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Mage: The Hero Defined #2
posted January 12, 2006

Creators: Matt Wagner
Publishing Information: Image Comics
Ordering Numbers:

I'm 28 years old, so I'm right at that age to have fond memories of the first Mage series. Of course, I haven't really read them in some time, either -- in fact, I'm not sure I even own them anymore -- but when I wasn't such a crotchety old man that I liked a much wider range of material, Mage and its groovy cartoon heroics hit the spot.

In this second issue of this second series, protagonist Kevin Matchstick and his new pal Joe Phat fight some harpies alongside new pal and fellow monster-hunter Kirby Hero. They win (sort of) and the Harpies' victim/slave claims to be the Matchstick's second magical teacher (the mage of the title), which they all pooh-pooh in a way that you're pretty certain that the guy is the mage in question. There's some glowering by a mystical bad guy, and a dollop of backstory.

These kinds of books aren't really my cup of tea anymore, but my feeling is that Wagner is producing pretty high quality genre work (the first Mage was a precursor to near-alternative independent superhero efforts like Madman) of this specific sort, but that so far Mage: the Hero Defined isn't the achievement on the (admittedly modest) scale the first one was. But hell, I could be wrong. Wagner seems to be telling his story so slowly this time around that it's going to be harder for anyone to judge the thing for a while.

The last page, by the way, introduces in full effect the new army of bad guys: flying, gray skateboard men with unfortunate lips. This is the second issue in a row where character introduction ended the story, as solid an indication as any that the series is going to move at a different pace than the first, which ended each chapter with a cliffhanger.

This review was written in the late 1990s as part of a then-ongoing freelance gig; I apologize if it reads oddly or seems incomplete.