• Mage The Hero Denied #4

    Mage The Hero Denied #4
    Released by: Image Comics
    Released on: November 15th, 2017.
    Written & Illustrated by: Matt Wagner
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    “Following yet another attack from the fairy realms, Kevin Matchstick must comfort and explain the reality of magic to his young son, Hugo. Meanwhile the Gracklethorns continue to prowl the inner city’s homeless shelters in their merciless search for the mystical Fisher King. Frustrated by failure, the Gracs persuade their Umbra Mother to lay an elaborate trap in hopes of flushing out their prey. In order to buy time, Kevin convinces Magda that The Pendragon should again return to the Nasty Hunt, setting himself up as a decoy and drawing their enemy’s attention away from home.”

    When this fourth issue begins, Kevin is face to face with Ereshkigal, the ‘mistress of the underworld… queen of the unending dead’ and honestly, she’s not quite what he expected. He was anticipating something bigger and scarier. Regardless, she explains what summons has brought her here, and how as he drew her to this place, she’ll be wreaking vengeance upon him. He pays this no mind until she addresses him as ‘Sumerian’ at which point, he realizes she knows more about him, about his past with Kirby, than she should. He tells her he is simply ‘The Pendragon’ but it’s not soothing her – she pulls back her veil to reveal spiders for eyes at which point her legions of the dead attack.

    Matchstick isn’t impressed – zombies don’t frighten him… until he turns around and realizes how many of them there are. But Matchstick is resourceful, and soon enough he’s doing battles with the hordes of the undead that Ereshkigal controls. And then things get weird – a motorcycle pulls up, driven by a massive man clad in black wearing a horned metal helmet accompanied by creatures that look to be half man, half dog. Ereshkigal uses this distraction to her advantage and gets the upper hand, but when she threatens his family… well, he doesn’t like that.

    Nicely building off of what came before, the bulk of this issue revolves around Kevin’s conflict with Ereshkigal – which sounds simple enough, except that it points at bigger things. She’s a far more intense threat than he first assumed and he knows, given who and what appeared during their battle, that she’s not the only one after him right now. Clearly he’s got the safety of his family front and center in all of this, that’s why he split from them, to keep them safe from harm – but is he strong enough to keep them safe? That’s really what’s at the heart of all of this. It makes for pretty solid storytelling, it makes Kevin relatable (that’s always been a big part of what has made Mage a great read – his humanity) and it makes him interesting. As such, by the time that this issue has ended, yes, the fight is over, but that plot is pushed forward, Kevin is changed by this. As he should be.

    Wagner’s artwork is every bit as good as his writing. There’s great detail, good movement and some genuinely fantastic (and sincerely creepy) character design at work here. Wagner’s sense of humor also works its way into the book more than once, both in terms of the writing and in the illustration – there are a couple of laugh out loud moments here, but they never feel forced or gimmicky, rather they suit the story and the character. Great stuff – bring on issue five. This series, so far, has been well worth the wait!