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Mage: The Hero Discovered, Vol. 1 Paperback – June, 1986
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Top customer reviews
Our hero, Kevin Matchstick, is a skeptic and cynical young man. Upon meeting acuriously inquisitive but good-natured and clever unknown bum, he unexpectedly opens up to him.
No wonder though, because that would be Mirth, the world mage, and he has come to awaken the power Kevin has always had inside him, because he's needed in a crucial moment of the everlasting struggle between good and evil.
The Umbra Sprite and his offspawn, the five Grackleflints, born with piosonous spurs on their elbows, are after the Fisher king, whose death would greatly advance the powers of darkness. Kevin (maybe somewhat influenced by Donaldson's Thomas Covenant? Hard to tell...) jons the fight, aided by a young black girl named Edsel and the enigmatic ghost lawyer Sean Knight.
The reborn Pendragon's growing pains (and oh, what pains they be!) are deftly narrated by Wagner's pen and pencil, as he slowly unfolds his craft and tale before our eyes.
It's a beauty to watch this blooming, but already almost fully fledged talent flex his wings and take flight.
The flawless pacing (and critics be damned: The pacing here is nothing short of perfect) drags along the reader, perfectly enmeshed in Kevin' own skepticism, as all pieces are quietly, amost pensively set on the chessboard: The Umbra Sprite's increasingly dangerous machinations, the suspense of the search for the Fisher King, Mirth's painstaking care in awakening Kevin's power and awareness, Kevin's own growth into this new role. Pretty much aganst his will, he becomes the natural born leader the Pendragon was, not without Wagner simultaneously giving us some funny and precious humourous moments, which will be melancholically appreciated as the series takes a turn toward the dark halfway through its run.
By the second third we have our heroes going to the Umbra Sprite's very lair, lose one of their number to a dragon, Mirth going into hiding and coming back to save Kevin's life, and still slowly all moves forward to the conclusion of our hero metaphorical coming of age.
The pacing Wagner has chosen for the Mage series has often been subject to critique.
Honestly, these people most definitely never read a Bendis book, in which plot and dialogue are overblown and spread over 4 times the necessary space. Or they've never read Frank Miller's best work, where Wagner takes some of his cinematic layouts from.
Wagner takes Miller's paneling into a slower and at the same time less fragmented pace. A lot happens in the book, it's just not much in the action sense and that is not a bad thing at all, as Mage is not an action book. Sure there are fights, but that's not the whole point.
Wagner makes a beautiful job of fusing a few biographical elements and a lot of Arthurian lore and northern European mythology into a very contemporary epic, of which this massve tome is only the first part!
The collecton itself is a beautiful package, reprinting the 1998 eight prestige format books. This means that the reader gets to enjoy what would now be called a DVD-style commentary on the creative process, the circumstances of the book's original 1984 run (including getting none other than a young Sam Kieth on-board as inker) and so on. Sadly, includng typos and without any editing to match the context of this new collection, but it's pretty much the only gripe I might have with an otherwise perfect book.
Matt Wagner is one of the most underrated and most unique voices in US comics: This book is a grea chance to get in at the fantastic start of an impressive career!
Kevin Matchstick was an ordinary man who wanted nothing more than to mind his own business. During a stroll one night (under the influence?) Kevin stumbles upon a rather eccentric homeless man, and they engage in a brief philosophical debate over happiness. The man hints that Kevin's life may be destined for something greater, and then he disappears, leaving Kevin flustered and confused. Soon after, Kevin finds himself breaking up a mugging. The assailant is a mystical creature in disguise: a grackleflint. Kevin dispatches of him and calls for help from the police. When he returns home, the homeless man is there waiting for him. He introduces himself as Mirth, and becomes a bit of a spirit guide for Kevin the reluctant hero. Kevin finds himself in the middle of a great war. Under the guidance of their father the Umbra Sprite, the five grackleflint brothers are hunting down the Fisher King, the being who represents the force of light in the universe. It's up to Kevin to stop them from reaching their goal. He's joined in battle by Edsel, a young lady wielding a mystical baseball bat, and Sean, a ghost of a recently departed public defender.
The Umbra Sprite throws everything he can at Kevin: ogres, dragons, and demonic armies of little RedCaps. Ultimately, Kevin must infiltrate the Umbra Sprite's lair at the Styx Casino and bring it down to finish the war. As he approaches his final destination, Kevin's friends disappear one by one, until he is left to face the challenge alone with the knowledge that he is the reincarnation of Arthur Pendragon, legendary king of England.
Matt Wagner makes deft use of mythology and Gods in his retelling of the eternal story of the Pendragon. It's amazing to see the correlations he draws in our modern society. While the first few chapters tend to labor under the weight of the massive epic to come, once Wagner gets up to speed, it's a sight to behold, a gauntlet laid down for future generations of storytellers. The second installment of this epic, Mage: The Hero Defined was finished ten years after the completion of The Hero Discovered. Fans anxiously hope that the conclusion, Mage: The Hero Denied, doesn't take another ten years.