I recently received an email from my editor asking if I would like to review Michael L. Peters Crescent City Magick. I read the description and ONE thing caught my attention and had me saying “YES” before I even stopped to think about my hectic schedule for the final five weeks of classes. What was that ONE thing? New Orleans.
I love the city, I love the people, and I love the food. I had to review this comic to see how Peters’ incorporated the culture of New Orleans into his creation. Crescent City Magick being a black & white comic also caught my attention. As I’ve said numerous times before, I love black & white. Creators who work only with black & white have to create the same mood, the same emotions that the ones who work with a full color palette do, but with only this grayscale. So for me to love Peters’ comic, it had to meet these two challenges: 1) successfully and believably depict New Orleans culture and 2) make me feel things using only monochrome. My only thought before starting the comic was, “Good luck Michael L. Peters, you’re gonna need it!”
First, let me say that I sometimes volunteer to review comics that I very quickly regret: not the case with this one. Why? Because this comic has heart! Let’s talk about the story/plot/writing. One common trend of stories that take place in New Orleans is the paranormal. The title alone set my expectations on this point. When you say New Orleans and Magick, you expect a bit of voodoo and I wasn’t disappointed. Right down to the one-eyed black cat, Peters succeeds at feeding
my expectations. Had the book been based in this one thing, I would not have been disappointed. But Peters does not stop there. In fact, he doesn’t even begin there. Let’s set the stage a bit for the overall plot.
We get to New Orleans the same way I image a lot of transients do, via the bus with a man by the name of Clayton Howard Woods. Clayton is running. We aren’t sure from what, but there are several indications in the beginning that it’s not of this world, or even this galaxy. That took me a bit by surprise. I felt I was back in my comfort zone with the introduction of the black cat, Pluto, and then Julia, another one of our protagonists. We know Julia has been expecting Clayton, but we don’t know why. Once Pluto saves Clayton’s life (yea, I know it seems a bit far fetched, but just look at the picture above and remember you are in New Orleans), Julia enters the picture and takes him to her home. From there, Clayton is introduced to Julia’s friends, one of which is not overly fond of him. Then things really start to get wild. We learn a little about who or what Clayton is running from, we wonder if there really are vampires in New Orleans beyond the Wannabes, and we are fairly convinced that zombies are a real and dangerous thing. Wow. As I said, I expected some voodoo, but I got a lot more than I bargained for when it comes to this comic.
All of that is good, but that’s not what sold me on the book. Peters’ has created some wonderful characters in this text, and not just the two protagonists, Julia and Clayton. Julia’s friends also look to play a major part as this continues, especially Bev, the one who hasn’t taken a shine to Clayton. There is also Becka, Perry, Corrina and Al. While not all of these characters have been fleshed out yet, we get the sense that they are not just stand-ins. Peters seems to have a fairly good grasp on dialects and his characters all sound a tad different, matching the visuals he’s created. Peters succeeds in making me feel things about these characters. I’m like Bev, the tough talking, cigarette smoking, mohawk wearing, pool hustling best friend of Julia, when it comes to Clayton. I’m just not sure how I feel about him. Got no reason to distrust him, yet somehow I do. And Peters has done a magnificent job of creating a lovable voodoo witch in Julia.
She’s a no-nonsense, straight talking witch who is full of love and compassion. And did I mention the hair? Even if the cover were not done in color, I would expect that hair to be red as hot coals. I hope it’s obvious just how much I love this story.
Now to discuss the art and design of the book. Panel layouts are simple, but Peters doesn’t get stuck in a rut over using any one style. There are splash pages, double page spreads, floating panels, and more traditional styled pages with 3-8 panels per page, complete with gutters. There are times, and this is always an issue with black & white, when the lack of gutters makes the page fill cluttered, and it’s hard to tell where one panel ends and another begins. I also found some of
the drawing to be over done. There are times that the line work is just too much for me, and I have a difficult time distinguishing where one thing ends and another begins. The page above is a an example of both of these concerns. These issues are minor when compared to the overall effect of the entire comic. Hands down this is a great, great book.
Crescent City Magick kept me turning the page, anxious and excited to see what would happen next. And it’s not just the writing. Peters has created a wealth of characters to play with and each has a unique personality. And what can I say, I LOVE black & white done well, and this is done great.
A wonderful tale of voo-doo, aliens, zombies, etc situated in the city of New Orleans