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Mystic: Rite Of Passage

Sometimes the parts of a comic can far outshine the comic as a whole. Imagine a graphic novel sporting a David Michael Linsner cover, high quality paper and color production, chapter intros from the various creators of the title detailing the process of making their comic, as well as a cover gallery, not to mention a pretty interesting concept concerning magic powers and scantily-clad females at every turn.

Now imagine that somehow, all that adds up to a barely mediocre book, and you’ll have the first Crossgen book that I have hated, Mystic.

The problems start right in the beginning of the book, and unlike Route 666, which managed to veer away from bad literary territory, Mystic gets stuck in it. Like most of the early Crossgen titles, there is a prologue of sorts where two sets of glowing eyes dialogue about the state of the world they’re hovering over (this one being Ciress, where magic is mundane), one pair convincing the other to give the “mark of power” or “sigil” to someone on the planet. For those unaware, these little beginnings had something to do with Crossgen’s title The First; a book about the gods of the various Crossgen worlds or some such thing. In other titles, like Scion and Meridian, these introductions were easily ignored or seen simply as explanations of the worlds, and later books like Sojourn, Brath, etc, skipped the whole thing.

The reason you can’t ignore the First in Mystic is twofold: first, they are mentioned by name in the introduction between God’s Hairy Eyebrows No.1 and God’s Hairy Eyebrows No.2, so now the reader either has to have some knowledge of the First to understand the undercurrents of the book, or be somewhat lost. Secondly, at least two or three characters encountered in the book appear to be the First. In fact, there is an entire scene where two “Firstians” or “Firstors” do nothing but talk to each other about sigil bearers and other First-like business, that greatly interrupts the story. Sell the books in tandem or print them together if they need be so ingrained in one another, but don’t print half a story in one comic and make the reader go searching for he other. Meridian, despite its connections to the First and their several appearances, could stand alone as a good adventure story. Mystic has no such luck, which brings me to another problem with this collection.

The main story, the thing that could have made the book infinitely better, is barely there. Our heroine is Giselle, the Paris Hilton of the Crossgen universe, minus the sex tape (unless the writers got very weird in later issues). She’s quite happy to be a socialite while her sister Genevieve ascends to the level of Master of the Nouveau Guild of Magic, one of the seven guilds that rule Ciress. But during Genevieve’s ascension ceremony, Giselle finds herself sigil-ized by a stranger in the crowd, and absorbs the powers of the guild masters, as well as the spirits of the first guild masters. Guess who’s angry? Go on!

Now Giselle has to run from the guild masters, and…well, she really doesn’t do much else. The story is mostly her bouncing around from one magical fight to the next, and while random and frequent battles between the heroine and antagonists are the basis for nearly half of the three-color-ink world, it just gets boring. Writer Ron Marz could have done a lot more world building to make the world of Ciress more than just the window dressing it ends up being. Yes, there’s magic everywhere and magic flying taxis sure do look neat, but Marz never attempts to explain the mechanism by which magic appears to work. What is magic? How has it affected this society? Why are their seven major guilds of magic and what makes each magic different? I’ve heard that later in the series, some of these questions were touched on, but in order to capture the readers' attention, there needs to be that level of detail. The fun of the Crossgen books often sprung from their various worlds and the time put into developing them, and that’s lacking here.

The artwork by Brandon Peterson looks to me like a bad mix of Terry Dodson and Mike Wieringo. There are breasts everywhere. Now, I like breasts as much as the next fanperson, but it just seems silly at this point to have the heroine of the story, upon receiving her powers, magically end up in a torn leotard missing the modest parts of the swimsuit. This isn’t Witchblade, for crying out loud.

Despite his good background composition and attempts to fill in where Marz forgot to world-build, Peterson's character work is mundane, sometimes reaching back into the realms of what I like to call the early-nineties Breasts and Biceps period (and because I haven’t said it in a good long while: Die, Leifeld, Die!) The inking and coloring though, is rather well done by John Dell and Andrew Crossely, respectively. While I have some reservations about colorists using computers to color their pages (it’s quickly becoming a lost art, kids), Crossely really helps to bring life to this otherwise lifeless book.

There’s a Traveler sized version of Mystic to be had, as well as the original waste of cash $19.95 version, but really, there’s no reason to spend the time or energy to pick it up. Instead, go and find your graphic novel section in whatever commercial format you desire, and pick up something else for the same price. You’ll thank me.

Mystic v. 1: Rite of Passage

Robert Sparling

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