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Revisiting Homelands on the World of Magic: The Gathering

Writer: D.G. Chichester
Artist: Rebecca Guay
Letters: Kenny Martinez
Asst. Editor: Jeofrey Vita
Editor: Jeffrey Artemis-Gomez
Cover Painting: Tim & Greg Hildebrandt
Published by: Armada/Acclaim Comics
Cover Price: $5.95
Cover Date: February, 1996

It’s been a lot of years since I’ve read this. I have a number of memories associated with the Homelands expansion of Magic: The Gathering (the card game itself). For one thing, it was the first (and to date, only) expansion set I ever got a full box of–my parents bought me a box for Christmas that year. In addition to the awesomeness of seeing more story in the cards–finding out the character of Serra herself (already being familiar with her Angels) as well as Baron Sengir (whose Sengir Vampire was always creepy-looking), to the various analogues and soft reprints of other cards–there was this comic, getting the actual story of a set all in one place at one time.

If I remember correctly, the issue came polybagged with one of several “rare” cards…unless misremembering, I got a Baron Sengir this way.

The story itself is huge in scope–spanning centuries, definitely not your “street-level” kind of story, but one from the point of view of near-immortality. While it’s an interesting approach, too much time passes too quickly in such a short span to really get to know any characters in any organic sense–we get “told” more than we’re “shown.”

While very highly-compressed (if this were a Marvel property it would probably be spread across at least 12 issues) I do appreciate the overview or “survey” of the world and its cultures, and seeing the impact of Feroz and Serra upon the place.

Flipping through, it looks like a quick read, but the actual reading took a lot longer than I would have expected…part of the “compression,” I guess.

Prior to recognizing her name, I recognized Rebecca Guay‘s art with the Serra Angel special while trying to find a copy of it last month without spending $50+. I’d recognized the art without knowing quite why–connecting it to this issue cleared that right up. The visual style is a bit impressionistic, sort of surreal and maybe slightly abstract…but it works for this story.

This is specifically the story of Homelands–but it’s also the stuff of legend, as one has to have already passed through a huge span of time to talk about it, so while we see the story unfold, this could be a story being told to someone well after the fact–a legend of the world’s history told to a child, perhaps.

As part of the Armada MTG universe, we get a cameo of Taysir–whether this is early Taysir or not, I’m not entirely sure–but it roots that character in the “canon” of Magic: The Gathering, not just some character created in a licensed comic but an actual part of the official story.

Also as part of the Armada line, we have the usual “backmatter” that is very much a part of all of the Armada MTG comics. We have a 2-page article from one of the creators of the Homelands expansion, talking about what went into the making of the set itself. Then we get a specific timeline of the history of the world, from the beginning of the story to the present, further contextualizing everything that was just read about and putting things into more solid terms. There are another couple pages on the history of Dominaria, and then a couple pages about Taysir. Set creators each share their favorite cards from the set, and we get a several-page overview of the set’s themes, by color after that. Finally we get the typical Seer Analysis that looks at some of the specific cards referenced in the story and how they were adapted.

I really like the Hildebrandts‘ cover…it’s very fantasy-esque, though also very highly colorful, making it stand out quite a bit to me.

In my experience, this issue/volume seems to be the most common of the prestige-format issues Armada released…I’ve come across this several times through the years in bargain bins, where I have not the other Armada prestige issues.

While this carried a $6 cover price back in the 1990s, by contemporary standards this is well worth that price. The story is a good length, and the back-matter (if of interest to you) lends a lot of extra time to spend on reading beyond just the comic itself. This also serves as a sort of “guide” to Homelands, and I see it as the precursor to the MTG novels that would later be released along with each card set, doing the same thing this did: tell the canon story of the set including incorporating the various characters and cards into the story, the ongoing continuity of the game, providing a richer context for those who wanted to delve deeper than just the flavor text on the cards themselves.

While Homelands never proved to be a particularly key set and never seemed to me to be all that popular…in terms of MTG comics, this is–for me–probably one of the most significant ones, and definitely my favorite of all the covers.

Other Revisiting Magic: The Gathering posts:

The Value of a Comic

Thunderbolts #1 coverI was excited the other day, when I got that copy of Thunderbolts #1 for 25-cents. It would probably be worth cover price to me, maybe a dollar or so more–GENERALLY I’m finding that if I’ll pay $3.99ish for a new comic, that really puts perspective on the price of a “back issue” at $4 and under (unless I’ve seen its likes IN a 25-cent bin, then it’s just overpriced quarter-books).

I’m presently highly interested in acquiring a Magic: The Gathering comic. Specifically, Serra Angel (“A Fable of Dominaria” or “On the World of Magic: The Gathering” or whatever subtitle(s)).

