Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 7/14/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / Spider-Bostie Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Before we jump right in, I just have to mention that Amy the Intern (my wife) and I went and saw Spider-Man: Homecoming this past weekend and we loved it. Amy actually said it was hands down the best superhero movie she has ever seen, which is high praise from someone who just saw and enjoyed Wonder Woman. I will definitely be buying Spider-Man: Homecoming when it comes out on Blu-ray. Anyhow…comics. I had four comics in my pull this week, two of which I have not yet had time to read, and the new issue of Deadly Class #29 by Rick Remender and Wes Craig is very highly recommended and amazing, but it’s the new issue discussed below that rocked the socks off the Donist World executive team. So, before you dive in, grab a tasty beer or refreshing iced tea, relax, and while you’re at it check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Friday Slice of Heaven

Mage: The Hero Denied #0

Written and Illustrated by Matt Wagner, colored by Brennan Wagner, lettered by Dave Lanphear, design and production by Steven Birch, published by Image Comics. Boy howdy, Denizens, I have been waiting a good long while for this one, and when I heard the news a few months ago that Matt Wagner was going to be releasing the concluding chapter of Mage, I had to check to be sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day or some such nonsense; it wasn’t. So, here we are in 2017, and I am super pumped to be holding a new issue #0 in my trembling hands.

This 12-page prelude is probably not necessary to jumping into next month’s 15-issue main series, but if you are a Mage fanatic like me, it is absolutely vital that you pick it up. It is also vital is that you start at the beginning of this epic hero’s journey in order to better understand, love, become frustrated with, and feel for our hero, Kevin Matchstick. The first chapter is Mage: The Hero Discovered (first half and second half), the second is Mage: The Hero Defined, with the third and final act being Mage: The Hero Denied. Again, you need to read these things in order. Trust me, you will be well-rewarded for taking the time to get to know the ragtag cast of characters and celebrate their tremendous victories as well mourn their terrible defeats.

All of that said — and there’s a whole heapin’ helpin’ more on the subject of Mage below — this brief reintroduction does not disappoint. As he waits for the big bad monster to make its appearance, Kevin meets a younger, newer hunter named Steeze, a big-talkin’, know-it-all with a ’90s-comic look and a skateboarding set of powers that work well enough, but his general lack of experience quickly puts him in harm’s way and it’s up to Kevin to save him. Kevin is older now, balding, and more confident, but still dresses in his standard black t-shirt with a white lightning bolt, jeans, sneakers, and trench coat. He also possesses some electrifying new abilities. He’s bad ass and he knows it…which has been a problem with Kevin in the past and looks to be a problem in the near future.

To put it mildly, I’m in.

Wagner’s son provides the lovely colors atop Wagner’s gorgeous art and from the very first page, I was brought back to the magical world of Mage as if the decades since the first issue had never happened. I am super excited for the emotionally-wrought final tale upon which we are about to embark. I know there’s going to be laughs and an equal amount of sorrows to follow in these final 15 issues, but I will be there, eagerly awaiting each issue as the epic tale of Kevin Matchstick finally comes to a close. I can’t wait! Magic is green, Denizens. Magic is green!


Mage: The Hero Discovered

Written and Illustrated by Matt Wagner, inks by Matt Wagner and Sam Keith, colored by Jeromy Cox and James Rochelle, published by Image Comics. I have made a HUGE mistake, Denizens. In all the years that I have been writing Donist World, with all the praise and love I have heaped on countless comics, I somehow failed to talk about the Mage series. I don’t know how I could have possibly missed mentioning this heavenly comic, but I’m positive it was originally on a curated list of comics to mention that somehow got misplaced. To be honest, when I saw Mage: The Hero Denied #0 in my poll, it popped into my head that I would definitely have to reference an early post where I gushed about this pivotal series. I did a search. It wasn’t there.

Let’s right this wrong.

I actually came to Mage a bit late. In fact, I first discovered Matt Wagner through his Grendel: Devil by the Deed collection which I received for Christmas back in the mid-eighties — I later went on to read and love Wagner’s Grendel series as well. Before that, it was an ad in the back of publisher Comico’s Elementals (written and illustrated by Bill Willingham) that initially put Wagner on my comic radar. Still, it wasn’t until my high school drafting class, after discovering a mutual love of Grendel, that my friend Billy sold me on the need to get into Mage.

Unfortunately, my LCS only had some of the back issues on hand, and they were a bit out of my price range at the time, but they did have the first (and only) two volumes of Magebook which collected issues 1–8. I devoured them with a feverish fervor and promptly read them again to tide me over until I could get back to the LCS and pick up issues 10 and 11 which were still on the shelves; it would be a while before I could get my hands on a copy of missing issue #9. The wait between new issues was painful, but Billy and I had much to talk about back in 1986, with the release of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, The Watchmen, Miracleman and Saga of the Swamp Thing blowing our minds. It was a damn good time for comics, one I doubt will ever be repeated, but Mage was there riding the waves of greatness along with the other big-time comics, yet never quite managing to garner the praise and acclaim those other books would go on to receive.

I can still picture seeing issue #14 on the new release table at Andromeda Books in Goleta, California, and the heart-skipping thrill of finding issue #15 on the stands at Andromeda Books in Santa Barabara; the story and art of each was more than I could have ever hoped for. By the end, I was a little heartbroken over the cost Kevin’s quest had taken upon him and those he loved, but his victory was still glorious, and I have reread this series every other year since it ended — come to think of it, I’m about due for another read. The best thing about the end of the final issue, though, was the “Coming Soon” page soliciting the next chapter.

11 years later, and after bugging the poor LCS workers for the first five of those years for news of Mage: The Hero Defined, it finally appeared at my current LCS, Metro Comics. Of course, there were the four, four-page installments of new Mage material in Grendel #16–19, that got me good and pumped early in those 11 years, but by the time I found an actual new zero issue sitting on the shelf, I had all but given up hope of seeing the second, let alone the third chapter.

Nearly a decade after Mage: The Hero Defined wrapped, Amy and I attended our first comic convention at the San Diego Comic Con, where I got to meet Matt Wagner and he graciously signed my Mage: The Hero Discovered #1 and 6, Grendel: Behold the Devil #0, and my hardcover Grendel Archives, inside of which he drew a quick little Grendel sketch. All of these items will be buried with me in my tomb at the time of my death when I turn 112. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is to meet one of your greatest heroes and find out they’re as nice of a person as they are a master of their craft.

The only negative I have to say about the current collections of Mage is that I prefer the original colors on the series, which I believe were achieved by Wagner blowing through a special type of marker to achieve an airbrushed look to the comic — it’s stunning, but whatchagonnado. At least I have all of the original issues, the two Magebooks, and the two softcover collections to fit my mood…all of which will accompany me in my aforementioned tomb.

So, that all said, what is all the fuss about Mage? What’s it all about? Well, I can’t say much other than it’s the story of Kevin Matchstick who’s down on his luck only to find that a chance encounter with a street beggar sets him on a path of heroics against the demonic forces of evil. On his journey, Kevin meets Mirth, Edsel, Sean, Joe, Kirby, and Wally and you will fall in love with them all. There is a twist to the story that occurs near the end of the first chapter, but I’m not about to spoil it for you. You MUST read this series, Denizens. It’s a Donist World Darling of the highest degree, and something ALL fans of great comics need to experience. It’s definitely one of my top 10 favorite comic series of all time and…actually, come to think of it, make that top five. You need to get on this!


Slice into the Woods

Please Just Put #45 and All of His Scum in Jail Already - Before they can commit any further damage. “Stupid Watergate” needs to end.


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