After what seems like a pretty long time Mandrake is back with the third issue in his first story arc. On a side note I have to mention that recently I saw an ad in my local comic store promoting King-Dynamite “Four Books at number 4” this month. Sure enough two of those books did come out during the month but the other books were months old. I don’t know if they were advertising reprints or just making you aware of the back stock your comic store might have but I thought it was weird. What the hell is up with this publishing schedule? How is anyone supposed to get into these books when they can’t be counted on every month? Almost all of these titles debuted when I started reviewing for Comic Bastards and as I am wrapping up my 8 month stint here in these illustrious Comic Bastards halls the highest issue count any of these books have is 4. Half these books haven’t even finished a first arc yet. If I was planning this brand everyone would have finished a solo first arc and we’d already start intermingling characters in a second arc with an eye towards wrapping the second arcs and ending the year with a series of Annuals bringing everyone together and debuting a brand new team book next year. That’s what I feel should be happening and instead we get a rushed, halfhearted 3rd act in a 4 act story that tells me nothing about nobody. I was very into the Pulpy-verse when it happened, it was something new, a little different and there was so much potential. As a fan it’s frustrating to see all that potential get whizzed down the collective leg of King-Dynamite. That’s my rant on the Pulpy-verse in case I don’t get a chance to say anything more about it, now on to Mandrake. In Prince Valiant #2, Mandrake shows up and in that small amount of time, in someone else’s book, we get a fully realized Mandrake. We see his personality, we get to know him and we get to like him even though he’s trapped inside a velociraptor. Yes, that was a thing I just wrote. I don’t know the Mandrake in this book, I feel like I would be contradicting myself if I said that they have never given him much characterization (I feel like in issue one they may have) but certainly nothing has come from the last two issues. That’s another problem with this weird publishing schedule, issue one was almost 8 months ago, I don’t care how strong your characterization is the last time we saw the character was over a half a year ago. Even if issue one was strong with the issues being so far apart you need to make sure the characterization is strong every. Single. Time. I got nothing from this issues Mandrake and I don’t remember getting anything from last issues Mandrake and I barely remember anything from issue one in general. The characters in this issue have no difference between each other and the things happening have no gravity or importance.
The issue ends with Mandrake’s mortal enemy Acheron either possessing or taking the place of Narda who is Mandrake’s ex-wife/current antagonist/wannabe world leader. I don’t care. They did a better job setting up Mandrake and Acheron’s rivalry in Prince Valiant #2 than they have in this whole series. I know they hate each other because they tell me they hate each other. There is a scene in this where Mandrake talks about fighting Acheron for the body and soul of Narda, but the implication is that they hated each other before even that. In the context of this book I don’t really know who Mandrake is, who Acheron is, why they are mortal enemies, why I should care or why it has any relevance to the current story.
Beyond the basic plot confusion I don’t know what Mandrake’s powers are. Prince Valiant #2 gives me a pretty good idea what his power set is but here I have no idea. I know there are vague consequences to using magic, but he also talks about having already paid a price for using magic. Does that mean he can’t use magic anymore or does that mean he can use it irresponsibly like a pre-paid phone? Metaphorically speaking has that magic phone been used up or can he still send mystical dick pics to his demonic Tinder girls? I don’t know. What are Karma’s powers? What can she do? It seems she can move power around but that wasn’t the impression I got from what I remember in the last two issues. What is the extent of her power? How powerful is she? I know nothing. I can’t express to you how not fun reading something that doesn’t make any sense is.
Why does this even get a two? The art is okay. The art is totally different from the last issue which adds to the feeling of zero continuity from issue to issue but this art is more my style of art so subjectively I like it more. The art is okay and while bland the story isn’t gibberish. I recognize the words as English and they are arranged in ways that form sentences. That’s mean, I’m sorry. I guess it gets that extra point because I still feel something for this world and I desperately want to feel something for this character. I still see the potential there because it’s done in other books. I mentioned Prince Valiant #2 several times, if you want to see what not only Mandrake can be but even the Pulpy-verse as a whole, then read that because that’s King-Dynamite firing on all cylinders. I don’t know what to say about these other books, I hope they can keep up the quality on Prince Valiant. I think the biggest knock against this is the momentum lost between issues when it takes so long to produce. Any strong story or characterization from issue one has long since dissipated leaving this issue feeling bland and unnecessary. This is a hard pass.
Mandrake The Magician #3 Writer: Roger Langridge Artist: Felipe Cunha/Ivan Rodriguez Colorist: Omi Remalante Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 8/12/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital