For nearly 30 years, Magic: The Gathering has defined and set the standard for trading card games. The team at Wizards of the Coast have consistently iterated on not only the deep and complex gameplay, but the world, the characters and the lore of Magic. For the uninitiated, in Magic, you are a Planeswalker, able to bounce around the Multiverse pulling together creatures, spells and artifacts (the cards that make up your deck!) to do battle with other Planeswalkers. In Magic, the Multiverse is an extremely clever concept because it allows the game’s designers the freedom to explore different genres of storytelling and develop game mechanics that are based around that theme. It also makes for a great place to have other creators come in and expand the world beyond the borders of the cards.
Magic #1, written by Jed MacKay (Marvel’s Black Cat) and illustrated by Ig Guara (Marvel’s Ghost-Spider) provides an excellent introduction to the Multiverse. The opening narration explains that the Multiverse is expansive, with limitless possibilities. “On each [Plane], the little dramas of lives and deaths play out,” the narrator goes on to say. It’s an interesting way to frame the story that’s about to unfold, basically saying this is just a small part of a far-reaching world.
We open up the story in Ravnica, a plane known for its planet-sized sprawling city and its ten guilds. Guara gives us a dragon’s-eye view of Ravnica, its impressive architecture and impossibly floating rock structures. We then bounce seamlessly between the three leads, Kaya, Ral, and Vraska. They’re Planeswalkers and Guildmasters on Ravnica, not only are they strong warriors and spellcasters, but they have a ton of political power as well.
MacKay and Guara are in perfect sync with this introduction. Bouncing between the three leads allows us to not only see more of Ravnica’s structures, but what makes them unique from one another. We zoom in slowly over a few pages, and you can feel the restraint and tension being built, until BOOM, an attack is simultaneously unleashed on the Planeswalkers, and we see how each reacts and combat the threat differently.
The action is very much character-driven. Kaya feels underestimated and her up-close-and-personal fighting style reflects that. If the assailants survive the fight, they know exactly who she is now. Ral is a scientist who thinks three steps ahead of the enemy, simultaneously fighting them off and giving orders to his assistants to prepare the lab so he can unleash a huge final blow. And finally, Vraska is ruthless. She moves slowly and effortlessly disposes of the enemy, turning them to stone.
Guara and colorist Arianna Consonni create vibrant and exciting fights that show off each character’s powers and personalities in a variety of ways. From the framing and panel layout to explosive energy and dynamic colors, Magic #1 is truly a visual treat.
BOOM! Studios bills Magic as a series “perfect for new readers and long time fans.” It’s hard to tell at this point if that’s the case. I’ve been a fan of Magic for about a decade now, and I’ve only scratched the surface in my knowledge of the game and its intricacies. I believe the team is doing their best in terms of context and characterization to get new readers to care about the story they’re telling; on the other hand, I could still see the sheer amount of new proper nouns being a barrier to entry.
Also, maybe take a page out of the upcoming Batman / Fortnite comic and offer fans new and old a code to redeem for some packs or cosmetics in Magic: The Gathering Arena. Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy cracking a digital pack every now and then? Surely it can’t just be me!
Even without any fancy incentives, Magic #1 is a strong start and another great addition to BOOM! Studios’ already impressive catalog of licensed comics. Jed MacKay and Ig Guara have tapped into what makes Magic such a popular and enduring game. The marriage of action and character shows what a deep appreciation and understanding the creatives have for the game and the franchise as a whole.
Magic #1 is out in comic book shops on April 7, 2021.
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