By Ben Snyder
Mage: The Hero Denied #1 is an enjoyable if not extraordinary entry to a seemingly average story. There’s nothing offensive or amazing in Mage; it’s just simply there.
Matt Wagner handles both story and art for this story and does so with success. We pick up midway through the life of Kevin Matchstick- aka the reincarnation of the Legendary Kind Arthur. As we are told in the introduction, Kevin is obviously a character that is struggling to understand his destiny and purpose in life. And the story pretty much plays out like an extension of said introduction. Kevin has a family and seems pretty content if not bored. Unfortunately, his past catches up with him and his family has to flee again. But throughout it, all Kevin seems just to be going through the motions, like he has done it so many times before.
While the story attempts to hit lofty goals of success, it unfortunately doesn’t succeed. As stated before, it’s not that the story is terrible or poorly written- it’s just nothing amazing. It’s fairly predictable and often times unclear. We get a glimpse of the main villain and Wagner treats her introduction as if we are supposed to already know their past. It gets murky especially when Wagner introduces Umbra’s five daughters (are they the offspring of Kevin or Umbra?). Perhaps we’ll get the answers in later issues with further clarification, but after reading the first issue I can’t say that I am driven to learn the answers.
Similar to the story, Wagner’s art is just average. Maybe that is what Wagner is trying to convey about Kevin’s day-to-day life as when the tone shifts to mystical things get a little more interesting. The ghouls and serpents Kevin dispatches with ease in the park offer some hope for creative future character designs. Watching the action play out was enjoyable as well, especially seeing Kevin turn an average branch into a lighting-sword-Frisbee-thing.
However, the character designs of the main villains look cookie cutter by comparison. Umbra Sprite looks like your average evil savvy businesswoman, except she has glowing uneven eyes. The smoke pluming from her mouth obviously is meant to resemble a dragon, maybe that transformation will prove to be more interesting. Similarly as bland are the Grackthorns (also what kind of name are the Gracklethorns?). They look like an unimaginative five piece Goth all girl band that a record company put together, except they have grey skin and the glowing eyes of their mother.
Mage: Hero Denied #1 isn’t a bad comic at all. For the most part it is an enjoyable read. However it suffers from an intense case of “Seen it before”. From it’s cookie cutter character designs to it’s contrived dialogue its just painfully average. That’s why I’m giving it a 2 out of 5, not because it’s bad, but because I feel like it could do so much more creatively.
Mage: Hero Denied #1