Boom’s Magic the Gathering #1 Thoughts

Comic publisher of the Magic the Gathering comic series.
The bringers of Magic #1!

I am a casual Magic the Gathering fan, *I say as I look at hundreds of dollars worth of cards*. I used to be really into the game for a hot minute. Wizards of the Coast had me entranced by the cool cards and the flavor text, I’m a simple lad. Plus, it gave me something to do as my jerk-of-friend wiped his ass with every deck I made. That means, for me, a more story based expansion of this universe would always piques my interest. A comic book specifically would grab my attention and hold onto it.

Boom! Studios has been hitting it out of the park lately. There’s been a real influx of star-writers and artists starting their own new ideas there. I’ve finally jumped into critically acclaimed series like Something is Killing the Children and Once & Future (reviews coming), but this is the first series to grab me from the start. Magic the Gathering feels like the perfect IP to get comic readers who weren’t into Boom!, to check them out.

History Gathers

Back of a Magic the Gathering card.
I’ve spent so long looking at the back of these cards.

Magic the Gathering, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a competitive card game that dates back all the way to 1993. For almost 30 years, Wizards of the Coast have kept this card game alive and populated with a vibrant community. They’ve created memorable characters, detailed worlds, and deep magic systems to run through it all. It just hasn’t been utilized to its full potential. 

What story can really been told through a card game? No insult to the game, I was addicted to it, but that’s not an easy way to tell a story, let alone digest it. There have been some good books and old comic adaptations, but nothing stands out. With Boom!, it seems like no better time than now to tell a quality and sprawling story within the MTG universe.

Writer Jed MacKay and artist Ig Guara, I believe are readying up to give us that, but not quite there.

Magic Writing

The story opens with a whole lot of exposition, rushing to set up the basics of the world so it can waste little time telling the story MacKay wants to tell. This causes the first issue to suffer from pacing issues, where it can feel really slow at times, before rushing at break neck speeds. It’s almost out of breath by the time we get to the end, where the action isn’t hitting as hard as it should.

The opening page of Boom's MTG comic.
This page should be allowed to speak for itself.

MacKay’s story would improve if he would make the characters say more with less words. We don’t need the characters telling us what they are, and we don’t need an exposition dump of the world of Magic the Gathering. Yes, new people will likely pick up this book without knowing the game, but dumping exposition isn’t going to draw them in.

There did not have to be several pages explaining the status quo of Ravnica. The pages were beautifully drawn, but they would be better with half the narration.

Yet, that doesn’t dissuade me. This first issue feels like a sacrifice to set up three fan-favorite Planeswalkers as the main characters to go on the magical journey we want them too.

Planeswalkers Gather

The Planeswalkers of Magic the Gathering.
The Planeswalkers have arrived.

Where the plot fails, the Planeswalkers themselves, Ral Zarek, Kaya, and Vraska don’t. MacKay is quick to establish their personalities, but Guara matches them to their background. Ral Zarek is a scientist, Mackay didn’t need to tell us this so blatantly it, but the way Ral weaves magic in Guara’s artstyle is not like that of a warrior. Guara draws this Ral as meticulous creator, utilizing knowledge, not wielding a weapon. These  beautiful panels help me buy this more than MacKay’s less than nuanced lines.  

Guara’s colorful art truly makes the world bounce off the page. It feels both stylized, but simple and easy to follow. Nowhere in the book is that more true than with Kaya. She’s an assassin, in charge of a cabal of “priest and bankers, ghosts and gangsters.” MacKay is better with her than Ral Zarek, matching her bark to her bite. She overtalks in her fighting like Ral does, but she’s particularly biting. With the way Guara draws Kaya in battle, overcome by her magical aura, she feels as experienced as MacKay is trying to tell us she is. 

But Vraska is my favorite. This queen and assassin, in charge of the Golgari Swarm, never wastes a word. MacKay is far less exposition-y with this hero, if at all. With the other two, the book tells us who they are several times. It reads as if MacKay is trying to sneak in information about their characters, but without any nuance. Vraska is the opposite. 

Vraska speaks as she does, with purpose. I can tell she’s protective, not because she said she was, but because she acted prove to be so.

Her abilities are woven well into her dialogue even when they’re not shown on screen. Through well-written dialogue, I know she has some kind of ability to turn people to stone, and not just because she said she could. So there’s potential here with MacKay’s writing.

I’m willing to forgive a lot for this first issue. This isn’t award-winning stuff like some of Boom!’s other fair, but it’s fun.

Magic the Gathering Made Fun

More than anything, this issue is trying to be fun. Every page pops, even generic bad-guys who would look lame in another artstyle, look cool. This first issue may have rushed to get us to the adventure, but that can spell out as many good things as it does bad. 

With nothing but adventure and action ahead of us, this story is going to start and never stop. The Planeswalkers have gotten away from their jobs as Guildmasters and are now working together. We can expect them to get right into fight, do some magic, and explore the worlds we’ve played in for so long now. 

The question remains, how expansive is MacKay going to go with his story? I can’t wait to see characters and factions I’ve always wanted to see actually do stuff in teh story. My favorites were always the Vampires, the Werewolves, and the Angels. We already seen hints of Eldrich beings, I would especially love to see Sorin appear after my variant cover has him right on it.

Sorin, a black colored vampire planeswalker from Magic the Gathering.
Lets get some black color Planeswalkers in here. Specifically Sorin, he’s my favorite, he’s a vampire, it’s on brand.

I want to give this new series a chance. I have so many mixed feelings, there are a lot of positives and a lot of negatives. The art is fantastic, and the writing could be better, but at the same time the worst feels like growing pains. 

I wouldn’t write off the series just yet. I would check it out, and stick around to see what’s in store, because there’s the potential for a good Magic the Gathering series.

Which Planeswalker would you want to see join the book? Interested in more reviews? Check out our blog here.

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