SmokeandMirrors_TPBMagic and magicians form the foundation and the exhilaration for this tale of two distinct types of magic and two diverse but similar universes. Writer Mike Costa’s fascination with magic and the people who perform it introduced him to magician and co-creator Jon Armstrong, who is responsible for the authentic magic tricks and slight-of-hand illusions woven into the storyline.

Stage magician Terry Ward finds himself transported to a parallel universe where magic, rather than technology, is the foundation of modern civilization. At first confused, bemused, and confined by authorities as a consequence of this mystification, Ward adapts to his new home by performing as a street magician, using his knowledge as a survival skill. His is a magic not seen before in this world of magic and, as a result of his mentoring a young student, he becomes the target of the powerful and controlling authority of Mr. Carroll. Ward’s background story and twelve-year-old Ethan’s unrelenting quest for knowledge forms the backdrop for the ensuing and exhilarating adventure.

Ryan Browne’s artwork is expressive and compelling, with creative use of panels: close-ups shots of the major characters that showcase their expressive countenances and emotions. The setting of this alternative world is depicted effectively, creating a world that is somewhat recognizable, but novel at the same time. And, of course, there is plenty of action depicted, as well. Illustrating the magic tricks, based on photo references and Armstrong’s explanations, may be considered one of Browne’s most triumphant “magic” illusions that are necessarily both interactive and successful in a print medium. Theirs is a magic world this reader would like to visit again.

This review based on the five individual issues of the comic book; the graphic novel compilation is available now but without the inclusion of the essays by magicians such as Jon Armstrong, Shawn McMaster, Max Maven, and Jamy Ian Swiss, contained in the first four individual floppies. These essays primarily focus on the similarities between magic and the comic book format. In an afterword to the fifth issue, Mike Costa states that there will be additional material available in the compilation but unfortunately I cannot report on what that may include.

Smoke and Mirrors
by Mike Costa, Jon Armstrong
Art by Ryan Browne
ISBN: 978-161377402
IDW, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: (14+)

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta


    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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