Review: Minky Woodcock: The Girl who Handcuffed Houdini #2
Writing, Art and Colours: Cynthia Von Buhler
Letters: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Titan Comics
Drawing from the traditions of Pulp magazines that offered hard-boiled crime capers, plying their trade from the same newstands that sold early Superman comics, The Minky Woodcock series delivers a populist perspective of Houdini’s life in a style akin to a crime novel. The pace is electric as the book takes us on what looks like a whistle-stop tour of the intrepid illusionist’s life. So, in a climate where comic store bookshelves are bursting with a host of contemporary successes, is there room for a historical biography?
As far as biographies go, Houdini’s was never going to be dull. With a lifetime of outrageous stories, some proven, others legendary, a comic could easily have fallen into farce. Thankfully, what Buhler (Emily and the Strangers, Speakeasy) has brought to the table is some hard-boiled sensibilities that add a certain brevity to the whole book. The events are presented as just that, events, rather than phenomena or hearsay. The addition of dates, times and locations mean that everything is verifiable and feels more above board. The characters are gin soaked and larger than life reflecting the attraction personalities like Houdini held for other big personalities. His energy is transferred onto the pages with aplomb as his electric personality flows from performance to his personal life. We see minor and major setbacks met with clinical planning, all whilst splashing out the invites and lusty advances; a true cult of personality painted with a keen eye.
The crime aspect of the book emerges from some rather unsavoury characters that find themselves in Houdini’s court. A bizarrely underdressed nurse, who has a rather uncanny resemblance to a ropey old stripper I once shared a cab with, highlights the possible dangers and distractions surrounding the illusionist. Poisonings and whispers float in the background as our protagonist deals with an injury and hosts an array of journalists and fans. It has both the feel of a mystery and a life story. Even though we may know the ins and outs of his life, there are crafty snippets that add flesh to the legends.
The book is adorned with art-deco trappings; swirling hair that form symmetrical patterns whilst afloat in water; a necklace of pearls that hover amidst the frames. On top of this, there’s a woodblock print feel to the colouring and the result is a distressed finish which looks very textured. It’s a beautiful looking book and the warm colour plate only heighten the senses to the passion and fire that dwelled within the great man himself. Burnt oranges and woody hues are especially era-defining and the brightness of the live performances marries wonderfully with the plunging darkness of the water tank, or the sinister yet ridiculous mire of the seances Houdini pulled apart. This is a well thought out example of genre art at its best. And with the hard-boiled angle being exposed, as well as the dynamic dialogue, all-in-all, this is a worthwhile read.
Skully’s Corner: Why buy this book? Did you know that I was a illusionist once? I used to swallow live fish then cough them up intact after reciting limericks. The problem was the fish would fall out of gaps between my ribs. Anyway, I felt I was learning something new with this book and that’s always a good thing. Being great to look at was a bonus! Buy it.
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Review written by Arun Sharma.
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