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Saturday, November 12, 2016

SEMIAUTOMAGIC Collection. Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), Lara Margarida (Art). Dark Horse Books/Illicit Press (2016)

A very entertaining and engaging supernatural horror collection.  Semiautomagic (Dark Horse), Professor Alice Creed is frequently called away from her classes to solve serious supernatural problems, in this case it involves someone she knows. A young man's spirit has been stolen by a computer game and Alice Creed realises that the problem is a widespread one. She locates the point of origin and heads for it, surviving the worst plane journey ever to find that the trouble is much greater than she had anticipated. Alice Creed makes a dreadful decision and has to manage the consequences. The set up is established with skill and economy and the downward spiral of the story is consistently inventive and unexpected, the conclusion is smart and satisfactorily sour.
Alex De Campi manages to deftly avoid two serious problems inherent in horror and superhero (Alice Creed is sufficiently powerful to qualify as a non costumed superhero) , how to get the problem started and how to test the hero sufficiently to be interesting. Frequently in a horror story someone has to act very stupidly to create the initial situation, they then start to act much more rationally after the trouble has started which undermines tension and credibility from the start. Alex De Campi simply steps over and start and presents the reader with a context where the trouble is already well established. Now everyone can get on with dealing with the problems, which they do. Alice Creed is a powerful, competent and deeply experienced supernatural warrior, creating a credible threat is difficult, Alex De Campi neatly uses a sequence where a solution to one problem is the source of an increasingly bigger one. By painting Alice Creed into a corner of her own making, Alex De Campi develops tension and sufficient uncertainty about the possible outcomes to propel the story very strongly. Alice Creed is narrating the story directly to the reader, there is another repeated narrative element which does not sit comfortably with this style. It is not by any means a problem, it is just a slightly jarring note in the flow of the story.
Jerry Ordway's art is simply luscious, it is such a detailed pleasure to read, it captures all the mad contradictions of the story and makes them completely normal and utterly insane. The relationship of the cast to their context is always credible, they move through a recognisable and distorted world with physical grace and presence, their actions have depth and heft. Alice Creed looks like a normal female human, dressed in entirely sensible cloths for fighting monsters, she is treated seriously which allows the fantastic to be serious as well. The cast, human and otherwise are expressive, their body language is as clear as their speech. From straight conversation to extreme, supernatural violent action the art is utterly engaging and the beautiful details are a treat to read. 
Marissa Louise's colours are stunning, they amplify, refine and concentrate the emotional sub text of the story and the art with breathtaking precision.
Alex De Campi's lettering is quiet, changing when needed by the cast or context, always unobtrusive and easy to read.
Semiautomagic: Childhood's End (Illicit Press) , is a series of collection of three stories each which follow slightly different paths.
Childhood's End, Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), takes some of the most famous ideas in comics history and uses them in a darkly imaginative way. Alice Creed follows a trail of missing pets to an old house and finds something very nasty. The story is written in a Dr Seuss style rhyme which works because of the strength and unerring confidence of the writing. Jerry Ordway's art captures the required Dr Seuss echos and distorts them as required so that the various layers of the story are woven tightly together. All of which just goes to show that there are no rules for talent, the mash up sounds uncomfortable instead it is suitably unettling. Marissa Louise's colours highlight the various elements of the story and creates an unifying space for them all, making it look easy to be cute and creepy at the same time.
A Town Called Malice, Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Lara Margarida (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours) features a friend of Alice, Harriet, who opened the wrong door. When romance fades and life diminishes a woman takes a step to mark the moment and makes a wish at the same time. Happy consequences soon reveal their darker side and Harriet tries to help the woman where she cannot help herself. The story is the fullest exploration of one of the major ideas in the collection, magic has consequences, and it thoughtful and very engaging. Lara Margarida is a strong contrast to Jerry Ordway and the art stands on its own terms with confidence and force. The quieter story benefits from the slightly lower key of the art, the action is less dramatic without ever being less intense.  Marissa Louise's colours alter to match, capture and express the different requirements of the art while remaining as stunning as ever.
The Hollow Man Alex De Campi (Writer, Letters), Jerry Ordway (Art), Marissa Louise (Colours), Rob Jones (Layout assistance)  returns to Alice Creed this time as a debt collector, someone who comes to present the bill for the easy decisions that were made years before. Jerry Ordway, Rob Jones, Marissa Louise all combine seamlessly to deliver an nasty story.
The Semiautomagic Collection is a super set of richly realised horror with a great cast, a pleasure to read and relish the talents that are so confidently displayed.
Chief Wizard Note:  Semiautomagic, is available via Dark Horse Books and in comic stores, while
Semiautomagic: Childhood's End is not available as a printed book, the whole collection (recommended) is avalible on Comixology:  https://www.comixology.com/Semiautomagic-The-Bomb-that-Will-Bring-Us-Together-Childhoods-End-Collectors-Edition/digital-comic/425089 

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