by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
There are countless diagnoses for the success of Harry Potter, but I have to think at least part of the appeal is that the stories embraced both the pleasant and unpleasant extremes of fictional magic. On the one hand, there are enchanting magical novelties — everything from candies to sports to boarding schools — and on the other, there are evil characters that practice corrupted magic in order to kill their adversaries and gain power. While plenty of fiction has embraced one or the other of those extremes in their depiction of magic, few took on the whole spectrum, treating the world of magic as if it were every bit as messy and nuanced as the real world. Curse Words has gladly taken up that cause, and indeed takes it several steps further, exchanging Harry’s naive wonderment for more mundane complacency, emphasizing how commonplace and banal magical acts are in Hole World.
No issue has illustrated this more effectively than issue 6, which finds Sizzajee throwing a kind of company picnic for his remaining wizard minions. Not only is the occasion an opportunity for writer Charles Soule and artist Ryan Browne to trot out all of their truly bizarre wizard designs, it also allows them to couch these magical beings in an uncannily familiar setting. Er — it only looks familiar until Browne zooms out enough for us to see what’s really going on.
There may be badminton, and Botchko may have brought his wife and kids, but this world is anything but recognizable. The result is an unsettling sense that this kind of evil — the subjugation of hundreds of people, the casual murder and resurrection of one of Sizzajee’s most trusted agents — is every bit as normal in this world as company picnics are in ours.
Soule and Browne use a similar trick to decidedly different effect in Wizord and Ruby’s story, as Wizord uses magic almost absentmindedly to make a simple gesture to Ruby.
In this case, the use of magic isn’t horrifying (heck, it’s almost sweet), but its casual use still reminds us how comfortable these characters are with magic. Harry Potter would have to pause to remark on just how unbelievable he finds a sign that magically changes, but Ruby is utterly unimpressed. She’s seen magic. If Wizord wants to amaze her, he’s going to have to find something else.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?