Written by Andre Sirangelo
Illustrated by Gabriel Iumazark
Letters by Deron Bennett
There is a magnetism about the world of the stage magician, especially about those at the turn of the century, who really perfected illusions on stage and the way to divert an audiences’ attention. Harry Houdini is the obvious and most popular, but there were countless others, including the Maskelyne and Robert Houdin. When films like The Illusionist and The Prestige came out I was skeptical and then lost until the film was over. It is, pardon the pun, a magical time period, because despite the feats they performed, the majority of the performers never claimed actual magical knowledge.
The Last Broadcast #1 releases this week and takes a look at one of those performers, the “Incredible Blackhall”, an escape artist and mentalist who died during the working of one of his stage shows, Russian Roulette gone awry. The story takes place during the present day, focusing on Ivan, an aspiring stage magician with few prospects and a great yearning for times past. He has a comfortable knowledge of Blackhall, has even published a short essay about the mysteries surrounding his death, and is on the financial verge of selling his illusionist props off for rent money.
At the same time there is another story running parallel to this one, about two…let’s call them urban spelunkers, who have stumbled upon a chamber beneath the city that has some connection to Blackhall.
Andre Sirangelo makes his comic debut with Archaia, and helps put to rest any doubts lovers of this company had about their comic production after the Boom! Studios merger earlier this year. The Last Broadcast is an intriguing tale, with a good amount of “historical” back-story to keep me interested. In Ivan he has introduced a character who is completely unsure of himself. He isn’t a great magician. He’s just pissed off his best friend and collaborator, the one who pays his rent and builds his apparatus. Ivan is on the brink, financially and personally…and this is the perfect time to introduce him to a crazy situation.
Gabriel Iumazark is also on his first mission here, and comes through with flying colors. (Partly because he did the colors as well…) The art in this book is amazing. His style is loose, the coloring almost mono-toned except when there is need for more. Even then the colors are muted. It lends to the older feel of a new book, helping instill that historical story feel into the overall narrative. Some of the long shots are done in small panels, and that makes them look bigger. It’s got a European, Triplets of Bellville feel to some of the characters. (This, of course, is not meant to disparage Iumazark’s art, for I quite liked Triplets.) I find that, not because of the style so much, but because, in an age when most animation is slick and computerized, Triplets broke convention and went to hand-drawn cells. This is what that feels like. As if Iumazark has take a step back, turned off his computer and placed a large sheet of 11×17 Blue-line Pro on his table, sharpened an “HB” or maybe a “B”, depending on how loose he sketches, and went to work. It looks drawn, no matter the medium on which it was created, and that’s great.
No matter your feelings on history, or magic, or self-involved, incompetent illusionists, The Last Broadcast is one you should read. As a #1 of 7 it’s a great opening act and at the same time the beginning of the end. Sirangleo and Iumazark are weaving an illusion on the page…can you spot the tell?
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.