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re­leased OUT NOW! Pub­lisher Im­age Comics

Writer/artist Matt Wag­ner

The first book of Matt Wag­ner’s Mage tril­ogy was orig­i­nally pub­lished in 1984, and al­most two decades have passed since the sec­ond vol­ume con­cluded in 1999. Much has changed for Kevin Match­stick – the rein­car­na­tion of the myth­i­cal Pen­dragon – in long-awaited third in­stal­ment The Hero De­nied (drawn largely on the writer’s own life), as he now has two chil­dren with his wife, Magda.

It’s ac­tu­ally Kevin him­self who’s in de­nial, as he re­frains from us­ing his mys­ti­cal abil­i­ties in a bid to hide from the malev­o­lent Um­bra Sprite and her equally scary brood, the Grack­lethorns. Wag­ner takes his time un­fold­ing the plot (which is easy to fol­low for any new­com­ers) as Kevin is forced to confront his past after an en­counter with some fairy beasts. In­ter­weav­ing themes of parental re­spon­si­bil­ity with mys­ti­cal ac­tion, Wag­ner neatly bal­ances do­mes­tic de­tails with more fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ments.

With Wag­ner bas­ing his hero’s phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance on him­self, it’s fit­ting that, like his cre­ator, Kevin has lost much of his hair dur­ing the in­ter­ven­ing years. Keep­ing it in the fam­ily, his dy­namic art is en­hanced by his son Brennan Wag­ner’s evoca­tive colours, which range from brighter hues to a sub­tler pal­ette de­pend­ing on what’s re­quired. As time­less as the Arthurian leg­ends them­selves, this is a comic book clas­sic for all the ages. Stephen Jewell

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