Monday, February 4, 2013

REVIEW: The Secret Adventures of Houdini (NO SPOILERS)


My professional life has been a constant record of disillusion, and many things that seem wonderful to most men are the every-day commonplaces of my business.
         ~ Harry Houdini

     While conducting an interview at the Clifton Comic Book Expo, something was distracting me in the background; it was kind of hard to tell at first what it was, at first.  Turned out, it was someone trying to escape a straightjacket.
         
     Not something you see everyday.  
     So like I said, it was hard to tell what it was right away.

     The escapee was the artist of ‘The Secret Adventures of Houdini’, Sean Von Gorman.  A straightjacket escape is totally worth an interview, so I made my way over to talk to him, as well as his buddy and writer of the book, Todd Hunt.
         It was great talking to them about the show, and their opinions on why smaller comic shows are so important.  Then, they told me about their Houdini book.
         It’s best to check out the video below to see them talk about their book.  All I can say is that they built a remarkable fantasy world around one of the earliest entertainers in this country.


         By the end of the taping, I couldn’t wait to pick-up their book, but does it hold up to the expectations?   

VITALS
Writer: Todd Hunt
Artist: Sean Von Gorman
Price: $6.99

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BREAKDOWN (NO SPOILERS)
     Before I go into the story, I feel like it’s important to quickly mention the cover. 
     Houdini is in a straighjacket, chained from his shoulders to ankles, and is suspended upside down.  Meanwhile, a bunch of hands are reaching up to Houdini, trying to kill him.  All while Houdini has a smirk on his face and seemingly thinking, “these bastards are so screwed.”
     This is just so bad ass, and perfectly symbolizes what this book is about.
     The story starts off as everyone knows Harry Houdini best.  
     He’s mesmerizing crowds and leaving them in disbelief, while performing a near death escape on stage.  After the performance is over, the real story begins.
     You slowly discover the paranormal activities that Houdini  involved himself in, starting with the death of his mother, to a creepy ceremony that reminded me of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’. (minus the whole heart tearing out part)
     Houdini finds himself in terrible predicaments, and relies on his wit and brute strength to get out of it.
     I wish this book was longer.  A lot longer.  I know I’m being greedy saying this, but I would’ve loved to have more dialogue and see what makes Houdini truly tick.  Then again, a second book will be released, so I guess I’m getting my wish.

SPOTLIGHT
Pros: 
     - When it comes to stories that are set in a time period that isn’t present day, I can be a little bit of a stickler.  Mostly because I want to have an authentic feel, that in this case, of being in 1913 – 1923. 
     This book totally delivers that feeling.  The art, mannerisms and dialogue really make you feel like you’re a spectator of events going on almost 100 years ago.
     - Usually black & white books are done for two reasons; to keep cost down, and for artistic reasons.  However, I feel that the black &  white aspect really makes the book pop better than color ever could.  If you look at a picture from that era, it’s not going to be in vivid, crystal clear color.  Instead, it’ll be in black and white.  Just a nice over all flow that helps put you in the setting.

Cons:
     - Usually when you see something listed under a “con”, it’s about the subject being reviewed.  However, this con is a mistake I personally made. 
     After enjoying the book, I googled Houdini, to get a refresher on his history.   This is where I made the mistake.
     I should’ve had a refresher on Houdini before reading the book.  I felt like I would’ve enjoyed the book so much more if I did it in that order. 
     - I had only one issue with the story.  Personally, I thought it was cool having Houdini as a strong bad-ass, but it would interesting if he also had MacGyver characteristics.  Not necessarily turning a paper clip and stick of bubble gum into a bomb, but using ingenuity to get out of problems.
           
READING AGES
My first memory of magic and Houdini was probably around the third grade.  If I had a relative, or a friend’s kid that was in the same grade, I think it’s appropriate to let them check it out. 
            There’s nothing visually grotesque in the artwork.  At worst, theirs blood shown from punches, and bones being cracked, but that’s it. 
In terms of storyline, there’s nothing to worry about.  Parents might have to explain parts of the story to a kid, but nothing that needs parental guidance.
            Since this is the case with the writing and art, I feel as if this book is appropriate for kids to adults.

BOTTOM LINE
            Do yourself a favor, and get this damn book ASAP!!!  It’s so much fun to read, and puts a twist on one of the first, and most famous entertainers of all-time.  I’m glad I have this on my book shelf, and I know it’ll look even better when the second books is out. So what are you waiting for?  Go to their site, and get it for your book case…well…what are you waiting for…GO ALREADY!!!


***HERE'S MY VIDEO REVIEW ON THE BOOK***

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