Twisted Magic #1
Publisher: Bunny 17 Media
Writer: Kalani Nazarro
Artist: Dalyn Viker
Cover: Dalyn Viker
Colors: Dalyn Viker
Reviewer: Steve Sellers
Since looking at Twisted Magic, I’ve gone back and forth on this comic. Initially, I was intrigued by the premise of this book and what it promises to explore. The main concept of the series explores a mysterious woman named Cassiel, who believes herself to be a witch, but is, in fact, something more. The central theme also struck me, since the notion of how memory informs identity is a compelling notion that’s been explored well in other media.
Unfortunately, the execution of this book is somewhat more problematic on both story and artistic levels. It’s difficult to tell what this story even is in this first issue, which creates a difficult hurdle for the reader to climb to feel investment in Cassiel’s story. This is regrettable, because as I read this, I came to respect the thought process behind this series. I can see the promising ideas in this comic that are trying to get out, and I sincerely want this comic to succeed in conveying them.
In the end, Twisted Magic offers an intellectually captivating idea that doesn’t quite realize its potential.
I will say this in defense of this issue: this cover is the most visually interesting one I’ve thus far seen in Bunny 17’s publishing line. Although the cover quality is unpolished, it does use an interesting choice of colors that both suit the genre and are visually compelling. The idea of a shadowy figure, presumably Cassiel, standing against a green background is not conceptually a bad one. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it immediately draws me in to read it, it does attract attention to itself. I can also appreciate the font work done for both the title and the creator credits, which offset nicely against the green and suggest the idea of a magical world inside the pages. While it has some ways to go to compete with the covers at larger publishers, there is a reasonable aesthetic behind it.
My initial reaction to the interior pages was total bafflement, and while some of this is due to exposition problems, the visuals don’t help to clarify matters. It took a second reading to grasp what this book is attempting to show through the art. Once it becomes clear what this story really is, the visuals start to make more sense, but even then, there’s an unfortunate lack of refinement in this pages. There are some good panels, such as one where Cassiel is fully visible for the first time and crouching dramatically. However, there are many others where she looks inconsistent from panel to panel, with action scenes that seem to need deeper perspective. There are also several frames where action consists of horizontal stabbing motions with an arm or a weapon, rather than utilizing the environment to get a wider picture of the action. Occasionally, there will be a compelling moment in the fight scene, such as one where Sh’Rok lashes out at Cassiel in deep shadow, but it’s outweighed by what doesn’t work visually. In the end, the uneven storytelling makes an already unclear story even more muddled, making it harder to connect to the action and the characters.
On the other hand, Dalyn Viker provides some reasonable color work, even if the other visual elements don’t work as well. One thing that becomes apparent about Viker’s work is that there’s some excellent use of negative space and shadow effects. The best parts of the combat are those that are in shadow, where action can be implied, and detail is less needed. The mood and tone of this story does come across well, and there’s a creepy vibe established through the lighting and darker tones. The dark shades of green also work effectively, giving Cassiel an identifiable visual element and one that befits the character. The fire effects also look solid, both in the background lighting and in the varying shades of warm colors within the flames themselves.
While it’s unclear who did the lettering, it may well have been Dalyn Viker, who is credited as the artist on the issue. The work here is likewise uneven, though it does improve over the course of the issue. Still, the initial pages regrettably suffer from the heavy narration, and the narrative captions and dialogue balloons don’t bring the best out of them. This makes the overall result much more difficult to read and appreciate. Even later on, there are places where the art is excessively covered by the word balloons, which could stand to be smaller given the font size of the dialogue.
The sound effects also don’t quite deliver the proper effect, and much of this is down to the font style. Strangely, the artist chose to contain the sound effect inside of a sharp-edged balloon, presumably to show impact. This itself isn’t a bad effect, but the font style gives the impression of bluntness, diluting the effect of the balloon. There’s also an odd effect in places where there are red rays beaming out of the center of the balloon in all directions, and it’s not clear what purpose this is meant to serve.
Then again, there are some worthwhile lettering decisions in this comic. The dialogue font itself is a solid choice, and this is noticeable particularly when Cassiel casts an incantation. While it’s not clear what the spell represents, the use of Greek lettering gives the illusion of a magical language, which is a clever touch. There’s also a panel where the sound effect balloons are presented in black with red font, which look more visceral and violent than the normal lettering.
One of the biggest drawbacks to this comic is the exposition. When I first read this comic, I was honestly mystified by what I found taking place between the pages. Although there are several pages of heavy narration, none of them really gives the reader anything important or significant to latch on to. We don’t get a sense of who the characters are, why Cassiel is acting as she does, or why characters are fighting in the middle of the issue. There are things happening, and people speak dialogue, but it’s difficult to see what the importance is going purely by what the comic pages tell the reader. We also don’t really get a strong enough sense of who Cassiel is as a character from the interior story, much less her emotional investment in the events of this issue.
Upon reading Kalani Nazarro’s end notes to this comic, however, I began to see the potential to this idea and this setting. Her writing there is sharper and much clearer, and it does a far better job of explaining what is happening in this book. She outlines a very firm vision for this series there, which I enjoyed reading through. I would recommend starting with the end notes to get a picture of the premise and the mythology, and then read the comic and see if it makes more sense to you. The larger picture presented there, with the truth of Cassiel’s nature, comes across much better. Everything is laid out meticulously and is well organized. I was legitimately drawn in by the worldbuilding Nazarro presents us with in these outline notes, and if I was just going on those pages, I’d give this book more glowing praise.
There are some other saving graces as well. Admittedly, Cassiel is an engaging lead character once you understand the larger framework. She’s a strong character who dominates the story, and she goes into some dark territory in her search for self-discovery. I like her backstory, and once I understood who she was intended to be, I came to appreciate her more. However, because of the exposition problems and some patchy dialogue issues, it’s hard to really see this in the time we get to know her. To her credit, I think Nazarro can be a better writer than this issue suggests, and I hope she continues to improve on her own journey with this comic.
While there are some deep flaws with this comic, I believe there is a worthwhile story these creators are telling with Twisted Magic. Regrettably, an excellent idea and a promising new character are buried beneath the immense weight of this comic’s technical issues. My hope for this comic is that the creative team continues to develop and grow with subsequent issues. I can appreciate the dark edge, the deep worldbuilding, and the thought Navarro and Viker have placed into this concept, and there is clear room for growth with these creators.
Much as I want to like this comic, this level of output doesn’t justify a cover price of $6.99. I’m not entirely convinced that it earns even the $2.99 for the e-book version. Still, if you’re curious enough about this title and have the extra money, I would suggest you get the e-book version and decide for yourself. For my part, however, I can only offer this book a disappointed and bewildered 3.5/10. Twisted Magic is capable of so much more than this, and I hope it will deliver on that promise in the future.
Written By Steve Sellers
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