Though he’s known as a consummate pro, the fan inside of writer Greg Rucka has thoroughly enjoyed immersing himself in the world of “Dragon Age.” From “Origins” to “Inquisition,” he’s explored as much of the world as possible, completed quests and, quite literally, changed the landscape of Thedas forever. In December, Rucka enters the world of “Dragon Age” once more — this time as a creator helping to expand that world even further with the new Dark Horse Comics series “Dragon Age: Magekiller.”
“[BioWare] said, ‘Here’s the toy box; you may play with our toys,'” Rucka told CBR News about the upcoming project. “And I am being really damn careful with their toys. I do not want to break, dent, scuff, scrape or in any way damage these toys.”
Beginning just a few months prior to the inciting events of “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” the upcoming comic starring mage hunter duo Marius and Tessa Forsythia begins in Minrathous, the capitol city of the Tevinter Imperium. The largest city in Thedas, it also happens to be a place fans of the games haven’t really gotten a chance to see and explore in detail before — at least, until now.
“There were discussions, and I got to see internal documents,” Rucka said with a laugh. “In particular, we had a discussion about what a city would look like that mages built.”
With much of the action of issue #2 taking place in that very city, fans will get a look at what life in the Imperium is really like. However, while the first two issues take place prior to “Inquisition,” the end of the second issue brings everything right in line with the game’s opening as the destruction of the Conclave, a major event which affects all of Thedas. That won’t be the last time direct references are made to the events in the game, either.
“The effects of what’s going on [in ‘Inquisition’] are certainly felt, the reverberations of the game. Because frankly, it’s not overstating it to say that the events of Inquisition are Thedas-shattering,” Rucka said. “Let’s be honest: we can’t really go, ‘Oh, look. That happened. Let’s go back to dinner.’ It ain’t an option with what’s happening in ‘Inquisition.'”
Rucka admitted it’s a tricky line to walk, since personal player choice and the outcomes of those choices play such major role in “Dragon Age” gameplay. The writer stressed that he wants to make sure he honors those choices and doesn’t refute them with the comic series. “The beauty of what BioWare does in their games is that it’s universal experience but it’s also a personal experience. Your Inquisitor, your playthrough, is yours. And that is not the same as mine. There are core events that we can speak to, but it mattered a great deal to me, personally, not to do anything that would somehow contradict an individual’s playthrough.”
Following a pair of all-new protagonists also helps not only separate the story from being simply a rehash of the game but also gives a new perspective on the events of the game and how those events effect the rest of the world. As to those protagonists, the eponymous Magekiller Marius is a former Tevinter slave turned mercenary for hire that specializes in, well, killing mages. The general backstory may seem somewhat similar to that of “Dragon Age 2” companion Fenris (an eleven escaped Tevinter slave with a grudge against mages), but Rucka explained the differences between the two.
For one, Marius has no magical abilities, whereas Fenris’ skin was forcefully fused with lyrium, and two, their core motivations differ greatly. “When you encounter Fenris, he’s all anger, and I think the majority of his journey in DA2 was really reconciling that rage, to a great extent. Marius is much colder. He is an instrument, an instrument that now has his freedom. He has a skillset. It’s not like he’s going, ‘I hate all magic. I want to kill every mage.’ It’s what he knows how to do. So, he’s going to sell that skillset. [He and Tessa] will go after anyone if the price is right. That’s the difference.”
The origins of Marius stem from four words passed onto Rucka by BioWare writer Mike Laidlaw, words that originated from former lead writer David Gaider: “The Tevinter Boba Fett.” From Rucka’s description, Marius’ personality definitely fits that mold. However, unlike “Star Wars'” lone wolf bounty hunter, Marius has a business partner with a mysterious backstory of her own.
An estranged daughter of one of the named noble families of Nevarra, Tessa actually narrates the series and provides Marius with abilities he lacks — not the least of which is the ability to read and write. How exactly a member of a well-known family ended up working with a mage-killing bounty hunter remains to be seen, though. “You don’t leave one of the named noble families of Nevarra and find yourself tied up with a guy that specializes in killing mages and go, ‘Yeah. That’s a viable career choice for me, too!’ She didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, you know what? Those mages? They got to go!’ But that’s a backstory that we’re teasing out.
“She is ultimately his corner man and his manager and his partner in the field. But you get the feeling that without Tessa, it’s not that Marius would be ineffectual, but perhaps his decision making would not be the best.”
With the launch of the series still a few months away, there aren’t too many details about the plot that can be revealed. However, Rucka did say that there will be limited appearances by characters from the game — but those characters won’t necessarily be who readers might think. For example, just because the series starts in Tevinter doesn’t mean readers will see “Inquisition” companion and Imperium mage Dorian.
“Dorian is so well done in the game that I don’t know if I can capture that voice — and that is a voice that cannot be wrong at all. I don’t want to find myself in a position where I write it and then have David Gaider re-write all of the dialogue. I would not be doing my job. The worst thing is that you open up a tie-in and you’re like, ‘That could be anybody. That’s not the character I know and love.'”
That’s not to say Rucka isn’t interested in bringing in other fan-favorite characters. “I could write Varric in a heartbeat. Varric is up there with Garrus from ‘Mass Effect’ of people that I would happily get so drunk with.” However, just because he feels he can write the character doesn’t mean he will insert them into the story. The writer wants to make sure that if a character appears, there is a logic to it, both in context of the story and the world of “Dragon Age.”
That same dedication to authenticity applies to the art as well. The writer reteams with artist Carmen Carnero on the title, and he said he couldn’t be more excited. “Carmen is bringing her ‘A’ game. Watching her evolve through this has been terrific — and she was already dynamite. I think people are really going to love what she’s doing. And it’s recognizably the world. She’s working from reference,” he said. “I sit there and I go, ‘Okay, what spell would this be? It’s got to look like this, so there has to be a glyph on the ground.’ She literally gets notes like that.
“If you played the games, ideally, you will read the book and see all those visual cues. Like, ‘Ah! That’s an ice trap! That’s a Terror Demon! That’s a Desire Demon!’ You’ve seen these things; you know them. It’s my sort of OCD that’s like, ‘We have to get that right!'”
Rucka’s compulsion stems from a place of reverence and fandom, and the author wants fans to know how important it is to the creative team to make their story truly feel like a part of the “Dragon Age” world. Beyond his own attempts, To that end, all the art is vetted through the BioWare team, and he talks with Laidlaw, Gaider and “Inquisition” lead writer Patrick Weekes about story and plot points.
“We’re trying very hard to be hand-in-glove with their vision,” he said.
“I love the games. I love what BioWare does. I really think they’re on the cutting edge of an emerging artistic form. Not simply in terms of computer games but in terms of what an interactive narrative can deliver emotionally, intellectually. You see it in ‘Dragon Age,’ you see it in ‘Mass Effect.’ There are moments that make you weep. To create such a personalized effect for such a wide audience and with this grand narrative — and yet make that narrative so personal — that’s what the best novels do, that’s what the best movies do.”
“Dragon Age: Magekiller” by Greg Rucka and Carmen Carneo arrives in stores December.