Mage: The Hero Denied #1 (Image Comics)
Matt Wagner’s Mage series has been one of the longest running series in comics, despite having relatively few issues out. What started as his take on the Arthurian legend has spanned decades in comic book time, and the wait for this third (and final) installment, The Hero Denied, has been pretty long. So long so that I don’t really remember much of what happened in the previous series, The Hero Defined. Luckily though, Wagner’s third volume is easy to pick up and read without having to go back and track down those early issues.
Kevin Matchstick has been living a relatively quiet life with his family. The demons and monsters that he used to battle haven’t been seen for years, and he’s finally found a place to settle down. Everything has been normal, until he notices a few strange looking creatures while walking with his son in the park. Realizing that the forces of evil have found him yet again, Kevin Matchstick must return to battle the demons that not only threaten the world, but now his family as well.
Matt Wagner’s script does a spectacular job at not only setting the stakes for Kevin now, but also showing how much he has changed since the last volume of Mage ended way back in 1999. Kevin is a lot older now obviously, but seeing him care for his son and family is a really intriguing way to set up a whole new world of stakes for our hero aside from him just being older. A lot of times when a creator returns to a story after a long break the book doesn’t feel the same. Luckily that’s not the case here; Wagner hasn’t lost his edge at all.
Wagner also hasn’t lost his artistic style either. His art is still the same Mage style that the series is known for, and Wagner’s gift for cool creature designs is on full display when Kevin is attacked at the park. Wagner also has a lot of fun teasing the members of Kevin’s family, and has a fluidity to his art style that makes a strong case for a Mage animated series on FX or Adult Swim.
After such a long break, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that Mage: The Hero Denied would be a bad comic. But I can faithfully say that Wagner’s return to the world of Kevin Matchstick is pretty damn great. Wagner seems to be pulling out all the stops for this final volume in the Mage saga, and I can’t wait to see what he’s got planned.