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The Wizerd, vol. 1 | Review

The Wizerd Vol. 1 coverThe Wizerd Vol.1: And the Potion of Dreams!
Writer: Michael Sweater
Artists: Michael Sweater and Rachel Dukes
Oni Press; $14.99

The “wizerd”, the title character of Michael Sweater and Rachel Dukes’ comedy fantasy adventure, is as atypical as the spelling of their occupation. This wizerd lives in a rambling old tower filled with “the ruins of the accomplishments of so many greater people who came before us,” as they explain to a little bird who found its way in just as the wizerd was completing a magic spell, a spell that looked much more ominous than it actually was (the result created a little pool in a cauldron for some spiders to hang out).

The wizerd’s philosophy of “No matter what you want to accomplish… …someone else has already done it” has lead to a quiet life of tending to a garden. But the call of adventure comes nonetheless, in the form of Princess Wallace, a barbarian child on the quest for a wizerd capable of making a wish-granting potion. Wallace’s wish? To become big and strong—and hunky—like the rest of her clan.

After she essentially annoys the wizerd into compliance, the two set out to get the ingredients for the potion which, it turns out, isn’t too much more difficult than a trip to the grocery store. All of the spell components are for sale at The Heap, a “one stop loot shop.” So, if all went according to plan, then the quest would simply be a matter of walking to the city, placing an order, and waiting overnight for it to be filled.

Things don’t go according to plan. The wizerd and warrior pick up a third member of their party on their way—an archer who, like, Wallace, essentially annoys her way into the quest—and they  find the city under the tyrannical rule of a “wych,” who has converted the library into a massive prison.

Distraction leads to distraction, and the simple trip eventually evolves into a prison riot, complete with explosions and catapults chucking boulders. Our heroes live to tell the tale but lose the ingredients for the wishing potion in all the chaos, thus necessitating that a real quest begins on the last page of the book…and, one imagines, continuing into future volumes, as this is explicitly labeled “volume one.”

That’s just the plot of course, and the broad outlines at that. There are lots of jokes built into that plot, many of them revolving around Wallace’s short attention span or insatiable hunger—potion or no, she is a growing barbarian—the wizerd’s disinterest in adventure and the wych’s weird personality and bratty style of governance (“If the people still don’t listen, I want you to try yelling at them,” she tells an underling as she goes to inspect her cells, upon learning that beating them up hasn’t helped teach the citizens to behave).

The real fun of the book, however, is the art, not simply the eclectic character design, but the rich, deep details that fill every panel, particularly the occasional two-page spreads that often introduce new settings.

Sweater and Dukes fill every corner of every panel set in the wizerd’s tower, for example, with fun, strange details that suggest countless stories of their own.

The spreads revealing the interior of The Heap or that of “a nice little tea shop” that looks like a seedy, dangerous bar (that serves tea instead of alcohol)  are so full of strange objects and characters that they’re feasts for the eyes and imaginations. They’re the sorts of pages that, were you reading with a child, the child would grab your hand and urgently say, “Wait! Don’t turn the page yet!” as it will take far longer to look at these pages then it will to read them.

That tea shop reveal is perhaps the visual climax of the book, even though it occurs before the halfway point of the story, as every single one of the 25 or so figures looks like it could star in a comic book of its own (I am particularly fond of the dragon with a monocle and top hat eating an enormous sandwich, and the spider warrior drinking tea upside down from a web woven into the corner of the ceiling).

Comics’ current love affair with Dungeons & Dragons-style tabletop gaming and the hodge-podge fantasy worlds that such games are emblematic of doesn’t really seem to be abating at all, but as long as the trend keeps producing such fun, funny, and inventive books as The Wizerd, well then, it’s certainly nothing to complain about.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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