it’s still kind of abrupt, this time I can know with confidence that Free will guide us to more awesome sights and sounds with a followup issue, should we be blessed with one.
Note: this double issue was re-published by Scout Comics as issues #2 and #3. As with issue #1, there’s no outright change, except a slight lift to the coloring – it’s a bit lighter – which honestly looks better, a little less digital. Some of the extra magic-spell bonuses from the original indie printing of issue #1 do make their way here, as well as two additional Will Tempest ‘Tales from the Street’ shorts, which are a lot more fun than the prior one, and establish that these will be isolated one-shots.