I've never played any of the "Dragon Age" games. It's something that I hope to change soon, but -- for the moment -- its allure to so many others is lost on me. When Dark Horse Comics billed "Dragon Age: Magekiller" #1 as a good jumping-on point for their "Dragon Age" comics, coupled with Greg Rucka as the writer, I was intrigued. As it turns out, Rucka, Carmen Carnero and Terry Pallot's comic was exactly as advertised, even for someone like myself.
"Dragon Age: Magekiller" #1 introduces us to Tessa and Marius, who will hunt down and kill a mage for you (thus the subtitle), provided you pay them the right price. And as the first issue progresses we learn about the duo as they finish one contract and then agree to another one. But of course, nothing is as straightforward as our protagonists would hope.
Rucka has Tessa narrate "Dragon Age: Magekiller" #1, and it's part of what makes this comic inviting. She makes the action compelling in no small part because of her down-to-earth nature, laying the facts and the motivation on the line as she describes herself and Marius. In other hands, this could have fallen on the wrong side of the "show, don't tell" credo, but what makes this succeed is that the narration is in concert with the visuals. Both halves each tell a distinct story, but the two combined turn each into something stronger. Tessa's tough-as-nails bravado works in part because we see her and Marius taking down the enemy; doubly so when she explains that killing mages is what Marius was made for on some level, and that -- unlike others -- he doesn't have a choice in the matter. It's a slightly chilling insight into her partner's psyche.
Carnero and Pallot's art does a good job of bringing the world of "Dragon Age" to life, at least for someone who hasn't played the games. Areas like a city's port are bustling and full of details, and rooms are full of objects on the walls and sitting on surfaces; Carnero is careful to avoid the trap of blank panel backgrounds unless necessary to focus all the attention on the character pictured. I also liked how they brought the fight against the apostate blood mage in the first half of the issue to life; it's very easy to follow, with each image flowing into the next one. Even the more mystical moments are instantly understandable and full of energy. When Marius' trap is sprung on his target, the mage's expression shifts from seething anger to surprise and pain, and it's the perfect complement to the trap's effects.
"Dragon Age: Magekiller" #1's only weak spot is the surprise at the end of the first issue, which feels a wee bit too predictable and on the nose; it's couched as a twist within the confines of the story itself, but I suspect most readers will see it coming. Still, the comic is fun overall, and it solidified for me two things: first, I need to finally play a "Dragon Age" game; second, even if I don't, I can definitely still continue to read and enjoy Rucka, Carnero and Pallot's "Dragon Age: Magekiller" comic. "Dragon Age: Magekiller" is a fun and engaging fantasy story for anyone who enjoys the genre.