Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: The Death of Magic
Written by: Bill Willingham
Penciled by: Justiniano
Inked by: Walden Wong
Colored by: Chris Chuckry
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
When the first issue of this book came out, I was pleasantly surprised by how well Willingham got in the head of his narrator for that issue, Ragman. Ditto the following two efforts which filtered the events through the heads of Enchantress and Blue Demon, respectively. However, issues four and five broke the streak with Detective Chimp’s voice being oddly devoid of any humor and Nightshade’s awkward musings on her own powers. I was hoping that Jim Rook, aka Nightmaster, might return us to the glory days of the first three issues.
The best I can say is that nothing particularly sticks out as “wrong” about Rook’s voiceover. Sadly, nothing about it really sticks out at all. I am sitting down to write this review about 30 minutes after having read the comic and I cannot recall a single moment of the narration beyond the opening line where he introduces himself.
To make matters worse, this issue cannot best the problem that all four of the Crisis-related minis will have to wrestle with in the next few weeks: providing a satisfactory conclusion to the series itself while still whetting our appetite for the “BIG EVENT” Infinite Crisis. Instead, this issue seems dedicated to leaving us with almost exactly the same status quo as the one we began with. Spectre is still on a tear about all things magic, these b, c, and d-list wielders of magic calling themselves Shadowpact are trying to stop that from taking place, and this all will somehow have influence on DC’s redefinition. The only thing that has truly changed from issue one to issue six is Eclipso and the wizard Shazam’s fate, and that’s just not enough to justify a six issue mini to me.
It’s not all bad news though. Justiniano continues to produce the best work of his career in this mini (a fact not hinted at by the fairly weak cover that it is wrapped in). Willingham does some nice work with dialogue and interactions, especially Enchantress’s ribbing of Ragman, “This is exactly the sort of inappropriate situation in which Ragman bizarrely decides it’s time to kiss someone.”
The dissolution of the Rock of Ages (and the chaos it brings) is probably the high point of the book. I especially like the “headless ghost” who “screamed foul prophecies for thirteen minutes, before it faded.” However, a portion of the fallout does considerable damage to the Gotham skyline. The biggest destructive event to hit Gotham since the earthquake, and it happens in a book that has nothing to do with Batman? The dangers of a shared universe, perhaps, but what about Ragman? He grew up in Gotham and has fought injustice in its streets from time to time. Shouldn’t he have some sort of reaction to a tragedy of that magnitude hitting his hometown? It is a moment that highlights the biggest problem that this series has had. When a character is no longer the narrator, he or she often disappears into the shuffle and that initial burst of characterization seems to dissipate into the air.
However, the ending, which fails to justify the whole, proves the most disappointing. I know that I can’t have a close-ended solution to the story, given how it feeds into Infinite Crisis. However, if one looks to Seven Soldiers: Guardian, one can see that a satisfying conclusion to a miniseries which leads to a bigger event can be done. Or at least attempted (as in Golden Knight). Here, they don’t even seem to try.