It is a bold choice to eschew an exposition or preamble to Dragon Age: Magekiller #1. Those familiar with Bioware's fantasy universe will be comfortable with the terms and concepts being thrown around. Others will have to infer. Luckily, Greg Rucka uses his characters to invite readers into a tale of Dragons and Ages by shining a spotlight on one of the world's darker corners. Not too dark though, if this first issue is any indication. Our heroes are Tessa and Marius, cohorts in a very niche subset of assassination. Marius is the experienced killer to whom Tessa defers. Tessa is the people person with a wit and irreverence that casts her as the appropriate narrator for a fantasy book. She keeps things from getting stuffy or too self-serious. You can guess by the title that our Magekillers specialize in putting down typically hard to kill magic users, for a price.
Cost quickly becomes a theme in this issue. Magic, its use, and its abuse come with a physical and social price. Marius hunts mages for his own reasons and isn't driven by money, resulting in Tessa's repeated griping. Life and freedom have inherent value, it seems. Some things have more value than money and life's protection is reward enough to Marius.
A lot of what we can ascertain about him comes through visually. His body language is stern and reserved. He's illustrated as a barely contained bundle of high-tension muscle and deep thought. In action, Marius takes the lead and dispatches targets with uncommon skill, if not ease. He's a mystery. But Tessa handles a client interview with suspicion, humor, and compassion. She's easy to figure out, at least from a first impression. And she is, for her part, the more animated and friendly of our heroes. This partnership carries the narrative quite well.
Though it should be noted that the story itself is pretty light. It's a very briskly paced setup meant to establish the nature of our protagonists. The plot is bare. The cliffhanger leading into issue #2 feels like it could've been a mid-issue plot point. Rather than being a slow burn, this issue feels like it's holding back and killing time, allowing the occasional mention of DA lore and a few character moments to hold your interest. Rucka is mostly successful in that regard.
Overall, Dragon Age: Magekillers #1 starts something interesting but stops just short of fully earning your time. I hesitantly recommend checking it out even if the continent of Thedas is your second home. My recommendation is built largely on expectation for future issues and the promise of further developments.
Dragon Age: Magekiller #1 Writer: Greg Rucka Artist: Carmen Carnero and Terry Pallot Colorist: Michael Atiyeh Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/16/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital