Graphic Novel Review: Before Houdini and After Houdini

Before Houdini by Jeremy Holt

Synopsis:
The exciting second volume of the After Houdini saga explores the origins of the elusive master of magic, the man who would become…Houdini.

London, 1888. A shadowy killer stalks the streets of London, his appetite for blood unleashed upon the city’s lower classes. To defeat him, MI6 turns to its most top-secret team: four teenage agents with extraordinary gifts—including a young American immigrant with a talent for illusion . . .

After Houdini began the story of Josef Houdini, son of the famous Harry Houdini—brillian illusionist, acclaimed escape artist, and top-secret covert operative. Now we turn back the clock and meet Ehrich Weiss, a young man whose skill at picking locks is about to land him the adventure of his dreams, and pull him into a war that will affect his life—and his son’s—for years to come. This is the story of Ehrich’s strange beginnings, from before he was a world-famous magician. Before he was a master of espionage. Before he was…Houdini.

After Houdini by Jeremy Holt

Synopsis:
Harry Houdini, master magician and covert spy for the United States, has been kidnapped. The only man who can save him is his estranged son Josef, who, like his father, knows the power of magic—and how it can be more than just an illusion.

Josef Houdini takes after his father: A gifted escape artist, there’s not a jam he can’t get himself out of. Then again, when your father is one of the greatest illusionists of all time, that comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is the fact that Harry Houdini is not only the world’s greatest magician, but also a top-secret operative for the US government during World War I. In rare form he finds himself trapped—stuck on a mission he is unable to escape from. That’s why the government needs his son to fill his shoes and complete the mission—but does Josef have the wherewithal to do it? Or is the possibility of success just an illusion?

Review:
I was able to read these graphic novels back-to-back with no prior knowledge of the series. And even though After Houdini was published first, I read Before Houdini first. The villain is the main connection between the two stories. Young Ehrich Weiss (Houdini) is recruited to a secret organization within MI6 that deals with the paranormal. Then, in After Houdini, his son is recruited. I actually enjoyed the prequel a bit more because of there were other fascinating characters with abilities. And the story was even more thrilling.

While the stories are different, they both have the same mix of mystery and horror. And the suspense builds to dark but satisfying finales. The artwork certainly adds to the nostalgic feel, hard and edgy. Though, I had a hard time telling a couple of the older gentlemen apart in After Houdini, which was a bit confusing at times. I also wish we learned something more about the monstrous villain. I hope there is a planned continuation of the story in Before Houdini, as there seems to be a lot left to explore.

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