Using the backdrop of the first World War in this tale of espionage and magic, Holt sets a steady pace in developing a context and set up for the story. Reminiscent in tone to the pulpy penny dreadful of an older time, Holt creates suspenseful atmosphere when a mystery man pays President Woodrow Wilson a visit pertaining to an urgent telegram he has received.
Creating a compelling curiosity, the reader is left to wonder what sort of urgent matter this mystery man has alluded to in his shadowy visit to the President. Holt manages to capture a tone and feel in the dialogue that feels right while setting up the next transition scene to Moscow.
Talk turns to the Czar and his trust in famed snake oil peddler Rasputin as two Russian guards take pause to drink at their local watering hole, with one of them finding reason to abuse a vagrant outside of the bar. It’s at this point in the story that a more particular audience schooled in modern history can grasp some of the nuances and innuendo of how this second scene works to possibly set up the third and final part of the story.
The vagrant performs a magic act that leaves the guards bereft of an important set of keys that seem important to the plot, but still unclear of how it plays into the bigger five-part series After Houdini will be. And with this interesting interlude, where is this story headed?
What if Harry Houdini had a son, and if he did, would he be a chip off the old block? It’s at this point that Holt introduces the main character of Josef Houdini, the illegitimate son of the great Houdini. This development recaptures reader interest and shows that Holt is simply applying a slow burn to the story’s unfolding in this first issue to set up an intriguing premise.
Artist Kevin Zeigler adds some solid artwork to After Houdini, helping tell the story with the playful tone from start to finish. This approach works best in the last part of the story when Josef is introduced.
While the story does not immediately grab readers, Holt’s approach to storytelling requires patience to allow him the opportunity to show what can be done with its intriguing premise. Typically, I would expect a mini-series to go for the jugular in the first issue, but there is a lot of promise in its direction.
As an added bonus, his pulpy back-up story Primordial offers more mystery and intrigue, which makes this first issue of After Houdini an incentive laden read. Illustrated by Isaac Goodhart, it also looks to be headed in interesting direction that makes picking up After Houdini #2 a worthy consideration. It’s currently available for purchase.