After an uneven first issue, Gutter Magic seems to have found its footing. Here, the pacing lets up enough to allow characters to breathe and express their wants and fears naturally rather than through forced exposition. I now have a much better understanding of the main character Cinder than I was afforded in the first issue. Cinder's obsession and his ultimately unattainable goals paint him as a doomed figure. Even in a fantasy world, his ambition to wield magic is revealed to be grounded in little more than petty entitlement.
Gutter Magic continues to borrow heavily from cyberpunk in that it is the story of a downtrodden outsider struggling to gain access to a higher caste of society. And the tools of his struggle are the means with which people alter reality. In this case it's magic, not cyberspace. But those with power aren't going to give up their status or share their tools freely, so Cinder cheats. He steals.
Writer Rich Douek could easily and lazily make Cinder inherently admirable or right in his pursuit of power. However, the script makes sure we know our protagonist's actions are selfish to a degree that he harms others. Cinder leaves destruction and pain in his wake, and we get the sense that he regrets only some of his actions. As a result, he isn't a wholly sympathetic character, though you can probably appreciate the need to rise above unfortunate and unwanted origins. After an unfortunately brief brush with Gutter Magic's upper class, the Cinder ends this chapter by finally establishing what I believe will be his driving motivation going forward. It's nice that our protagonist is now driven by something other than self interest.
The art remains decent and appropriately grungy. Notably, artist Brett Barkley's excessive line use and wildly varying line weight make static scenes appear full of motion. However, faces seem to shift around uncomfortably as Barkley attempts to render expression while remaining on-model. I wouldn't call Gutter Magic's art remarkably ugly, but it isn't especially soothing to the eyes either.
With this issue, I'm on board with whatever Douek and company have planned. I'm concerned about whether or not the plot can delve deeper into its lore without stumbling over its own feet or ignoring character growth. However, I'm all-in-all optimistic for Gutter Magic's future issues.
Gutter Magic #2 Writer: Rich Douek Artist: Brett Barkley Colorist: Jules Rivera Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/10/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital