I’m halfway through the story now (just finished #3 last night) so here’s a few initial thoughts on what I think is one of the better Millarworld series of recent years.
The first is that the art is really impressive. The Millarworld books always get good artists but Coipel must rank as one of the best - not just for his great composition and detailed, finessed rendering (which really helps to bring the characters to life and make them and their surroundings feel ‘real’ - which is important for a series where you’re dealing with the clash between the real world and a world of magic) but also for some of the storytelling tricks he uses to show the effects of magic.
There are a couple of lovely panel transitions in the first few issues that show the effect of magic in a fairly simple way but in a way that only comics could pull off, like this:
There’s also a fantastic sequence at the end of issue #1 that shows a room and its inhabitants being transformed in a disturbing, magical fashion, but it’s drawn in a way that makes it still feel very tangible - you really buy that this is actually happening. With a looser or more cartoonish artist the effect just wouldn’t be the same.
I really like the way the art is used to show the transition between real spaces and magical spaces in general. This is a great page that uses the panels in the centre very cleverly - using the gutter as the barrier between real and magical space - and also makes the middle row of panels work as a barrier between the real space in the large panel at the top, and the magical space in the large panel at the bottom:
It’s all stuff that demonstrates that a little bit of extra thought (from both Millar and Coipel) has gone into how to make the relationship between the real and magical worlds work visually, in a way that’s unique to comics.
The writing is good, too. The opening sequence of the first issue is a great lead-in to the series that sets the magical-yet-gruesome tone from the start. It makes it clear this is going to be an “adult” take on the world of magic that’s removed from the likes of Harry Potter and it provides the model for the series going forward (which, so far, is a fairly straightforward progression of various magical folks gradually being picked off by an unstoppable magical assassin).
Also - given that this is the first new Millarworld title to come out since the Netflix acquisition - it’s impossible to read that opening scene and not think of how it could work as a cold-open for an eventual TV adaptation. You can almost see it playing out in your head.
Otherwise, I think there are some interesting touches here that add a little bit of extra depth to the story (which you don’t always get in a Millarworld book, but which is welcome here). I like the hints throughout to a wider world of magic and the suggestion that this story is only exploring the fringes of a much larger magical universe.
I also thought the King Lear allusions were interesting - with the children Regan, Cordelia and Gabriel (instead of Goneril) inheriting their father’s magical empire, after a fashion. We’ll see if there are any further parallels as the story plays out over the concluding three issues.
The only criticism so far is that the story is maybe a bit too simple for its own good. A progression of characters being picked off by an unstoppable villain isn’t the worst framework for a story (think Terminator), but it feels like there needs to be a little more here to make me care beyond the great visuals and cool concepts. There hasn’t really been much time to flesh out many of the characters enough for me to do that yet, with the possible exception of Gabriel.