Written by Jason M. Burns and Drawn by Armando Zanker
Published by Outlaw Entertainment
I like to refer to writer Jason M. Burns as “King of the High Concept”, and with HAT TRICK, he taps into that talent once again. Down on his luck magician Ray Kalpino finds his career near its end when he gets a message from a lawyer stating that he’s inheriting something from his (wildly successful) magician uncle’s estate. Shattered when it turns out that all he’s getting is the man’s stage-prop top hat, Ray tosses it away in disgust, but when the hat comes to life and sucks him inside and into a magical world… well, that’s when shit gets (un)real for poor Ray. He’s the “chosen one”, and it’s (supposedly) his duty to free the Magicverse from the evil entity at its heart: his deceased uncle.
However, Burns’ gifts let him down in far many ways with this one. The biggest one is that Ray never comes to life as a character on the page. First, his stage name is The Amazing Don Key. That’s right: Don Key. And yet even though he hates the name, and when people run it together as one word, and isn’t successful with it, he hasn’t changed it. It sets him up as a complete loser, and one you can’t quite believe in; because even the worst loser would have dumped that name early on… or never chosen it at all. Instead, it comes across as pandering to the younger demographic that the book is aimed at.
You also never quite feel like Ray’s character arc really gets moving. He perfunctorily moves from moment to moment, and when his “hero’s journey” gets moving, it reads in paint-by-numbers fashion. There’s nothing new or different about it, and when it comes to mastering magic and fighting a family-level evil, well, a lady named Rowling kinda cornered that market over the past decade.
Burns layers as much sincerity into the book, certainly; he never cracks the reality behind his story, investing it with all the belief in his characters he can muster. And artist Armando Zanker delivers some charming art. But these things aren’t enough to counter the deficiencies in the plotting and main character. We’ve seen much better out of Burns… and I’m certain we will again.