This is a squarebound/”prestige-format” one-shot issue that was published in the 1990s by Armada, an imprint of Acclaim Comics. Originally it was priced at about $5.95 or so (let’s say “$6”) and came polybagged with an oversized (display, not playable) Magic: The Gathering card featuring variant art of the Serra Angel (the 4/4, flying, White, non-tapping creature that was rather powerful in the game at the time).

Serra Angel coverI believe the story was by Margaret Weis (I know her from the likes of Dragonlance, but also other fantasy works), the art by a Rebecca Guay. But since the issue came out at the end of the run of MTG comics, presumably when Acclaim was getting out of the comics game (or at least, the licensed comics), it must’ve had a rather small print run.

So: prestige-format, great writer, over-sized collectible card, small print run. Sure, fine–look at GI Joe #155 compared to #1.

So I can see where “rarity” and such can come into play. But frankly–the issue is “worth” no more than $20 to me, including any shipping/handling charges if I buy it online somewhere. And I’d prefer to keep it under $10–anything over $10 for just this one issue would be a new “record” for highest amount I’ve ever paid for any single issue of anything.

But it seems like there are plenty of copies out there–or at least, quite a number of ’em NOT SELLING. Today I found at least 7 active listings on eBay for this issue ranging from $50 to over $100 in asking price…but doing a search of completed auctions, NONE showed the issue as having SOLD–just listings that ran their course and never actually sold.

So you have over a half-dozen sellers “offering” this issue at $50+ thinking it’s gotta be “worth” $50+ and yet the thing’s not selling–for anyone. I submitted an offer for an “…or best offer” of the aforementioned $20 including s/h and was declined minutes later (So…the “potential” of $55 with s/h that probably won’t sell, vs. the actual offer of $20 with s/h and they’d’ve been paid this morning).

If there are this many copies out there and no one’s buying–the comic is NOT WORTH that much. It’s only “worth” what someone WILL ACTUALLY PAY.

Maybe I’m “whining” as someone who is interested in the issue but doesn’t have it–but I am quite sure I’d have less issue with the matter if I saw there were people out there actually paying $50+.

As-is, what I see seems to be a bunch of people clinging to a ’90s mentality, unwilling to consider that they’re just perpetuating a self-imposed myth. Like some sort of “urban legend” or such. “Well, all these other people are offering it for $50+ so I should be, too! If they’re putting it out there for that much I can’t possibly take such a huge loss as to sell/offer my copy for less!”

Superman #75 coverAnd perhaps someone actually HAS paid $150 to $300 for a single copy of this issue, at some point. Maybe it was actually “worth” that much to one person who absolutely haddahavitrightnow at some point. But most comics do not INCREASE in “value,” they drop. Superman #75 first print once sold for $5-10 (newsstand edition) and I’ve acquired at least 3 copies for 25 cents apiece in the last couple years. Pretty sure Thunderbolts #1 used to go for $20ish, and I got that copy for 25 cents the other day. Pre-Unity Solar apparently once sold for high-$ amounts, and I got an entire set of the first 25 issues minus one of the Unity chapters for less than $7 total in the last few years.

And the kicker of the thing is: I know nothing about the STORY inside the issue. Not sure what the art’s like. Because I don’t have a copy. And it doesn’t seem like Serra Angel is even something an average comic reader–Magic fan or otherwise–is going to ever get to read, at $50+!

Spell Thief coverI’ve complained before about IDW pricing their Magic comics at $4.99 just because of the shrink-wrapping to include a card with the comics (the cards should be a bonus, not something to cost a non-gaming fan an extra $1 to READ). But an even bigger complaint: why no MTG Classics volumes? I mean…surely they could put out some proper TPBs of the Armada stuff! If not TPBs, then 100-page specials…or just simply reprint the things on an issue-by-issue basis.

But it is what it is: if I ever find a copy of Serra Angel for that $20 or under range–I’ll probably buy it, and there’ll likely be a blog post about it. If I find a copy still bagged with the card–I’ll open the bag, remove the comic and card. If it’s already open–all the better, because everyone knows once you open the bag such a comic is “worthless” and thus I’d be doing someone a HUGE FAVOR by paying them cover price for it despite the missing bag/card.

If you own the comic, and you want $50+ for it, hey–that’s on you. Your comic, your right to choose what to sell it for, what price you’re willing to accept to part ways with it. Don’t get me wrong there.

But if you’re reading this, and you have the issue or can get one–please comment on this post to let me know, because I am serious–until I actually get a copy, My offer stands: I’m probably willing to pay $20 with shipping for a copy with the card, $15ish for just the issue itself.

More than $20, though, and someone other than me will have to validate the “worth” of the issue.

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