In the world of Dragon Age from video game developer BioWare, magic is alternatively feared, distrusted, worshipped, and hunted to extinction. There’s excellent reasons for all of these, each with convincing arguments, but most of all it makes life for mages and those that deal with them on a regular basis quite dangerous. This is what makes Dragon Age: Magekiller #1 from Dark Horse and its pair of mage hunters, Tessa and Marius, fascinating.
The new series comes from the creative team of Greg Rucka (Lazarus) and Carmen Carnero (Cyclops), which marks a departure from the previous team associated with the Dark Horse Dragon Age comics. Specifically, David Gaider, a BioWare employee that served as Lead Writer for the franchise up until early 2015, wrote everything Dark Horse has published up to this point in the Dragon Age world. That’s an awful lot to put on the shoulders of a new team. Rucka and Carnero are no strangers to working together, however, and it shows.
Magekiller #1 takes place before the events of the video game Dragon Age: Inquisition, though later issues will reportedly eventually run concurrently to some important events from the game. But really, it’s all about Tessa and Marius - both of whom we first meet as they take down a blood mage who has apparently kidnapped a young man. The full-page spread where the two are introduced for the first time is just glorious. The red accents, cast by the glowing magic, are particularly well done. It’s clear from the start that they mean business, and that something isn’t quite right about Marius - and in Dragon Age, that almost always spells tragedy.
One neat aspect of the issue is that most of the narration, words, and general viewpoint come from Tessa. Through her, we get a better look at the troubles inherent to the duo’s lifestyle like the potential for old grudges to resurface. It’s through using Tessa this way that we also come to understand that, though they might be partners, she doesn’t know everything there is to know about Marius. There are questions still left to be answered about the time before they knew each other.
What we do see and learn of Marius is mostly through his deeds. In the first issue, it’s clear that he can go up against a blood mage on his own and stand toe-to-toe with them. That’s not something every denizen of Thedas, the major continent featured in Dragon Age, can claim, even with some initial help from Tessa. The layout of the battle pages also indicate just how powerful Marius is when pushed, and that power always comes at a price. The latter just permeates the issue from start to finish.
For the most part, what’s shown or hinted at of the Tevinter Imperium, which seems like it’s going to be a major plot point in the comic going forward, is entirely new. The games haven’t really explored that area, and any of the assorted extraneous material doesn’t do so at great length. So, Rucka and Carnero must do so without much definitive ground to stand on, and yet it already comes across like an empire with vast political machinations in motion before, during, and assumingly after the two visit.
But perhaps what’s most impressive is that the first issue manages to introduce a complicated and detailed setting without being overwhelming. Folks familiar with Dragon Age, and even those who are not, should find themselves enthralled with what’s already been presented. In the end, both should be left wondering the exact same questions - what exactly is Marius? Who are they supposed to kill? And more importantly, why?
Dragon Age: Magekiller #1 is available now from Dark Horse for $3.99.