Since I was a kid, I’ve always been fascinated by magic. I mean, what’s not to love about wizards and witches and dragons and all of the awesomeness involved with the fantasy genre? But since I’ve been reading in that genre for most of my life, it’s also a lot of fun to read stories which poke fun at all the little tropes that have manifested over the years. This week, I’m looking at the new-ish series, written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Ryan Browne, called Curse Words. This is the first creator driven series I’ve read by Soule (my previous experience was with his Star Wars: Lando Calrissian series) and it’s good to see him playing with old standards for a little fantasy romp.
Curse Words begins with the appearance of a wizard in present-day New York City. Wizord has come to earth (specifically Central Park) with a very specific mission. After just a week on Earth however, Wizord abandons his old mission and presents himself to humanity as their savior from the dark forces. As the story reveals, Wizord may be a bit less than truthful about his intentions but it’s pretty clear that he enjoys Earth significantly more than where he came from and he’s not inclined to leave any time soon. But his old world isn’t quite ready to let go and Wizord must deal with the consequences of his attachment to Earth.
Curse Words is one of those series that I think will appeal much more to people who aren’t me. There’s a lot to love about this new series. Wizord is absolutely not a standard good guy, he’s got a terrible past and he has a tendency to not think through consequences when he does things. So if you like unreliable narrator type characters and protagonists who don’t always walk the straight and narrow, Wizord will be your guy. His sidekick Margaret acts as his conscience and is eminently more likeable than Wizord. It’s frankly a wonder she doesn’t kick him in the pants sometimes. Not to mention the other wizards who make an appearance in both volumes of the story and are more interesting than they appear at first. Soule is good at drawing out the ties between the characters and the history of Wizord in a way that makes the reader constantly want to know more. And I loved the way that magic worked in both the old world and the new for Wizord.
However, I ended up not loving this series because if I don’t like a protagonist, I just struggle to connect with the story. And in this case, I really didn’t love Wizord. While I can appreciate that his personality is such that he makes reckless choices and doesn’t always respect others, I got frustrated with his lack of thinking and empathy and it made it difficult for me to care about what happened to him. By the end, I cared significantly more about the secondary characters than about Wizord. This isn’t a mark against the series so much as an acknowledgement that it’s just not a series that’s going to be near and dear to my heart.
I did absolutely love the art by Ryan Browne though. The colors are vibrant and I loved the way each of the wizards involved with Wizord had kind of their own color scheme and style. Browne’s style tends toward realistic rather than comic and it suits this fantasy in the real world sort of story very well.
Curse Words is a darkly amusing, fun fantasy adventure that plays with a lot of the tropes of the genre. It’s not for the squeamish or the prudish but it will appeal particularly to fans of dark fantasy and satire along the lines of Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett and Joe Abercrombie. It was not for me but I’d still recommend checking it out if you tend to like these sorts of stories.