I've been reading my current book for a surprisingly long while, thanks to factors both intrinsic (it's not a fast read) and extrinsic (I've been moving, and have become rather addicted to the computer game Morrowind). Of course, I feel simply terrible about neglecting my legion of adoring fans; so, to make it up to both of them, I decided that I should read something quick so that I could make an entry. So, I picked up Kurt Busiek's The Wizard's Tale , a short graphic novel.

I first encountered Busiek through his brilliant Astro City series. Astro City is the synthesis of the Silver Age thesis and the Watchmen/Dark Knight antithesis. It's a superhero series that retains all the good stuff of classic superhero books -- a sense of exuberant possibility, neat superheroes with cool powers and costumes, and a detailed, intricate world with its own mythological history -- and combines them with the psychological depth and greater realism of the dark 'n' gritty books. I absolutely love this series.

His Marvels, which examines the history of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of a non-super-powered civilian, is also excellent. After I'd read both of these works, I started to buy everything I could find of Busiek's.

This turned out to be something of a mistake. Busiek has done a lot of work for conventional monthly titles, and it's not up to the standard of (what I think of as) his personal works. I don't know if that's because he just doesn't try as hard, because the limitations of a tight schedule take their toll, or just because he's trying to stay within the house constraints. Either way, though, his work on (for instance) Avengers is only worth reading by people who like straightforward, simple, slightly cheesy superhero books. (Which I actually do, so it wasn't a complete loss there.)

Anyway, though, The Wizard's Tale looked like it would be a more personal story, so I decided to give it a whirl. Unlike most of his other stuff, it's not superhero-related at all -- it's a straight fantasy. The protagonist is an evil wizard who really doesn't like being evil, and is lousy at it, besides; and now he's just found the location of the codex that will allow the evil wizards to complete their dominion over the world.

It's a reasonably interesting concept executed reasonably well. The art is attractive, the background details are interesting, and the story's got a nice pace. However, there's no spark to the book; there's no lightning moment of insightful surprise, no real emotional jolts, and no sentences that demand to be savored. It's competent, but forgettable. And it's also really short (I read it in under an hour), so almost certainly not worth the $20 it exorbitantly costs.


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