The Magicians #4
By Lilah Sturges, Pius Bak, Gabriel Cassata & Mike Fiorentino
Following the tragedy in the library in the previous issue, Lilah Sturges’ The Magicians picks up where things left off with the tensions high and every character is feeling the after effects. It’s a tragic moment, and a particularly shocking one that spirals the book out of control as the stakes become higher and ever. We learnt more about the shady past of Brakebills and the real reason behind why the group of new students was assembled, in order to deal with a powerful threat from Brakebills’ past. Fans of the series will know that the school is not immune to its past demons, and some of them present more of a threat than others. Enter Alex Nafarro, who has a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for forbidden magic. The Magicians has found its new villain.
The group of newest students aren’t taking it well, and issues being raised about them being essentially magical police is brought to the forefront early on, with tempers still high, especially as it was something that they kept secret from each other. Some have issues with the role whilst others have issues that more or less exist around the fact that they’ve been lied to, brought to Brakebills under a false pretence. Sturges does a terrific job at fleshing out the characters and making them a memorable addition to the series, providing them with their own motivations and causes for doing what they do. It’s clear that they’re a different group to the original cast and hold up well on their own to make audiences want to read more about them, even though there may be a sense of longing for familiar characters.
The tension is palpable in this issue and the threats to the team are as clear as day. Audiences wondering how Sophie seemingly returned after being killed off will get their answers in this issue which more than delivers whilst providing a suitably game-changing cliffhanger. This issue is more about setting up the stakes and providing background on who the villains are and what they want, whilst artist Pius Bak continues to get creative with the artwork that fleshes out Brakebills Academy and gives a distinctive look to the cast of characters, allowing colourist Gabriel Cassata to highlight their emotions and make audiences understand what the characters are going through. They’re still young adults, and The Magicians makes that clear that nobody’s perfect – and these characters have darker secrets than most. Not understanding battle magic could come at a cost, and when we see it in action, it makes an instant impression. The magical scenes are the big highlights of the issue, Cassata’s vibrant colours contrast with the backdrop of the world and the magic illuminates like wildfire, creating several breath-taking scenes that showcase Bak’s creativity, and Mike Fiorentino’s letters add some agency to make the issue feel all the more tense because of it.
The Magicians is proving to be a welcoming continuation of Lev Grossman’s world keeping that darker feel to the series that differs from series that are familiar to it in the genre. Fresh from the budget constrictions of the television series, Sturges, Bak & Cassata continue to craft an imaginative and purely entertaining read that makes it unskippable for fans, be they newcomers or those who have devoured everything related to Brakebills’ world.