Writer/Artist: Matt Wagner
Colors: Jeromy Cox & James Rochelle
Inks: Sam Keith
After Kevin Matchstick meets Mirth, the World-Mage, he develops powers and discovers he is the hero who will fight in a war of good against evil alongside his companions, a young girl called Edsel, and a ghost named Sean, against the Umbra Sprite, a force of concentrated evil, and his five children, the deadly Grackleflints.
I did not have a pleasant experience reading Mage. I’ll get into why later in the review, of course, but to give away the game here, I didn’t like it. My conclusion was that it was clearly someone’s first attempt at a comic, that their writing and art would improve over time, and so I didn’t want this review to be too much of a take-down. In my head, I planned to curb my negative feelings, and try and focus on what worked more than on what didn’t. That changed upon coming to the end of the book, and finding out that Matt Wagner has been working in comics for 30 years, and that he started Mage near the beginning of his career, but will soon begin work on the end of the trilogy. Knowing that my review wouldn’t be a take-down of a new, if in-experienced creator, I feel free to be open with my criticism of it.
So, to be clear and without mincing words, Mage is terrible. Even for a first start, it isn’t acceptable. Characters appear in the story out of nowhere and with no context, and no one has a true reaction to anything. Of course, this is all hand-waved away as “magic” or “fate”. Characters are drawn with strange proportions and they all have weirdly “lumpy” faces. Backgrounds usually exist of single colors or gradients, with little to no detail. Mage has absolutely no sense of place or setting, not even the vaguest idea of a generic cityscape, just abstract colors with singular buildings appearing as necessary to the plot.
Action doesn’t fare much better, usually consisting of single images that have almost no continuity between them, with the only sense of movement coming in the form of big “Pow!” “Bam!” “Kaboom!” lettering. Whenever an action sequence lasts longer than a few panels, it inevitably becomes incredibly confusing and hard to follow, devolving into a character floating in space with big letters and no sense of what’s supposed to be happening.
The world Wagner creates is a cookie-cutter fantasy world with generic magic and characters with powers. It has no personality or unique factors, aside from maybe the Grackleflints. The villain is especially disappointing, at one point described as the embodiment of all evil, as bad as Nero, Hitler, Stalin, and Atilla combined. This…. Doesn’t mean anything and only serves to boil him down to generic bad guy. He works out of a big tower and wears a suit and says generic bad guy things.
Dialogue consists mostly of large amounts of exposition, extended character sequences that consist of characters talking directly to the audience about what they’re feeling, or excusing whenever the rules of the story as inconsistent. This is all done with pretty much no real sense of character or voice, and reads as someone with no idea what they’re doing. Rather than present the world in a way that reveals itself to the characters and audience over the course of the story, every so often there are huge blocks of text that plainly explain what’s happening in too much detail. Rather than developing a character through their actions, relationships, or dialogue in the usual sense, we get large chunks of text that plainly tell what characters are like, and inform us when they’ve changed. Instead of establishing consistent rules, far too much time is spent excusing why it’s okay for the rules to be consistently broken.
In short, even for an amateur story, Mage Vol 1: The Hero Discovered, is bad. I have no idea how Matt Wagner has improved over the years, or if the conclusion to the trilogy is worth reading, but this early work of his should be avoided.
Geek-o-Rama received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments and opinions are those of the individual reviewer.