A few people mentioned Jillian Tamaki as a clever and interesting artist and writer, and I had seen some of her art in a few different places, and I liked her style. So I picked up SuperMutant Magic Academy as the only one obviously containing science fiction or fantasy.
The series follows the magical high school life of Marsha as she attends the SuperMutant Magic Academy. It’s a blatant and shameless rip-off of Hogwarts—there’s even a scene showing a castle in the background that looks very much like Hogwarts at night. Marsha also has a striking resemblance to Harry Potter sans scar. The resemblance to that popular series, however, is very superficial.
This is a collection all of the webcomics from the series, as well as some extras to tie up the “story”, such as it is. While there is definitely a passing of time, there is no overarching plot. The only thing that comes close is the occasional focus on Marsha’s crush on her roommate, Wendy. The rest of the characters come and go. It almost felt like the angsty teen dramas I tried to watch when I was much younger. Like my experience with them, SuperMutant Magic Academy just never fully grabbed my attention.
There are some bright moments in this collection. There were several of the comics that made me laugh out loud. The majority of them were either far too existential and absurdist for my taste, or just didn’t hit the mark with the humor. Tamaki has a very surreal approach to storytelling, and that doesn’t always work for me. She even ventured into a bit of nihilism, which (appropriately) I find a bit too depressing.
Tamaki is good with the pen. Her style is simple, yet strong. Bold lines mix with a delicate touch, and when she is on her game, she creates some beautiful frames. It was a mixed, bag, however. The consistency throughout the book was all over the place, rather than showing a solid progression as the characters became more familiar. This contributed to my being generally whelmed (neither over- nor under-) by the book.
In the end, SuperMutant Magic Academy ended up being only slightly above average for me. I could see the potential there for something much better, but the depressing nature of the story just didn’t work for me. Perhaps it will for you, but I can’t recommend this book as I didn’t enjoy it all that much.
Release Date: April 28, 2015 (USA)
ISBNs: 1770461981 (9781770461987)
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (occasional smoking and drinking)
Language: 3 (several F- and S-words, regular minor expletives, regular deity)
Nudity: 1 (very brief, done for humor)
Sexuality: 2 (a lot of innuendo, catcalling, occasional make-out scenes)
Violence: 2 (one character dies regularly, morbid humor, assault)