“Hey Pally, you’d better button your lip see, or you’ll be zapped by a boiler and end up sleeping with the fish people…” While that isn’t a direct quote, it sort of sums up Machine Gun Wizards in a single sentence. Christian Ward’s book epitomises the idea that stories don’t need to be multi-layered, vastly complicated tomes to touch you in all of your special literary places and leave an indelible mark on your soul. They just need to spin a good enough yarn to knock your socks off and stretch your imagination in new and exciting ways. And Machine Gun Wizards does just that by ticking a whole bunch of “That’s so darn cool” and “Wow, why hasn’t anyone thought of doing that before” boxes.
Based around the relatively simple idea that magic rather than alcohol was the drug of choice in prohibition era Chicago, Machine Gun Wizards transforms the Untouchables into a high octane, pistol packing Lovecraftian adventure full of double dealing, backstabbing, treachery and blood soaked action and mayhem. It’s all about Elliot Ness facing off against Al Capone in a spell based war for control of the city’s streets. There’s a whole load more, including parallel words, a heartfelt ode to fifties inspired science fiction and the sort of period centric art that makes fanboy and fangirl’s explode with joy, to Ward and Kivela’s book than that, but that’s what’ll initially drag you in and, ultimately, leave you wanting much more.
Machine Gun Wizards genuinely feels like it’s been ripped straight out of the pages of Weird Tales or Amazing Stories and is one of those incredibly inventive ideas that you almost can’t believe no-one has dreamed up and run with before. An alternate history potboiler that owes as much to the pulp tradition as it does the maverick forefathers of modern science fiction, Machine Gun Wizards reminds you why you fell in love with this medium in the first place as it absolutely adheres to the golden rule of comic books. That is, that anything can, and should, happen in the four colour universe and the worlds, and their history, that it creates can be whatever they want to be. Abracadabra ya filthy animals… Tim Cundle