2 out of 5
An unfortunate misfire on all fronts, though it finds footing in its final section (…once all the heavy plotting legwork is done).
I have no experience with the game this was meant to be a prequel to, or with Ed Greenwood’s games, so it’s possible I’m missing some context here that might’ve helped me to enjoy this. But I didn’t sense any kind of referential writing that suggested a need for prerequisite knowledge; I suspect this was written to be read fresh. Either way, that’s the perspective I’m reading from.
There’s lore I’m doing a disservice to with this summary, but Mages of Mystralia mostly boils down to a magic-using King gone mad in his quest for more damn magic. As plagues and trolls trouble the land, the King views any requests for aid (from his people; from his battle commanders in need of support) as threats to his pursuits, and does a mad King bit in response.
This is all precursor for, presumably, the setting of Mystralia the game, which would take place sometime after these events, when magic is no more and hints at a re-emergence. Looking at the GN’s extras, which feature some character designs from the game, you can sort of get why this was a hard comic to visualize, as it’s a serious sounding storyline done up in a cartoony style. So: Lumberjanes Carey Pietsch lends her bubbly figurework to the story, and when things are calm, and only feature a couple of characters, her dashed personifications work really well. As events streamline toward the conclusion, I really appreciated her take on things. Alas, that’s not the pace of the majority of the book, due to all the plague-ing and troll-ing and mad magic-ing, and Pietsch drops a lot of linework when the panels are busy, making things look too congested and a little sloppy. Match this to Brian Clevinger’s zippy pacing – cutting back and forth between scenes, page to page – and it’s an incredibly choppy read. It’s admittedly a lot of characters and material to cover, but had Clevinger stuck with any given scene for a bit longer before shifting to another, it might’ve steadied the tone / established the characters a bit better. Tess Stone’s lettering adds another mismatched sensation, as it’s stuck between Pietsch’s style and the somber tone; the letters are way too big and bold for the latter, but also take up too much space for the former, since Pietsch is not a fine-line drawer.
I definitely got a sense of the history built in to this, and, as mentioned, once we get to where we’re going, the dialogue and art start to carry more weight, but overall, this is a project that feels like disparate pieces jumbled together.