ADVANCE COMIC REVIEW: Gutter Magic #4 – The End
By Buddy Beaudoin
Writer: Rich Douek
If you’ve been following along in my reviews of Gutter Magic, you will have no doubt read my expressed fear of this series running into a rushed ending pitfall. In some cases, that fear is fully realized in the finale issue, but in others, the series does manage to wrap up a lot of loose ends developed throughout the first three books.
In the previous issues, Cinder Byrnes and his cohort, Blacktooth, began the quest to track down Robert Oppenheimer. Byrnes believed that he was destined to be a user of magic, and Oppenheimer could lead him to that destiny, as well as give him some insight on his father and the other magical members of his family. Along the way, the duo is stalwarted by a powerful sorceress named Morgue, and a living dead girl named Shiver. Along all of those lines, a lot was being set up, and that is where my worry came in.
Now we’re at issue four, the finale issue in the mini series. To begin with, the art of this issue seems somehow inconsistent with the rest of the series. Perhaps it is because there are a lot more close ups of people in this issue, making it easier to notice some of the rougher lines in their features. However, all of the magic use and the fantastical elements presented still look fantastic. The coloring on all of that stuff is great. One scene in particular introduces Cinder to what magic is, and those pages are phenomenal. The use of color on these pages makes for a great representation of things may look like through Cinder’s eyes.
It’s worth noting that I received a preview copy and that some of the rougher edges may be dealt with by the time the issue gets to print. However, even the way some of the panels were lettered made things difficult to read. In one instance, the stroke (line around the word bubble that sets it off the panel) of one of the tales on a word bubble actually struck through a fair amount of the text in the bubble. It didn’t make it illegible, but it certainly made it difficult to read.
The issue opens on Oppenheimer, which has been long awaited. His narration over the first few pages is enough to clarify any issues that anyone may have had with the setting, in particular, how it pertains to World War II. These pages are actually pretty cool. There’s a Nazi riding on what looks like a fire breathing cross between a dragon and dinosaur and everything. From here, we move into Cinder’s plan – force Oppenheimer at gunpoint to perform the procedure on him that would make him a magic user. It’s what he’s said he wanted all along, and he sticks to his guns here.
Oppenheimer reveals a little about Cinder’s father, but ultimately gives in and hooks Cinder up to his machine. The process has been completed, for the most part, but is interrupted last minute by Morgue and her group of cronies. This scene, while it gives you essentially all the rest of the backstory of Cinder’s family, and even Morgue and Shiver, seems to run a bit long. It’s a lot of exposition bookending Oppenheimer’s death scene, which doesn’t feel as impactful as it could given that we’re barely given any time to develop a relationship with the character.
Here’s where the race begins. This scene ends and then suddenly Cinder is taken away to jail. While in jail, Blacktooth pleads with him not to give up. Then, there’s a plot twist in which Cinder reveals that he can now use magic, and the book just ends. While this ominous ending is kind of cool in that we get to see Cinder get everything he’s been after throughout the whole series, it also seems to cut everything short. Certainly, this leaves things open for the creators to do a full on sequel series if they choose to do so, but in the context of what is here – without knowing if there will be a sequel – this feels abrupt. It’s like watching Neo finally getting an idea of what The Matrix is, only to cut the film short once he realizes he’s The One.
All-in-all, it’s nice to see that so much consideration was given to the backstory. You get to learn a lot about the characters that you’ve been dealing with in the series. But then, almost none of that makes much of a difference because there’s no forward progression after that. What’s here before the ending is presented nicely, it just feels like there should be a whole lot more to it.
The “Best There Is:” We learn a great deal about all of the characters and are given a few surprises about them along the way that may change what we’ve thought about them all along. Finally having knowledge of how all of these characters are interconnected is really nice.
The “Not Very Nice:” The series stops itself short and ends on a remarkably open-ended note. Some of the art, particularly in the lettering, feels a bit rushed and puts a damper on a story that is already not giving itself enough room to hold itself up.
FBI Score: 6.5 out of 10. There are a few things that are satisfying about Gutter Magic, and the themes and presentation are chief among them. However, the ending halts the series just as it feels like it’s getting somewhere. In that same light, there is a whole lot of potential for a sequel series.