Review: ‘Magic’ #1, The Balancing Act Is The Real Trick Here

A new beginning for the pop culture phenomenon of Magic starts here from Jed MacKay (Marvel’s Black Cat) and Ig Guara (Marvel’s Ghost-Spider), perfect for new readers and long time fans.

Across the vast Multiverse, those gifted with a “spark” can tap into the raw power of Magic and travel across realms — they are Planeswalkers.

When coordinated assassination attempts on Guildmasters Ral Zarek, Vraska and Kaya rock the city of Ravnica and leave Jace Belleren’s life hanging in the balance, a fuse is lit that threatens not just these three Guilds, but the entire plane of Ravnica.

Now these three must covertly infiltrate the wild plane of Zendikar and form a tenuous alliance to uncover why the targets of the assassins have all been Planeswalkers which will lead them straight to one of the most enigmatic characters in Magic history!

One doesn’t have to know how to play Magic: The Gathering or even be familiar with the game to understand what’s happening in BOOM! Studios’ Magic #1. The wildly popular collectable card game has built its own sprawling mythology since debuting back in 1993 and this isn’t even the first time a comic book based on the property has been attempted. Those attempts have been met with varying degrees of success with many of them ending up in bargain bins. With Magic: The Gathering, it’s really about the cards.

This is the first time, however, that a comic book version of the game has been done with a true sense of potential. Players of the game, myself included, will recognize the main characters: powerful beings who can “walk” between the different planes that reside in the Magic: The Gathering multiverse. Also recognizable is the story’s main setting: the city of Ravnica (with a slight detour to the selectively gravity-defying plane Zendikar). Magic #1 is a solid, fun first entry in the most recent adaption of the Magic: The Gathering game.

Three of those planeswalkers, the ghost-assassin Kaya, the regal gorgon Vraska and the storm mage Ral Zarek, are all targeted in a coordinated attack sent out by a mysterious antagonist that could have ties to a foul, powerful race of corrupting monsters called Phyrexians.

(For those of you who are familiar with the game and its characters, we see a marquee character, the mind-sculptor Jace Beleren, get pummeled.)

To the uninitiated, it might all seem a bit confusing, but writer Jed MacKay does an expert job of getting the reader up to speed on what’s what. It helps to have a sense of who these planeswalkers, inky villains, and the peripheral backdrops and abilities are and can do, but it isn’t necessary.

Much like viewers of the Marvel cinematic universe can keep track of the characters without knowing too much of its characters’ backstories, so can those unfamiliar with the Magic: The Gathering universe understand what’s going here and fill in the blanks for themselves. For example, we can guess why there’s an awkwardness between Jace and Vraska without having to spell it out.

MacKay’s writing is elegant and tight, but at times flirts with a clumsy, familiar kind of catch-up expository dialogue (especially in fantasy titles), such as Vraska telling a would-be blind assassin, “I’ve crafted more deaths than I can count. YOURS WILL NOT BE REMEMBERED,” or Kaya saying to one of her own attackers, “AAGH! A ghostblade. THAT’S more like it. It won’t save you, but I’m a little less insulted.”

There’s really no way around it: that kind of dialogue serves pertinent information (such as the attackers having previous knowledge of the planeswalkers’ weaknesses) while introducing multiple characters throughout the issue without overloading attention spans. It’s a balancing act that MacKay walks deftly here and it’s the biggest evidence that BOOM! Studios chose the creative team for this title wisely.

Plus, much like any beloved property, it’s really neat to see familiar facets of certain cards pop up (Is that a Phyrexian Obliterator? A Walking Ballista? Did she just “Kaya’s Wrath” that guy?).

With a Netflix series of the property executive produced by Joe and Anthony Russo coming soon, Magic: The Gathering is a property that’s long-overdue for franchising. MacKay’s writing and Ig Guara’s art serve as notice that they intend to give this title the proper gravity. I’m curious to see how they all put together such a sprawling, almost monolithic, set of established storylines and mythos into a streamlined and effective narrative.

Heads up to the collectors, specifically that of Magic: The Gathering: there’s quite the cabal of variant covers available in, appropriately, a wide variety of rarities. So, happy hunting.

Magic #1 released April 7, 2021 by Boom! Studios, written by Jed MacKay, art by Ig Guara, colored by Arianna Consonni (Arancia Studios), lettered by Ed Dukeshire, designed by Scott Newman, assistant editor Kenzie Rzonca, editor Amanda LaFranco, supervising editor Bryce Carlson, cover by Matteo Scalera with colors by Moreno Dinisio, variant cover by Junggeun Yoon, hidden planeswalker variant covers by Miguel Mercado, Magdalena Pagowska, Taj Tenfold, unlockable variant cover by Matteo Scalera, character design variant cover by Ig Guara with colors by Tamra Bonvillain, and magic pack variant cover by Mirka Andolfo

A new beginning for the pop culture phenomenon of Magic starts here from Jed MacKay (Marvel’s Black Cat) and IgCOMICONRead More

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