Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artwork: Carmen Carnero, Terry Pallot, Michael Atiyeh
Release Date: 16th December, 2015
Dragon Age canon. If there is one thing Bioware is outstanding at, it’s fleshing out the worlds in which their games are set. From Jade Empire to Mass Effect, the sheer volume of material created to solidify the realms their games inhabit is truly impressive. Dragon Age Magekiller is an official and licensed story set in the timeline just before the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
This, I think, is both a strength and a weakness. Having played and enjoyed the Dragon Age games, I’m conversant with the canon. Dragon Age is set in a world of charged racism and hatred, where polarised political, religious and social opposites struggle to maintain the status quo. There is an ever-present threat of the coming of the Blight (a Dark Age that you manage to stop when playing Dragon Age: Origins). Mages run the risk of Daemonic possession if they channel too much power, especially if they use Blood Magic, which sets them at odds with the Chantry (The Church of Andraste). There is rampant distrust between species (especially Humans and Elves), and I’m not even scratching the surface here.
That might give you an idea of why this series could potentially be a hard sell to someone who has never played the game. Fortunately for us, long-time fan and comic book alumni Greg Rucka is in the driving seat here. For the most part, he manages to explain some of these background conventions while still maintaining story. Whether it’s enough to preserve a readership of people who aren’t previously familiar with the games it’s hard to say. After several careful reads all the information is there, but whether it’s cohesive enough is hard to judge.
The story itself is simple enough to pick up; in it we follow a couple of mercenaries that kill blood mages for a living. The story is set in the human capital of Tevinter, a settlement that has a long and complex history in the DA universe. Marius is the stoic, silent type that gets the job done. Rucka said he was inspired by the suggestion of making Marius the DA equal of Boba Fett. That type of character archetype would make a good fit as a former slave of Tevinter and a trained Mage killer. Tessa is the public face of the duo that takes the bookings, handles negotiations etc. Fans of the games will immediately relate to Tessa. She does a lot of the narration in this issue, much like Varric does in DA2 and DA:Inquisition. In fact, Varric actually gets a name drop in the story that is quite fitting.
Rucka has managed to create a great dynamic between Marius and Tessa. It is here that the writing really shines, taking on a cheeky and playful tone. Tessa, voicing both sides of a mock conversation between her and Marius is pretty amusing. While this is happening they are both arming themselves to ‘greet’ an unknown person that has followed her back from the docks. By writing this scene in that manner we are shown a mutual respect and perhaps even a fondness and familiarity between our two central characters. It’s a nice element that builds their dynamic.
Carmen Carnaro has done her homework and manages to recreate the distinctive Dragon Age feel of the world. The settings and fashions would not look out of place in the game itself. I especially like the tone of movement she has instilled in panels where magic is present. From the trails of blood seeping from the cuts a mage makes in his/her arms, to the visual activation of that magic and the resulting spells, the mix of Carnaro’s pencils and some fantastic colouring by Michael Atiyeh is greatly satisfying.
Issue one of Dragon Age Magekiller is a modest start. Certainly, story is sacrificed some for content, but in this setting that is unfortunately unavoidable. Rucka has managed to place the details you need to know about the world of Dragon Age within this introductory chapter and still kick off the episode. Now that the groundwork is in place, I’d expect more story over world details in the following four episodes. Having a self-proclaimed fan of the series as the author – and that author being Greg Rucka – I’ll be expecting good things to come.
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The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.