The “Magic: The Gathering” comics continue to tell the story of Planeswalkers and Marit Lage, carrying on to follow Liliana Vess and her quest. A new planeswalker has entered the playing field, and not all may be as it seems… so does that make for a good comic? Let’s find out.
Written by Mairghread Scott
Illustrated by Fabiana Mascolo, Kath Lobo, Roberta Ingranata, Michawl Shelfer, Mariano Taibo, Lea Caballero, and French Carlomagno
Colored by Francesco Segala and Gloria Martinelli
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
Lilianna brings the recently-awakened planeswalker back to Strixhaven, where her unique powers stun even the world-class magic scholars!
However, something makes Liliana uneasy about this mysterious figure, and with ancient forces circling, Liliana finds herself at the crossroads of an interplanar decision.
All the while, the scheming Master of Metal, Tezzeret, may have his own plans for the planeswalker, and his home plane…
Now, full disclosure: I’ve only just begun to delve into “Magic: The Gathering,” both in terms of the card game and its expansive lore and continuity. So it is very possible that those with a greater knowledge of and appreciation for the game’s lore will catch no shortage of Easter eggs and references that those with less familiarity would completely miss. Fortunately, the comics are still pretty accessible for those new to the franchise so while the full details of the characters and their history may be lost on new readers, it doesn’t prevent anyone from enjoying the comic for what it is. (The background knowledge still helps, but at least it’s not required reading.)
“The Hidden Planeswalker” #3 kicks things off quickly, giving us a bit of magic action to keep things exciting while showing of what this new planeswalker, Isona Maive, can do. It’s a fast-paced fight that flows through the action nicely, while demonstrating everyone’s powers.
From there, the intrigue and character work begins. The issue goes through a nicely-paced series of scenes following Isona’s recovery from ella in Strixhaven, including her de ella and Lilianna butting heads. This gives us some good character establishing moments, from Isona’s hotheadedness to Lilianna’s snark, as well as a little from the side characters, like Strixhaven student Dina and teacher Kianne. Their voices are also well-delivered, although it helps that they’re also characters that exist on “Magic: The Gathering” cards (and, I can only assume, in other canonical stories).
More importantly, it delivers us two stories: one a narrative designed to make a character seem like a victim, another piecing together the truth from the inconsistencies. This propels the story forward, adds depth to characters, and builds into a few twists and turns along the way.
One thing “The Hidden Planeswalker” does well is make use of existing “Magic: The Gathering” characters and settings while building new ones. Characters like Lilianna and Tezzeret are big names in the franchise’s lore, while characters like Dina and Kianne also have their own roles to play in the card game and related material. In fact, Marit Lage, the eldritch being responsible for this whole ongoing comic arc, is a powerful creature with a good amount of lore (and one that takes a fair amount of work and setup to play in-game). But Isona is a new character, so it’ll be interesting to see her develop her, and if she ends up making her way into the card game later.
Additionally, credit must be given to how the various “Magic: The Gathering” comics follow different characters throughout the same storyline. While Lilianna is dealing with Tezzeret and Isona in this comic, other planeswalkers are undertaking their own quests in other “Magic” comics, all connected to Marit Lage and the aftermath of its invasion of her. It’s a nice bit of interconnected continuity that doesn’t require extensive “Magic” lore knowledge.
Now, about the artwork: “The Hidden Planeswalker” #3 features a lot of artists, each only doing between two and six pages. If it was just a matter of changing the artist to switch styles between different plans, that would be one thing, but that’s not the case.
Fortunately, the art styles are pretty similar for the most part, so usually the shifts are subtle. One page may have sharper edges than the last, or more details on the characters, but it still feels overall consistent, even with the multiple artists.
On the other hand, there are still clear varying levels of quality throughout the comic. The linework can often be a little rough, while the details are sparse, but there are also scenes where the designs get a lot more solid. Fabiana Mascolo, Mariano Taibo, and French Carlomagno provide the strongest artwork, with clean and bold designs that capture key details and add some nice depth to the scenes and characters. Others don’t always match them, as they can feature more rough designs and fading details, although even then, there are some standout moments in page layouts and characters that can help the moments land nicely.
In short, there’s a sliding scale of quality between the artists, but overall, it evens out more to the positive.
It also helps that Francesco Segala, along with Gloria Martinelli, provide the color work to accompany each artist. This helps maintain a level of consistency across the comic, keeping each page matching with the next regardless of which artist is behind it. The colors aren’t always the boldest or the brightest – in fact, shades of whites, grays, and brown are common – but it still matches the setting well. Plus, it makes the brighter shades of Strixhaven and the more nature-based mages stand out more when we reach them.
So, all in all, “Magic: The Hidden Planeswalker” is a good branching storyline in the “Magic: The Gathering” comics, which means it still gets a recommendation. The comics have been great for those new to the series, as it introduces them to iconic planeswalkers and settings so they can get to know the lore behind the card game. “The Hidden Planeswalker” is well-paced, filled with enjoyable dialogue for each character, and takes the story in an interesting direction. So if you’ve been wanting to get into the comics, either as a longtime “Magic: The Gathering” fan or someone new to its long history, it’s a good way to go.
Final Verdict: 6.6 – A good continuation of the “Magic: The Gathering” comic storyline, and while not a perfect comic, still perfectly enjoyable.