There’s no question in my mind that Dark Horse is doing the right thing by remastering and reissuing their back catalog of Masamune Shirow titles: Orion, Dominion, Ghost in the Shell. There’s also no question in my mind that Shirow’s books are a wildly uneven lot, and that’s why Dark Horse’s recent reissue of Shirow’s Black Magic is only of value to those who want every single one of his titles in a row on their shelf.
Magic is probably the earliest of Shirow’s works to be released in English, and its primordiality shows in every respect — artwork, storytelling, conceptualization, humor, the whole tamale. If nothing else it’s interesting because it shows how even in his earliest stages as a creator, Shirow suffered from the same limitations that also inhibited his later and more polished works. He spun out nigh-incomprehensible plots that seemed to be used more for atmosphere than actual storytelling; he created characters who were little more than mouthpieces of one variety or another; and he never met a whacked-out theory he didn’t like.