Mage: The Hero Defined
by Matt Wagner
(Image, 2000)

When Mage: The Hero Defined begins, a few years have passed since the conclusion of Mage: The Hero Discovered. Kevin Matchstick, the modern bat-wielding incarnation of Arthur Pendragon (and possibly Gilgamesh), is more confident and dedicated in his personal war on evil beasties. However, he has lost the guidance of the wizard Mirth, now traveling in the company of the speed-racing Joe Phat, whose roots lie in Native American trickster lore. And he encounters other incarnations along the way, foremost among them Kirby Hero, the Olympian, who has a dozen labors of his own to complete.

There's new evil afoot, of course. There's witchery, and romance. And maybe a new mage, Wally Ut, although Kevin doesn't want to believe it.

The Hero Defined is a more polished tale than its predecessor. The story is more serious, but at the same time shows more wit. The characters are at times a bit more exaggerated and over the top, but they also seem more solid, more real. Writer/artist Matt Wagner, who was just finding his footing in Discovered, is on a firm foundation in Defined. The book is a lot of fun to read, and the world Wagner has created seems to have endless potential for expansion and exploration.

Unfortunately, Wagner is himself no figure of legend, and his more mainstream successes in the comics world have diverted his attention from Mage. A third series (The Hero Denied) is planned, but there is not even a tentative date set for publication to begin. We can only hope some muse decides to sit on Wagner's shoulder and encourage him to give us more Matchstick sometime soon.

by Tom Knapp
7 January 2006

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