Like Supergirl: Being Super earlier this year, Mystik U is an Elseworlds tale, released in prestige format, which blends the worlds of superheroes and YA fiction into something that really works so well.
In a world where the supernatural cast of the DC Universe are either graduates or teachers of the mysterious Mystik University, the book opens with a few years post-graduated Zatanna faced with the world as we know it coming to an end. An all-encompassing power known as The Malevolence is destroying everything we know and love, and not even our most powerful Mystics can stop it… So a plan is hatched to send a message back 7 years in the past to stop The Malevolence from ever becoming the power it is.
Of course, 7 years ago takes us back to Zatanna just as she finds out she has magical gifts and is admitted by Dr. Occult to Mystik University! Because someone in the halls of Mystik U is harbouring the power that will bring The Malevolence to life. It’s a fun setup to let us explore the relationship, teen angst extravaganza of the weirdly ‘magical’ mashup of the supernatural DC and YA, with a looming threat to allow for that extra hint of drama.
Alisa Kwitney’s sensibilities with these characters is the big draw here though. The balance of keeping the traits of famous DC characters like Zatanna, Enchantress, Sargon, Sebastian Faust and others intact, while also crafting believable and interesting to read teenage versions of those characters, is incredibly admirable. Her writing keeps the perfect balance of fun, dramatic, heartfelt and just that drizzle of cliché to keep what we all love so much about teenage drama and relationships feeling fresh and… . It easily lives up to many other greats like DC’s own Gotham Academy.
Plus seeing characters like Dr Occult, Cain and Abel, Madame Xanadu, Mr E and many other greats in this setting as University staff was brilliant and still just as true to their characters!
However, the book’s biggest letdown would be the story and pacing surrounding these characters. While it was always a delight to read Zatanna and her new pals and possible love interests, the story moved way too quickly for my liking. It many cases it felt rushed, as we rapidly moved from orientation day to meeting the characters to introducing the frenemy to the sad back-stories to having Zatanna’s celebrity status shown to establishing the friendships to the making-out to the magical threat and sub-plots. You get the idea. It felt like Kwitney needed more pages to let her story breathe as she set up the series ahead.
Also, while that dialogue was great, some scenes felt unearned as things jumped to their natural conclusion without the steps leading to that conclusion being explored or given the emotional weight they needed. It gave the issue a weird mixed-bag feeling that left me partly in-love, partly disappointed and partly excited for what’s to come next. And, given the huge amount of setup done in this issue, it does mean that the next two should be absolutely stellar.
Mike Norton’s pencils are a delight here too, and the perfect fit for these young magicians, with every face so expressive and dynamic, and every costume and action given the right amount of flair and flourish to make a delightful and easy to follow experience for the reader. Plus amazing rendering of the magical spells themselves. Jordie Bellaire’s colours shine as usual, breathing life into every aspect of the page, and giving grandiose to the magic spells that burst forth from the page.
In the end however, it’s easy to say pros do outweigh the cons. And I think the best way to look at Mystik U #1 is fun but flawed.
With some pacing issues and rushed character moments, this issue isn’t perfect. But Alisa Kwitney and co. provide plenty of great moments, heartfelt dialogue and a fun story with some real bite. If Mystik U #1 sounds like it would appeal to you sensibilities like it did me, you will certainly still find a lot to enjoy in this issue, and the love and character that ooze from this book make it an easy recommendation.
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The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP