REVIEW: Mage- The Hero Denied #1

It’s a journey that began over thirty years ago but finally, Matt Wagner has returned to his original creation MAGE to bring us the final chapter in the trilogy, THE HERO DENIED.

In the years between the series, Kevin has gotten married to his love, the witch Magda. They have two children and seem to live a simple life without the challenges of monster fighting and adventure. Until a chance visit to a park with his young son changes all that as Kevin is placed back into conflict with the forces of the Dark Umbra spirit. We learn that the Umbra has been reborn in a female form and has five creepy looking daughters known as the Gracklethorns.
Kevin no longer needs his baseball bat Excalibur and can channel his power into any object. But unlike the previous chapters, at this point the “Mage” of the title is nowhere to be found. Kevin had refused the assistance of the previous mage avatars Mirth and Wally, and now that he needs the help, it’s not available to him.
Also over the years, Kevin’s motivations have changed. At first he didn’t believe what was happening to and around him, and refused the call to action. In the second tale he refused a normal life and fought on and on because he thought that was his only purpose. Now Kevin has found a real and lasting happiness with his wife and family that he’ll be forced to defend as the story continues.

MAGE is a hero’s journey, and a hero’s journey is an allegory for growth and maturity. The hero, Kevin Matchstick, may be an avatar to King Arthur but he’s Matt Wagner’s alter ego as well. The reason it’s taken this long to tell the tale is that Wagner himself had to grow and change, have a family and come to grips with new responsibilities. This informs his work, which is a modern mythology, with truth and honest emotional hooks. His artwork has grown in leaps and bounds since the original tale, but it still retains a style that is all his own, distinct and easily recognizable. Even the colors are literally of Wagner’s own creation, as his son Brennan has taken on the role of colorist.

I’ve been collecting comics for a lot of years, and I’ve been following this adventure since the beginning. Matt Wagner’s work on MAGE and GRENDEL were my ‘gateway drugs’ to independent creator owned comics. I honestly didn’t think this story was ever going to be finished, but this comic was worth the wait. And you can guarantee I’ll be picking up every issue that follows. So until next time, remember, magic is color and color is life.

ART- 5/5
STORY- 5/5
COLOR- 5/5

Review by J.P. Harvey

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