In Review: What If? Magik #1

This is too good to be a one-off: it needs to be a monthly or miniseries.

The covers: Two covers to work their magic on you to pick them both up. The Regular cover by Jeff Dekal shows Illyana from the left as she assumes the meditative pose often employed by Doctor Strange: legs crossed, arms out with thumbs touching index fingers, eyes closed, and hovering off the ground. She wears Strange’s cape which billows out behind her. In the foreground are two red candles whose flames are blowing backwards. A black background sets behind her, while before her is a white background, showing she’s transitioning between planes. Very cool. The Variant cover is by one of my favorite variant cover artists, John Tyler Christopher. This is a faux action figure for Magik. The figure is wearing the same clothes as on the Regular cover, but blue jeans instead of slacks. Around her neck is the Eye of Agamotto, closed. Accessories seen through the plastic include a staff, hands casting spells, an open Eye, and Strange’s spellbook. I love me some Christopher art, so I had to purchase this cover. Overall grades: Regular A- and Variant A+

The story: A narrator states on the opening page “There’s a predator plaguing the area. Some kinda magical menace.” This unseen speaker continues to say that a coven was hit and incidents are occurring up and down the interstate. Accompanying this are five panels of Illyana hitchhiking, eventually being picked up by an older man in a pickup. Doctor Strange is then seen hovering over a city and hears a man saying, “This how you thank me for giving you a lift?!? I just’ wanna have a little fun, that’s all…” As he moves towards a cornered Illyana in an alley, he smiles grotesquely as he puts his hands on her. She grabs a discarded broom and beats him down with three hits. She raises the broom to deliver a killing blow and horns are seen having sprouted from her forehead. Strange stops her with a yell and flies toward her, his axe in hand. She raises her broom defensively. He breaks her weapon, but ends up tumbling into a wall. Still holding two pieces of the stick as a weapons, she leaps at Strange. He holds up a hand and commands, “STOP!” She freezes in the air and he tells her what he wants. Leah Williams has written a sensational story that should not be a What If? story — this should be cannon. Both characters are absolutely true to each other, with the only change being that the young sorceress never returned to the New Mutants or X-Men. What Strange offers her is fantastic and how they work together outstanding. I loved Wong’s contributions to the story. There’s a moment on an island that leads to the violent climax on 18 that’s fantastic. The final page left me grinning. I haven’t smiled at the conclusion of a mystical Marvel book in decades. Marvel, you should really have Williams write a miniseries for these characters. Overall grade: A+

The art: This is my first exposure to the artwork of Filipe Andrade and I’m complete smitten with this style. This work emulates the work of Bill Sienkiewicz, but charts its own path. The opening page reminds me of the classic New Mutants issues with art by Sienkiewicz. The beat down of the potential molester on 3 is fantastically told in the first four panels. The close-up of Illyana at the bottom of the same page hints at her powers with the subtle inclusion of horns. Strange’s arrival and comeuppance by the teen is wonderful. The panel that ends 4 is awesome. The exit on 5 and the chase on 6 perfectly uses visuals to convey what’s happening for the reader without unnecessary text. Strange’s home on 7 is epic and gorgeous, not to mention there’s a terrific use of something “pretty” on the page. The progression of panels on 8 as Illyana relates her history has the posture of the characters put a super spin on each individual, with Wong breaking my heart. Pages 10 and 11 are epic, and that’s really too small a word to describe the magic in play. It reminded me of P. Craig Russell and W. Micheal Kaluta: it’s gorgeous and simply magical. The joy on Illyana’s face on Page 13 is a triumph not just for the character but will be felt by the reader as well. The character that arrives at the bottom of the same page will bring dread to readers familiar with this visage. The battle on 15 is swift, but enjoyable. Another outstanding progression of panels is on 17. The final panel on 20 left me beaming. In addition to Williams getting to write a miniseries for these character, Andrade must be brought on as the artist. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Another superior contributor to this issue is Chris O’Halloran who handles colors. The heat and dunes on the first page are gorgeous. The change in colors as the sun goes down in the first panel on 2 is beautiful. The first four panels on Page 3 are stark due to eye-popping yellows dominating. Strange’s magical abilities on 4 and 5 use violets, making them seem otherworldly. When Illyana’s narration is shown to the reader it’s set off with a light pink which makes it pop on every page. The colors on 10 and 11 are jaw-dropping. They are a perfect match for the cosmic visuals. These colors brought me to the glory days of Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated. Perfection. The blue skies of the island setting allow Illyana’s blonde hair to always draw the reader’s eyes. The sick, diseased greens on 17 are equally impressive. Marvel, O’Halloran must return to work on this project. Overall grade: A+

The letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles creates this issue’s narration and dialogue (the same font), evil Illyana speech, sounds, and spells. I do wish that Cowles had used a different font for the narration and dialogue, rather than having the shape of their balloons and their colors differentiate them. The evil Illyana speech is killer; every time she used it I thought she was ready to explode. The sounds are really fun, putting the correct noise in a panel for dramatic or comedic effect. Overall grade: A-

The final line: This is too good to be a one-off: it needs to be a monthly or miniseries. The story is the best magical Marvel tale I’ve read in decades. The visuals capture the mundane world and the magical realm flawlessly. Marvel, make more for these characters with these creators as soon as you can. It’s money in the bank. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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