Monday, March 31, 2008

Comics Review: Magicians' Village: The Prelude

I have to wait how long for the sequel?

Magician's Village : The Prelude, written by Kaja Blackley and illustrated by Alison Williams. Mad Monkey Press (Toronto): 1995. 176 pages. Black and white. $10.99.

Snuffles has gone into mourning; alas, the Shady Bookstore Down the Street, where both he and I buy our comic books, has closed its doors. I admit this is a great tragedy, though it is greater for him than for me: he has a philosophy that every manga purchase should be an impulse buy, but it's hard to buy on impulse over the Internet. Besides that, I won't let him use my credit card.

Before the doors closed, I did my best to take away whatever treasures I could find, and one of the treasures I found was Magician's Village : The Prelude. This is a gem of a graphic novel, but I can only wish you good luck if you want to get your hands on a copy. It appears to be rare, and I have had a good deal of difficulty getting information on it, its creators, and its publisher (though here's Kaja Blackley's brief bio). Another Kaja Blackley comic, Dark Town was turned into the movie Monkeybone, a colossal flop. I have been unable to find any information at all on the illustrator, Alison Williams, which is a crying shame, since her artwork does a good deal to carry the story.

As the title suggests, this is the beginning of what is supposed to be a much longer series, but if the subsequent issues have been produced, I have been unable to find them. If they exist, they too are rare--very rare.

But you shouldn't allow that to stop you from getting your hands on Prelude, one of the most enjoyable reads I have had in a while, even if I will never know how it ends. It proposes that, somewhere in New York's Central Park, is an entrance to a magical otherworld called Magicians' Village, which is full of wizards, fairies, trolls, and anthropomorphic animals. The protagonist is ten-year-old Timothy Rackham, whose busy, widowed mother has little time for him. With the help of a magic-using hot dog vendor and a six-foot talking mouse with a shady reputation, Timothy soon finds himself in the Magicians' Village, where he learns his dead father was a powerful wizard and that an evil sorcerer named Daedelus wants him for some unknown purpose. Timothy's journey into the magical realm won't prove entirely escapist, however: a girl with a crush on him and an obnoxious bully, both from his school, soon make their way into the Village as well.

This is a strong beginning for a fairy tale and its incompleteness is nothing short of tragedy. Williams's carefully detailed and somehow nostalgic artwork is astounding, and Blackley's swift yet developed storytelling is highly engaging. The rendering of the Village itself is quite clever: quaint and old-fashioned and full to the brim with eccentric and lovable characters, it nonetheless contains numerous modern artifacts and articles of clothing to remind the reader that it's attached to New York.

Alas, what more can I say? Without the complete story, my commentary must be limited. Blackley's tale is wholesome and evinces, in some subtle ways, a strong sense of decency. His characters are engaging, and his situations, though not entirely original, are compelling. This is worth adding to your collection, and if you happen to know of any subsequent work related to it, be sure to tell me about it.

Content Advisory: Contains action violence, some blood, and oblique references to sex.

The Sci Fi Catholic's Rating for Magician's Village : The Prelude:

Myth Level: High (evokes the great fairy tales)

Quality: High (with only a few minor bumps, contains an intriguing story combined with excellent and unique artwork)

Ethics/Religion: High (no objectionable content, some briefly touched-upon positive themes)

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