Myth Adventures

Adapted and penciled by Phil Foglio
Inked by Tim Sale
Based on a book by Robert Asprin
240 pages, color
Published by Airship Entertainment

In 1985, I’d only recently discovered comic books. One of the first ones I bought, though, was Myth Adventures, an adaptation of Robert Asprin’s novel Another Fine Myth. At the time, I thought it was one of the funniest things I’d read in years, eventually making me rush out and buy Asprin’s Myth series because I just couldn’t wait for another issue. And while at the time I thought that Phil Foglio’s rendition of Asprin’s novel was fantastic, many years later I’ve always wondered how well it would hold up to a re-reading. Foglio seems to have decided to call my bluff, then, with a complete collection of all eight issues finally available again.

Skeeve thought things were finally going his way. A failed thief, he ended up apprenticed to the great magician Garkin, and is just starting to master the absolute basic skills of a magician. Then an assassin killed Garkin, and Skeeve has a bad feeling that he’s next. Right before dying, Garkin summoned his demon friend Aahz, only a prank robbed Aahz of his powers in the process. Now a powerless Aahz and a novice Skeeve have to stop the person hunting down magicians, travel to inter-dimensional bazaars, avoid lynch mobs, and learn new magic. Oh, and try not to shoplift any more dragons. They get angry when you do that.

Having also recently re-read Asprin’s novels, I think it’s a fair assessment when I say that while the base material given was good in its own right, Foglio’s adaptation makes it even stronger. His scripting and pencils bring the story to life, finding a better balance between drama and humor than the original was able to maintain. For instance, when Aahz and Skeeve are hung by angry townspeople (because the magical disguises chosen were of con-artists that had swindled the entire town), there’s a nice piece of silliness as you see Skeeve in a dress and long blonde hair squirming at the end of a rope as he levitates himself to keep from actually dying. Or, when Skeeve finds himself suddenly cornered by a demon summoned into the room, his scramble across the room has a good sense of physical comedy to it. It keeps the book from ever getting too grim or serious, a light-hearted adventure that will have you laughing for a long time to come.

Foglio’s pencils and Tim Sale’s inks in Myth Adventures are the biggest attraction, easily. The expressions on the faces of the cast of characters are priceless, able to sum up a combination of emotions all at once. You’re able to really get a feeling of exasperation from Skeeve as yet another one of Aahz’s plans go hopelessly wrong, getting into the heads of the characters that thought balloons would never be able to do justice. What I really love about the art are the touches that Foglio brings to the story that the prose never had. When Aahz is describing the bartering races of the Devas and the Imps, the visual depiction of the Imps inadvertently trading away the gemstones for the clothes hanger they originally began with really brings home the idea of their lesser trading skills in a way that the writing didn’t. Likewise, Skeeve’s magical disguises appearing to him (and the reader) as a goatee on an otherwise undisguised demonic face is fun, in part because Foglio draws it as a wonderfully ludicrous situation, but at the same time it lets the reader still know where our characters are even as getting an extra chuckle out the scene.

I was more than a little surprised upon reading Myth Adventures that it wasn’t as good as I’d remembered—it was actually even better. These days Foglio is creating (alongside Kaja Foglio) the vastly entertaining Girl Genius, but it’s nice to be reminded that over two decades ago, he was already an extremely talented creator. Most childhood memories of great books never turn as good as we thought they were, but Myth Adventures is the exception to that rule. Highly recommended.

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