Saturday, February 07, 2009

"Post No. 607"

The runs of Matt Wagner's Mage finally came in and I've read them all. There was two sets; one was the 8 issue Image reprint series of the original 1980's 15 issue Comico title: Mage the Hero Discovered, and the second series was the Image 15 issue run of Mage the Hero Defined.

Honestly, I had not read the original series since I originally purchased them in the 1980's. They were published at a time when we had a neat comic shop in Bowling Green, KY., called "Hard to Find Books", where I (as well as many of my local comic collecting buddies) would weekly visit to purchase whatever new was out. Comico was a relatively new publishing company at that time, and I had purchased other titles by them, including Comico Primer, in which was the first place I'd ever seen any work by Matt Wagner in a strip called Grendel.

When Mage came out I already knew I liked Matt's work and took a chance on the first issue. I was very delighted with my choice as I really got into this storyline of the reluctant hero, "Kevin Matchstick", and amoured with the other characters such as "Edsel", "Mirth", and "Sean" (the ghost) as the series continued.

When this series finally came to an end in 1986 or so with issue #15, I was happy to read at the end of this that there was another series planned. I had to wait a long time until I finally got to read it, however.

Published a good ten years ago, I just read "The Hero Defined" this past week.

Now there were several things that I liked about the original series. The artwork, for one thing, was really good and the coloring was excellant, and when Sam Kieth came onboard with issue #6, the pencils got really tight and rivialed anything that any other comic book publisher had on the stands at that time.

The characters all seemed to mesh really well and play off of one another. When Edsel died towards the end of this series, I had a genuine sense of sadness at her passing.

One started getting the hang of what this series was all about after more than a couple of issues. It wasn't just about some guy who discovers he's some sort of super powered hero, but that all of the characters in this play represented reincarnations (if you will) of other legendary beings. Mirth was "Merlin", Kevin was "Arthur", and even Edsel was "The Lady of The Lake", and the weapon she carried (a baseball bat form of green magic) was actually meant for Kevin, and in the final issues turned from green to white as we learned that this was a representation of the sword, "Excalibur".

Re-reading this I got, not only more the second time around, but that same joy I received when I read it twenty some odd years past.

I'm afraid that I can't say the same for "The Hero Defined". Although it was pretty decent, storywise, the pencils were nowhere as tight, and the coloring was distracting in places. But kevin emerged into a character that I didn't think him to be; that is, somewhat selfish.

In this second series (the above cover just being one that I liked a lot), "Mirth" (at first) is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Kev's traveling the country with his friend, "Joe", who is the reincanation of "Coyote" (his powers being that he can run really fast). In this saga he meets up with other hero reincarnations such as "Heracles", and "Prester John". He meets an old bum who claims to be his new mentor, which Kev takes pretty lightly until later in this series.

Kev meets a giant married to a witch, and then one of her sisters from a coven of with which he falls in love. He fights some nasties that turn out to be old villians, and finally becomes the hero he was meant to be, but not without some tragic loses of friends along the way. And finally discovers the truth behind what magic's supposed to mean. Finally, in the end, he grows up.

There's a third series of "Mage" that's planned by wagner, not yet published, called "The Hero Denied", and I'm hoping that perhaps when he decides to do this one, he'll drop a slew of his other projects to concentrate on it and bring it back to the greatness of the original run. (Perhaps, even REdo the second series.) I'm still a fan of Matt's work, and a fan of the "Mage" characters and stories. Hell, it still beats 90% of what's out there.


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