It’s funny that Magic: The Gathering is enjoyed by so many people who don’t realize there’s a decades-running story. The tales of the Planeswalkers, wizards who can casually step between dimensions, has continued in books, comics, and in an upcoming Netflix animated series. And against all odds, the story behind Magic, is pretty good. So when you see the name on the cover of the latest “Magic” comic is Jed McKay, one of the hottest writers in comics right now, you gotta check it out, right? “Magic” is pretty cool!
Written by Jed McKay
Illustrated by Ig Guara
Colored by Arianna Consonni
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
After paying the ultimate price to defeat the mad god, Marit Lage, Planeswalkers Ral Zarek, Kaya, and Vraska return to Ravnica… and the plane closes behind them!Now a new stranded trio of Planeswalkers — the combustible Chandra Nalaar, the monster tracker Garruk Wildspeaker, and a debuting, mysterious Planeswalker — must find their way back to Ravnica! But even as they gain foes and friends in new corners of the Multiverse things are worse there than anyone could imagine… as they uncover the plot of an old enemy to manipulate aether on a scale never seen before!
In “Magic” #11, the story focuses on Chandra, who is a pyromancer in addition to being a planeswalker. McKay doesn’t really write bad dialogue, so the comic is a pleasant and easy read. In light of his other work though, it’s strange to see how novelistic McKay’s script for “Magic” #11 is. There’s a lot of exposition to get through- the issue needs to establish that it’s been three months since the battle of Amonkhet, and that our story begins in Urborg, which in turn is located in Dominaria. Then you get a bunch of information on who lives in Urborg and a bit of history.
That’s a lot! It’s a good thing that McKay is a very economical writer because otherwise, this would be a bunch of fantasy gobbledygook. But that economical writing comes in caption boxes, over Ig Guara’s art. Artwork is a major component of Magic: The Gathering, and plenty of wonderful artists have drawn legendary encounters and quiet landscapes. Guara is plenty talented. He’s got a fun cartoon style and his characters are very emotive. His movement feels a bit more static than other fantasy comics, but he captures big moments very well.
It’s a shame then, that scenes like that exposition don’t have a little more fun with the setting. There’s are a lot of blank backgrounds, a lot of smoke, and a lot of bright lights. Drawing a comic is a tremendous amount of work, and I’m not here demanding that every panel be stuffed with detail, but there’s a version of the script that lends itself better to this no-limits setting. Establishing pages could be infused with more personality. We could see a couple of key panels where our characters look like they are actually in a real place and not a black box theater. There are comics where that style would work nicely, but Magic is all about a diverse universe of wild dimensions. I bet all but the most die-hard fans would mix this comic up with Arcane or The Witcher or any number of other popular fantasy series.
And yet… I’ve been that die-hard Magic fan. I’ve fallen in and out of it over the years but in 1997, I was obsessed with the tales of Sissay and Gerard and the crew of the Weatherlight. I reveled in friends recounting whole plots of Magic novels. And “Magic” #11 takes place around the Stronghold, an evil citadel that has changed hands many times in the greater story, but which was the focus of the cards and stories published in the late 90s. Nostalgia can be powerful folks, and I found myself getting very excited.
As a comic book, “Magic” #11 is somewhat limited. Both McKay and Guara are capable of excellent work, but this issue lacks the impact you’d wish it had. Guara’s style doesn’t quite work, and McKay’s script seems to play to his weaknesses rather than his strengths. And yet… and yet… I had a lot of fun with “Magic” #11. Because while not always the best example of technical comic book achievement, McKay and Guara are here to entertain, and in that regard they do a great job. And plus, it’s a story about Chandra, who is both literally and figuratively a hothead; she’s a great character!
Those curious about the ongoing Magic story could do with checking out this series. This issue isn’t the best thing the creators have put out, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had. There are also novels! And that upcoming cartoon! The multiverse of Magic is an exciting place and at the very least, this issue was a reminder that I want to spend more time there.
Final Verdict: 6.6 – A fun messy issue that won’t change your life, but will probably make you want to read more.