Over the weekend, I restarted trying to get books off of the tables, floor, and other places where I have them stacked and into some kind of order on my bookshelf (& when it finally fills up, I’m going to Walmart and buy new shelves until I get the books shelved or I run out of space in the house). However, I digress: my point is that I reread a graphic novel over the weekend and I will give a mini-review/impression of it.
Urban Fantasy, 1980s Style
Mage is an urban fantasy story before the term gained wide acceptance in the 90s. This volume, written and illustrated by Matt Wagner was collected from his comics and published in 1987. I, however, did not read it (or even know about it at the time). I discovered it through a later creation of Wagner’s, the Grendel series. Having bought on a whim an issue of Grendel, I was so intrigued that I actively searched out other works of Wagner. I’m not sure where I found this series (I have all three volumes–a used bookstore, a library book sale, or through Amazon), but I’ve owned these three volumes for a while now. Simply put, Mage tells the story of Kevin Matchstick, a hero who has to learn to be a hero once he discovers that he has “power” residing in him. This is a “hero’s journey” story through and through. What is remarkable is that it takes place in our world, in the 1980s, and features a fairly diverse cast (for the time period) with the African American young lady by the name of Edsel playing a pretty important role for much of the story.
An Early Work
I have to say that while I enjoy the story, it isn’t my favorite. Grendel was too violent (at the time), so I never really got into it after that initial exposure, although I will probably seek out volumes of it once I finish school. Grendel has a 1980s Robocop level of violence to it–or at least the issue that I read with Christine Sparr as Grendel. Mage, for me, was far more sanitized, but because it was an earlier work, the artwork was less detailed and the storytelling (both visually and through the narrative) wasn’t nearly as strong as I would have liked. Mirth, the mage character in the story (who takes on the role of a Merlin in the story–a wise teacher with magical abilities) is (in this volume) one big exposition dump. He “tells” Kevin everything and explains the rules/players in this story to him. As a matter of fact, Mirth has the largest dialogue balloons in the story. Still, it is a good fantasy story with definite shades of and nods to the Arthurian legend.
Overall Rating: B-
On GoodReads, I rated this 4 stars. If I could give a half a star, then I would have rated it 3.5. It is a good story, but there are so many small things that take away from it. The simplistic panel designs, the sketchy nature of the artwork, and the heavy reliance on Mirth’s exposition to get Kevin (& the reader) to understand the story just don’t work for me as much as I’d like. Also, while Edsel is a fully fleshed out African American character, two African American males do not fare all that well. Both are in a jail cell when Kevin is arrested by the police (read the story to see why), but both talk in a pseudo-African jive that was common for writers of comics to give characters of color at the time (tons of contractions, dropping the “g” for words with -ing). One even gets the fairly stereotypical name of Rashem, a name, while might be appropriate today due to people wanting “distinctive” sound names, otherwise would have been fairly uncommon in the extreme in the 1980s for African American. In the 80s, I knew a Reginald, a Curtis, 2 Ronalds, a William, and a Michael. My point is that distinctive names for African Americans were fairly uncommon at the time and for this reason, and all the other reasons, there are simply too many small issues that drag the story down and I can’t really rate it higher (and while researching the post, I saw that there are other editions available–don’t know if the issues have been fixed in subsequent editions, but I’m reviewing what I believe is the first edition of the story).
Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:
- Purchase Dragonhawk on Amazon.com (Paperback) or Kindle
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- Purchase Ship of Shadows on Amazon.com (Paperback) or Kindle
- Purchase Faerie Knight on Amazon.com (Paperback) or Kindle
- The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
- I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
- Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel
(Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
- HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19