Reign of the Corrupt Mathematician

November 15, 2003

By Avi Green

Mystic #35-39
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 own.

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 this trinket.”

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 tongue-in-cheek element.

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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