What If? Magik #1

 Leah Williams
Artist: Filipe Andrade
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Jeff Dekal
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Nico Sprezzatura

Marvel’s month of brand-new “What If?” stories comes to a close with this week’s What If? Magik #1 — a spooky one-off tale just in time for Halloween.

What If? Magik #1 posits a reality wherein Illyana Rasputin—Magik—ditches the X-Men for good, after being trapped in the hellish dimension Limbo for her most of her childhood, and instead spends the rest of her adolescence as a ward of Doctor Strange. Illyana’s potential for sorcery has been explored elsewhere, but What If? Magik #1 suggests what could’ve been, had her magical skills been fostered by the Marvel Universe’s preeminent Sorcerer Supreme at a young age.

The logline on the cover of this issue (“What if Magik Became Sorcerer Supreme?”) is admittedly not representative of its actual contents, because Magik does not actually become Sorcerer Supreme at any point throughout. But with that being said, What If? Magik #1 is still an interesting character study of one of Marvel’s more underrated mutants.

Magik is an interesting character because she sort of exists on the margins of the X-Men corner of the Marvel U. She’s associated as one of the “New Mutants” rather than a core X-Man in her own right, existing in the (sometimes literal) shadow of her older brother, Colossus, but she’s also sometimes part of the Marvel’s mystic community because of her time in Limbo. She’s never really been a firm part of either of those worlds, which What If? Magik #1 rectifies by having her fully on the track towards becoming Doctor Strange’s replacement.

As alluded to above, the premise of What If? Magik #1 versus what’s actually in the issue might be a problem for some. This version of Illyana is still very young and green to the whole “magic” thing, and by the final page, she’s still not quite where you may want her to be. I do wonder if a differently worded logline (i.e. “What if Magik Became Doctor Strange’s Ward?”) would make for a more satisfying reading experience.

But that quibble is mostly a metatextual one, as the actual story delivered by writer Leah Williams (busy this week with another Marvel one-shot, X-Men: Black — Emma Frost) and artist Filipe Andrade (Captain Marvel, Rocket Raccoon) is quite good.

Williams’ rapport between Magik and Strange feels very authentic to who those characters would interact at this particular moment in their lives, showing an especially noted fondness for the latter. Williams has talked much about her love of the Magik character in the lead-up to this release, and I’d be interested to see what she could do with Illyana on a larger scale.

Andrade’s highly stylized look is a personal favorite of mine, and while I’ve noticed it can be divisive to some, it perfectly suits a mystically-charged story like this one. There’s definitely a tinge of horror-esque imagery to the issue —which is fitting, since an actual demonic figure appears— but there are also some rather psychedelic visuals appropro of Strange’s Sixties origin. It all comes together and meshes very well.

The Verdict: Check it out.

For fans of Magik, Doctor Strange, or even both, the hypothetical What If? Magik #1 is very much worth giving a look, and may even having you wishing for more.

Nico Sprezzatura
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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