Dragon Age: Magekiller, Dark Horse Comics' upcoming ongoing series set in the world of Dragon Age, is an official addition to the setting that promises to show us some never-before-seen sights from the far reaches of Thedas. But if there's any reason to get more excited about it, it's that it's being written by one of the smartest writers in comics today, Greg Rucka, and he's a big fan.
Rucka is a long time lover of roleplaying games — pen and paper or computer-based — and considers them an excellent storytelling tool, especially for folks who write regular old non-interactive fiction. As far as computer roleplaying games go, Bioware has his respect and affection — as a writer and a player — for their emphasis on "the importance of character and story."
"We want the Tevinter Boba Fett."
"I think the effort that Bioware has consistently put into every on of their roleplaying games — we can talk about Mass Effect, we can talk about Dragon Age, we can talk about Jade Empire, you can go down the list — is really stunning. I know with Dragon Age in particular, we’re talking about a fantasy setting that is probably one of the most fully and beautifully realized examples of world building that we’ve seen."
Dragon Age: Magekiller will begin in the capitol city of Tevinter, just before the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition. It'll mark the first time Minrathous has been directly depicted in Dragon Age canon, and, as a self-described "research junkie," Rucka says Bioware provided all the necessary details he could hope for. Readers of the series will follow the adventures of two protagonists: Marius, the titular mage hunter, and Tessa Forsythia, his handler. Or, to put it in the terms of roleplaying games, she's the Face of the party.
Magic exists! And it grossly, grossly slants the playing field!
Rucka says that Marius' character came out of a suggestion from (former) head Dragon Age writer David Gaider to lead Dragon Age designer Mike Laidlaw: "We want the Tevinter Boba Fett." A former Tevinter slave (and a human), Marius was raised and trained to kill mages without using magic himself. Rucka refrained from revealing how he escaped his masters, but promised that it won't remain a mystery forever. Somewhere south of Tevinter, Marius runs into Tessa Forsythia, the estranged youngest daughter of the powerful Forsythia family in Nevarra.
The events of Magekiller begin when Marius and Tessa's burgeoning two-man, mage-killing mercenary outfit is approached by a powerful client for a dangerous new job. Dragon Age fans are familiar with the game's eternal tension between those who can use magic — and are therefore both very powerful and very vulnerable to demonic possession — and those who can't. Rucka is quick to articulate the way it permeates the setting:
"[It's a] tension that really should exist in any fantasy world where magic exists, which is" (here he raised his voice and exclaimed the next few phrases) "‘Magic exists!’ And it grossly, grossly slants the playing field! It is incredibly problematic, and it’s problematic on every level. It’s problematic on a social level, on a political level, on an economic level, on an interpersonal level, on a spiritual and religious level. If you have societies that have some people who have the ability to — literally! — alter reality, and everybody else can’t [laughs], then you have a immediate tension."
Even so, this isn't the usual Templars vs. Mages expression of the conflict we've seen before in the games. And Marius isn't a carbon copy of, say, Dragon Age 2's Fenris, an ex-Tevinter slave who despises mages.
"Marius has issues," Rucka says, "he is really, really good at what he does, but that’s all that he was ever trained to do. So he is not a Templar gone wrong. It’s not "all mages must die." This is the skill set he sells. He sells it very, very well. And Tessa [...] facilitates, she assists, and then she sort of maintains Marius. But there’s a lot she doesn’t know about him, just as there’s a lot that he doesn’t know about her. So part of [the first] arc is not only an introduction to them but some self discovery."
Magekiller will also see the rise of the Venatori, the Tevinter cult that worships and works for Dragon Age: Inquisition's villain Corypheus, with the end of issue #2 corresponding to the destruction of the Conclave, the inciting event of the game. The first arc of the series will encompass the full plot of Inquisition, however, and after that it'll be striking out into new territory for the franchise. Interior art on the series will be provided by Carmen Carnero, who Rucka has collaborated with before on 2014's Cyclops ongoing series at Marvel Comics. The writer had nothing but praise Carnero. "The work she’s doing [...] is really exciting and very dynamic. The book is recognizably of the world."
There are plans for appearances from major game characters, Rucka says, but ultimately he wants to focus on expanding the world of Dragon Age. Just as vitally, he wants to make sure that Magekiller feels like it could fit within anyone's playthrough, despite the variety of decisions that make up a given player's version of events.
"We’re talking about a roleplaying game where your decisions as the player radically influence what the world looks like. [...] I want for you to read the comic and say 'This fits with my playthrough.' And I want that to be the case for everybody who comes to it."
Dragon Age: Magekiller #1 will debut this November from Dark Horse Comics.