Published on December 8th, 2017 | by The Riz0
Mage: The Hero Denied
Kevin Matchstick returns in Matt Wagner’s epic Mage: The Hero Denied to fight beasties, protect family, and fulfill his destiny…most likely…when he figures it out…
Matt Wagner has been responsible for some of comic’s most successful owner-created titles, including Grendel and Mage, before working on DC’s Demon and Batman. Before Todd McFarlane founded Image Comics to be the champion of creator controlled content, Matt Wagner was writing and drawing for Comico, changing the landscape and boundaries of story-driven superhero comics.
Mage follows the exploits of re-incarnate King Arthur, Kevin Matchstick, on his quest to defend the world against ‘beasties,’ discover his campaigns, and deal with other appearing re-incarnates. Matchstick can turn anything he touches into an energy filled Excalibur, originally an ever-present baseball bat as his weapon of choice.
Mage: The Hero Denied, the closing chapter of the Mage trilogy, takes place ten years after Mage: The Hero Defined where Matchstick has married his girlfriend Magda, settled into the role of stay at home parent, and doing his darndest to raise two children.
Of course, when you are the present re-incarnation of Arthur Pendragon and Gilgamesh the Sumerian, searching for an undiscovered third Mage, looking for guidance from an enchanted debit card, protecting The Fisher King from being killed, whose blood would tip the scales towards darkness in the ongoing war of good versus evil, while your wife is a witch who has been brewing a “once and for all” protection philter almost to completion over the last seven years, the family dynamic is a bit more dramatic.
When a character makes an appearance once a decade (Mage: The Hero Discovered (1984-1986), Mage: The Hero Defined (1997-1999)) it is a wondrous celebration mixed with slight trepidation, like the annual staff ugly Christmas sweater party at the boss’ house with the flirtatious partner; if the story works then sing choir of angels, if the story doesn’t work then gnashing of teeth ensues.
Mage: The Hero Denied is like a best friend that, even if you haven’t talked to them in many years, the conversation picks up right where it left off, a relationship not tarnished by time.
This book reads, looks, and feels how a Mage title should read, look, and feel. Though his art has refined, Wagner retains his personal aesthetic from start to finish, from over-all style, story pacing, and dramatic lettering, giving the sense that readers get to drop in, borrow a cup of milk, say “hi” to the kids, and see how the incantation is coming along.
In a time of reboots, revamps, and remakes, it is refreshing to have a continuation, a sincere new chapter from a much-loved, much-revered storyline.
As Wagner’s most personal and auto-biographical character – to the extent that plot points are metaphors from his own life – Matchstick has aged and matured in real-time, no longer rocking the combed back ponytail of yesteryear. (The hair loss also ties into a past story line, but you can deep dive that one, if you like).
He retains the same Thunderbolt t-shirts and green cargo pants as yesteryear, so it is nice to see some things don’t change.
As an extra auto-biographical meta-touch of art influencing life influencing art, Wagner’s son Brennan Wagner (excellent first name!) is the colourist on the book, literally having, as Wagner has said, “grown up in the studio,” now working on his father’s fabled epic.
When I came across Mage on the shelf, I spontaneously declared, “I’ve never been so happy to be the target of mid-90s nostalgia marketing!” or something along those lines. I truly felt, in that glorious, unscripted few seconds, I got to live the life of a Kevin Smith character.
And I am still so happy! Mage has heart, action, humour, and a clever array of glowing, energy charged weapons.
Mage: The Hero Denied is a natural chapter in the Kevin Matchstick epic. Get on your thunderbolt t-shirt and hunt down a copy today!
Mage: The Hero Denied is a fifteen part monthly mini-series through Image comics, currently on issue four, available now at your local comic shop. Mage: The Hero Discovered and Mage: The Hero Defined will be re-released during the run in new trade paperback editions.