Back in 2005 Derek Landy dreamed of fusing his favourite genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction, crime, mystery, and comedy to create magical mayhem. Fast forward two years to a Skulduggery whirlwind which now numbers a full blown 15-book series with Until the End on its way in 2024, and spin offs including a Grimoire guide to the skeleton detective’s world. Landy’s fast paced formula of sarcasm, arrogance, banter, bone cracking action, diabolical double dealings and social commentary has attracted a large fan base. There has even been an immersive theatre event at Smock Alley in Dublin.
Hot on the heels of Landy’s involvement with Marvel comic storylines for Captain America, Ironman and Avengers, Skulduggery has now blasted into the glorious graphic world with the release of Bad Magic, a real treat for visual readers.
Set in the small town of Termoncara, described as ‘a quiet Irish town for quiet Irish people’ which has League of Gentlemen vibes, it’s visceral, vivid and emotive. A malign presence, fed by the demonisation of anyone considered different, has haunted the town for twenty years. The plot revolves around troubled teen Jamie, who has been keeping a secret, only to be preyed upon by a voracious monster named Mr Friendly, who is anything but. Bedecked in garish garb he resembles a crazy mash up of comic book villains The Jester and The Joker. Landy also ironically names the town’s suffix after the Irish word for friend.
Jamie’s plight attracts the attention of Skulduggery and Valkyrie who arrive hoping to vanquish the threat but will they be able to ‘meet, mock and maul’ this time?
The novel sizzles with the synchronised talents of dream team Holden, Soffe, Jones and Parr who whip up electrical energy throughout matching Landy’s pithy script with stunning graphics and eye-catching speech bubbles. A palette of murky green, steely blue, fireball orange, pulsating purple, livid lime and volcanic red, the eerie use of silhouettes, the clash of dark vs light and the dramatic slash style panels of converging monsters all communicate the idea of a malevolent force. Dynamic characters crackle in explosive panels portraying muscular combat sequences, with emotions ranging from abject terror, to determined defiance to vicious intent. Valkyrie’s feminist feistiness dominates in powerful lightning flashes reminiscent of X Men character Storm.
Underneath the fantastical world building is Landy’s political statement as he calls to account the hatred, anger, frustration and fear that creates monsters of the mind. Racism and homophobia are linked with guilt and trauma as the self-destructive inner demons born from prejudice are exposed.
This graphic adventure highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion. It will appeal to Skulduggery aficionados, comic book buffs and fantasy fans. It works as a standalone introduction to Skulduggeryverse and has an ending that promises sequels. It is not for the squeamish and is suitable for 14+ readers.