Reign of the Corrupt Mathematician
November 15, 2003
By Avi Green
Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciler: Alan Lopestri
If you’re looking for some of the best of tongue-in-cheek fantasy,
with coming of age storytelling included, look no further than Mystic. It’s a real shame that
this title is ending as part of CrossGen’s intention of trying out
different approaches to storytelling other than the Sigil-based
theme of their (initial) book line, but even so, this is still
something that shouldn’t be missed.
Giselle Villard, the gorgeous young wizardess who’s the main focus
of this book, was a party girl who initially didn’t care much for a
life full of magic, but, upon being chosen by fate, and discovering
a Sigil planted upon that pretty little hand of hers, eventually
learned the responsibilities of her new role on the planet Ciress, a
world where magic is the norm of everyday life, and technology, if
any, is minimal in use. And her sister, Genivieve, who was initially
appalled that she didn’t get the position of the most powerful
mystic on the planet, assisted her, and eventually came to
appreciate what her sister had come to achieve.
Here, it’s sometime after she’s gotten back from being stranded in a
world without magic, where she’d been put by some of her nemeses, and is now traveling to the Dark
Magi lands, an area on the planet which is probably meant to
resemble Turkey and its capital of Istanbul on ours, where she
intends to confront the Magus, as he’s known, on her suspicions.
He’s a shady lot, the Magus, and you can be sure that he’s up to no
good, as we’ll see later on in this article.
Before that, we meet a soldier named Tancred, a rebel member of the
land’s border guards, who’s trying to stir up resistance to the
Magus, much to the displeasure of the palace guards who show up to
stop him. Little do they realize it at first, but he’s one of them,
and just as good at magic as they are. The Magus, however, arrives
soon to chase him away, and he’s lucky to be rescued by Giselle and
her faithful pet Skitter, a dog-like creature called a squit, who
can perform his own magical feats, and aside from being able to
talk, he also provides some of the comedy relief for this title.
They go to the Magus’ castle together to confront him, getting in
via some secret passageways, an element which, I think, is also
intended to be funny, but before Giselle can get around to trying to
question his about how she got stuck in a sterile land previously,
Tancred takes to battling the Magus for who will be the leader of
the Dark Magi lands (“why do all the men I meet turn out to be
psychos?” she asks herself after Tancred knocks her out of the way
to deal with the Magus). With a little extra help from Giselle, he
soon defeats the Magus, but, as it later turns out, much to her
displeasure, after she’s tried to question him about what happened
to her, he’s got some very unruly plans of his own for the land,
which is to wipe out many of the people there in order to purge it
of the corruption that infests it.
So what happens now? Now, she’s got to help the Magus beat Tancred,
under the promise that he won’t kill him afterwards. So it be, except that it isn’t him who
performs this lurid act: nope, it’s one of Giselle’s own adversaries
and an assistant to the Magus, Vashua, who does him in.
But before Giselle can resist these two, she finds herself rendered
immobile at the hands of Archemus, another evil wizard who carries a
scepter with devastating magic inside. He’s supposedly from a clan
of wizards called the Geometer Guild, who specialize in math-based
magic. Soon afterwards, she’s a prisoner in his dungeons, where she
finds a seemingly old, and very messy, man who turns out to be
Darrow, her old rival who once tried to help Animora to defeat her.
He’s been rendered, like Giselle, unable to access his own magic
skills, thanks to Archemus, whose scepter has also served to
paralyze any such abilities.
Archemus, from what I can tell, is probably meant to be a parody of
math and algebra teachers, what with his silly pompadour, and he’s
also got some algebra-like symbols marked on his head. And his two
female accomplices also have some funny looking hairstyles of their
Soon afterwards, Giselle’s sister Genievieve and a few of her fellow
magicians from the Tantric Guild are captured and helpless at the
hands of Archemus and the Magus as well, much to Giselle’s distress.
And no sooner does this take place that then, the villains are
planning to send out a warning to the rest of Ciress that they
intend to take over, with Archemus putting the residents of the Dark
Magi lands to ostensible death with his tremendous power. Much to
the anger of the Magus, of course, who wouldn’t have thought to do
such a thing himself, even though, as we then see, they revive the
residents by reanimating their bodies, and making them
singlemindedly loyal to him (“The
Dark Magi lands have never been darker,” says Archemus).
Later, he comes down to the dungeons to show Giselle and the rest of
his prisoners to a pair of horse-faced aliens who specialize, as we
discover, in magic-enhancing technology, and we get a clue as to how
Archemus gets his incredible power. She relays this to Darrow, and
then comes up with a way to emerge from their cell: the underwire in
her bra! (“For once, I’m glad I needed the extra support”!)
That Giselle should be wearing a bra when it not only doesn’t look
like it, but when even her magic can keep her assets – and also her
hair and makeup job – perfectly in place, was one of the funniest
tongue-in-cheek ideas I’ve seen here allright, and had me laughing
well. Bedard, to day the least, is one really talented writer, even
when it comes to being funny.
They emerge from their cell and go upstairs to confront Archemus and
the Magus, and the latter is already feeling very disillusioned with
the former, to the point of blasting his two accomplices to death,
much to the anger of Archemus, who then tries to paralyze the Magus’
powers, but then, after stopping Giselle and Darrow from
overpowering him, the Magus sees his chance, and grabs the sceptre
away from Archemus, telling him, “you
know, I have yet to see you casting a spell without resorting to
And so, we discover that Archemus is indeed just a phony, who
apparently put all his magic into that sceptre that, as a result, he
doesn’t have any of his own left!
And this is where then, Giselle and him then start to have a most
amusing cat-and-dog fight, starting first by slapping each other on
their faces, which was so funny to behold. Then, finally, Giselle
lets him have it to the stomach with a kick, bringing him down
effectively and showing him that the Tantric Guild can be just as
good at physical combat as they can at magic. The sceptre is then
broken by the Magus, who was quite amused by the fight between them
and pleased to see Archemus floored by Giselle, and their powers are
restored to normal.
And what of Archemus? As far as the Magus is concerned, he’s
history, and lets fall on top of him a tombstone, another
Giselle lets the Magus go, probably because, aside from the fact
that he was otherwise just an accomplice in this imposter’s sceme,
he’s hardly the worst of the villains on the planet, and now that
he’s been more or less exposed for his crimes, he’s a lot less
influential than before. Yup, even the Magus realizes that.
Overall, this was brilliant stuff, and it’s a real shame that it’s
ending now, as part of CrossGen’s plans to rework itself by focusing
on other genres besides a shared universe. But I have faith that the
characters, even if they don’t have the Sigils to use, will still be
able to return in the future, in miniseries, and to be able to
entertain many more readers to come. For now, I strongly recommend
getting all 43 issues to be of this series, in TPBs or standard
issues, and enjoy it tremendously.
Copyright 2003 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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