Writer: Christian Ward
Artist: Sami Kivelä
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
It’s no easy feat to say something original about a period of American lore as familiar as prohibition-era Chicago. And, yet, the creative team behind Machine Gun Wizards has managed to do just that. The four-issue comic book adventure, Volume One: Bewitched Bullets, fuses genres of fantasy, history, and crime in a creative and entertaining way. The trade paperback releases from Dark Horse Books on March 11, 2020.
First-time writer Christian Ward brings an original spin to familiar faces of the 1930s such as Al Capone and Elliott Ness. In this reality, magic is prohibited by law, not alcohol. Ness and the Untouchables seek to stamp out Capone’s illegal dealings of a drug that gives people magical powers. Ward wisely doles out knowledge of “lick” in small does across the miniseries. And, overall, he does a very fine job bringing the narrative to an epic climax involving warring wizards, mobsters, federal agents, and ancient powers.
He also cleverly adds to the narrative an engaging subtheme about culture and morality. The deterioration of America’s moral fabric is on the minds of the powers that be in this comicbook. Except, in this case, it’s not alcohol or sex that’s ruining society; it’s magic. Strident concerns about an America that’s in cultural decline is something readers can relate to both in historical terms and in our present political climate. And, Ward is smart enough as a writer not to offer us a way out.
Sami Kivelä does an excellent job bringing these characters to life. The artwork hearkens to the pulp crime comics of the 1930s. Though, there are also times when I also detect the fantastical elements a 1990s Vertigo comic. The result is a highly stylized art that keeps us grounded in a period while making it possible for us to imagine the role of magic in that world. The trade paperback edition includes character sketches, variant covers, sample panels, and other tidbits from the creative team. The added material is a nice compliment, through there is nothing there that I couldn’t find in any other trade release. What makes Machine Gun Wizards worth the buy is the entertainment concept, the skillful writing, and the imaginative art.