Smoke and Mirrors Review - A World of Magic Revealed

Cover of Smoke and Mirrors

If you are going to write about magic, it helps if your writing has a bit of a magical quality to it.  That is doubly true if the end product is a comic book.  Smoke and Mirrors, published by IDW, understands that basic premise well.  From the first to last cell, creators Mike Costa, Jon Armstrong, and Ryan Browne plunge the reader into a world where magic is the norm and outsiders must compensate with slight of hand. 

An action scene from Smoke and Mirrors

Volume 1 of this new comic series begins with the Steve Jobs-esque Mr. Carroll introducing his son’s class to “gesture,” a revolutionary magic technique that has a more than passing resemblance to an Apple product.  Within the first few frames the audience is also given a quick overview of the character’s world which reminded me a little of the central power plant in Monsters Inc.  Like that Disney creation, it is a safe bet that things are not always what they seem.  Ethan, a gifted, somewhat outcast of a student is quick to trespass into a forbidden area of the plant and makes some rather startling discoveries.  Later we follow Ethan into Tobin Square where he meets Terry Ward, a magician transplanted from our world into this alternative magic laden reality.  Without having actual magic, Terry must compensate with his quick wit and mastered art. 

Terry Ward doing his thing

What drew me into the comic book was the impressively engaging work of illustrator Ryan Browne.  In his hands, details accentuate character nuances.  This is especially evident in his treatment of eyes with appropriately dilated pupils and squinted eyebrows deftly conveying emotions.  Ryan also makes good use of colors and is not afraid to showcase his work in pastels.  Considering the many comic books that are almost dripping with dark, gothic overtones, Ryan’s embrace of softer colors is refreshing.  This also serves as a good contrast to his darker shaded introduction of magician Terry Ward toward the end of the first volume. 

Ethan meets Terry Ward

Mike Costa’s writing also stands out for its tight, well constructed dialogue that moves the story along in a crisp and natural manner.  Given the confines of space in a typical comic cell, it is imperative that every word count.  Jon Armstrong, an accomplished magician who has also consulted on several television products via Disney Imagineering, provides a high level of authenticity to Smoke and Mirrors.  A reader following Smoke and Mirrors can expect not only to become engulfed in a great story, but also to learn a great deal about magic.  In the first volume, this involves a quick example of “forcing” as well as a well written and thoughtful article by Jon Armstrong.  Future volumes promise to include similar articles by such accomplished magicians as Max Maven, Shawn McMasters, and Jamy Ian Swiss. All of this, the illustrations, the story telling, and the thoughtful articles related to magic, combine to make me very impatient for the next volume.

The creators of Smoke and Mirrors: Jon Armstrong, Mike Costa, and Ryan Browne

Bottom Line:  Smoke and Mirrors is recommended for anyone possessing the spirit of adventure.  For more information including how to purchase an issue, click here:


All images used by permission of Ryan Browne

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