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StoryWorlds’ United States of Magic Mixes Global Conspiracies & Magical Realism

StoryWorlds Media’s upcoming United States of Magic introduced a fascinating premise that a single volume only just scratches the surface of.

United States of Magic is one of the premier titles from new independent publisher StoryWorlds, founded by former BBC news editor Max Gadney. With a focus on global stories and diverse talent, United States of Magic has a strong concept that could last beyond this volume.

In United States of Magic, Gadney teams up with British illustrator Julian Parry to tell the story of a global conspiracy to utilize magical artifacts and control the world. During the US occupation of Iraq, US intelligence agent Dana Dryden, stumbles upon this deadly conspiracy she decides to help take down the private military contractor seemingly at the heart of the plot.

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Gadney’s story imagines that all of the world’s global conflicts have been in pursuit of these magical items. As such, America’s military history has been in service of maintaining its magical power. By framing the Iraq War as a hunt for magical power as opposed to moral or even economic interest he places the US history of imperialism in a stark light. Gadney’s experience in the BBC newsroom covering events surrounding 9/11 and the start of the War on Terror clearly informs the themes of the work. His choice to place an American in the lead is a pointed criticism of the US mythology as a moral force for democracy which is the book’s most compelling hook. Especially in its second half, the book does a strong job illustrating the human toll of American occupation. However, Gadney’s injection of British slang and spelling in a book following an American lead is also occasionally jarring.

Parry’s cartoonish art contrasts the grounded tone of the book, but his work is strong. The style makes violent moments more palatable, while his highly expressive figures amplify the tension and mental horror inflicted upon the characters. With clear and uncluttered pages, Parry is also effective in establishing place, which is particularly important in this globe-spanning story.

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With such an interesting magical-realism concept at its core, this volume feels like it just scratches the surface of its rich core conceit, despite its length. While significant questions about the concept itself are left unresolved, Gadney leaves the motivations and relationships of the book’s lead, Dana Dryden, mysterious. She is simply introduced as a tech-savvy intelligence analyst and her involvement in the attempt to unravel the conspiracy is incidental.

Gadney smartly relies on experienced letterer Taylor Esposito to complete the pages, and his work is clear and expressive. Sound effects are woven into the page layout dynamically, and Esposito helps to carry the reader through the wordy story effortlessly without intruding on Parry’s art.

While this single volume just dips its toe into the storytelling potential of this world, there’s a lot to like about United States of Magic, thanks to its engaging art and a strong central idea.

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