It Takes a Wizard begins as Escape From New York with a mystical twist. In Thomas R. Hart’s version Manhattan has become an island beset by demons and their fantasy creatures. A point in the Holland Tunnel from the mainland is an invisible line after which science no longer works, and where magic prevails. Issac Silverberg, a man associated with an atrocity several years previously, is adept with magic, by human standards at least, and is sent into Manhattan to retrieve the abducted daughter of a high ranking official.

A lot of the early part of the storytelling is left to artist Sean Lam, who has to convince us what Manhattan’s now like, changed into a grim environment suited to goblins, harpies and trolls rather than humans. This is achieved as we follow Issac’s journey into Manhattan and see what he sees along the way. He almost doesn’t make it, and ius rescued by a confused, but still capable young woman called Hope. Lam employs a loose style, his black and white pages good on movement, and while heavily influenced by manga art, his is a more detailed variation. When all hell breaks loose, Lam’s there to draw it creatively.

When the introductory journey is followed by flashbacks, extended a little too far, regular fantasy readers may believe they’ve figured out where the plot is going. The quest has been begun, our fallible hero has been introduced, the villain appears smug, and even though there’s already been one surprise, a pattern has been established. The truth is that Hart is likely to have fooled most of his audience. Perhaps the most audacious aspect is the fusion of Christian religion with the end of days scenario. It’s not just a passing whim, but fundamental to much of It Takes a Wizard once it gets going.

For all that, the pacing is off. Hart will forget characters for dozens of pages at a time, prioritising comedy relief that’s not as funny as intended. He’s also prone to over-explaining, often via the cast talking to themselves. The dialogue is a weakness throughout, arch and pompous on the part of the villains, and the Issac too tortured. These flaws, however, don’t destroy what’s a plot fundamentally good and unpredictable enough to overcome them. The extended climactic sequences continue to surprise, as Hart delves into human philosophy while all around Manhattan is going to hell, and cleverly works the beginning into the end. Stick with It Takes a Wizard through the down times and you’ll be rewarded in the end.