US Publisher: Viz Media
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Wikipedia
A few years ago, Wizards of the Coast and Viz Media began producing art books to cover the various sets and planes in the Magic: the Gathering universe. Zendikar, Innistrad, Kaladesh, and Amonkhet were all given the hardback treatment (and soon Dominaria).
I decided to look into the series with Ixalan.
My first thought: It’s a bit larger than I was expecting, at 10.0’’ X 11.2’’. Some of the highlights:
Page 1: Deeproot Champion by Raymond Swanland. A foreboding image to welcome you to Ixalan.
Page 5: We get the concept of Ixalan via creative team lead Jenna Helland’s pitch: “Vampire conquistadors meet Aztecs with dinosaurs.”
Today I learned that it’s fun to say “conquistadors.”
Pages 6-7: Give us a brief look at the Magic: the Gathering multiverse.
Page 11: Raging Swordsmith by Izzy is a stunning image, presented here in it’s full size and glory.
Page 13: Herald of Secret Streams by Sara Winters. I’m not really into merfolk pinups, but if that’s your thing, it’s quite well done.
Pages 20-21: We get a map of Ixalan. It’s a plane based on exploration, so this is rather helpful for understanding the context.
Page 34: Thundering Spineback by Tomasz Jedruszek is another piece of art that benefits from the larger scale this book provides. Dinosaurs big, yeah, yeah, yeah. Not small, no, no, no.
Page 43: Burning Sun’s Avatar by Randy Vargas jumps off the page. One of my favorite pieces of art in the set.
Pages 54-55: Search for Azcanta by Magali Villeneuve. I love the idea of merfolk frolicking like dolphins while someone is trying to get them to focus.
Page 56: Tishana, Voice of Thunder by Anna Steinbauer. Inspired by ballet perhaps?
Page 57: Kapala, Warden of the Waves by Magali Vileneuve, with a smaller image of Deeproot Waters by Zezhou Choi. I’m a fan of vibrant colors. Both Tishana and Kapala have that covered.
Page 75: Conqueror’s Galleon by Emrah Elmasli. What a sunset! Skulduggery by Deruchenko Alexander looks good too, but I think it would have been well served by giving it a bit more space.
Page 77: Glorifier of Dusk by Viktor Titov. Majestic.
Page 84: Axis of Mortality & Ritual of Rejuvenation, both by Bastien L. Deharme. The bleeding rose took me aback. The increase in clarity focuses your eye to where the artist wants you to look.
Page 88: Vona, Butcher of Magan by Volkan Baga. Just this once I’m going to talk about the story. Vona of Iedo was a warrior and she didn’t transition well to peacetime. Now, I can understand abandoning your estate if you decide it’s more trouble than it’s worth. However, slaughtering your serfs before you go? That’s just mean-spirited.
Page 93: Vampiric Zeal by Gabor Szikszai. Another image that benefits from the larger scale. Also, it’s kind of weird seeing vampires in full sunlight. We’re not used to that mythology.
Page 110: Admiral Beckett Brass by Jason Rainville. Both my favorite image in the book and my favorite character in Ixalan. It’s a shame that the pirates are a bit overshadowed in a world with dinosaurs, vampires, and merfolk.
Page 119: Storm Fleet Arsonist by Jason A. Engle. Swole AF. Storm Fleet Aerialist by Jesper Ejsing chooses to fly above it all.
Page 143: Sanguine Sacrament by Bastiene L. Deharme. My word.
Page 165: Vraska, Scheming Gorgon by Grzegorz Rutkowski. Maybe she’s having a bad hair(?) day, but I wouldn’t recommend asking her about it.
Pages 182-183: Rivals of Ixalan by Chris Rallis. Major spoilers here as to who wins the battle between the vampires, pirates, and dinosaurs.
Pages 184-185: Flood of Recollection by Magali Villeneuve. I can’t say I’m a fan of Jace, but this image is incredible.
Pages 190-223: The Ixalan Bestiary. Dinosaurs galore!
Page 224: Here, we get some background as to how Wizards of the Coast builds a plane
Pages 224-239: Appendix: Concept to Card. This is quite in-depth. The design of the vampire armor in particular notable.
Wizards of the Coast and Viz are clearly trying to give the fans everything they could possibly want. We get the art, the story, and the backstory. If you are part of Ixalan, you’re tale is told in this book. Personally, I feel bad for Captain Radcliff who was the victim of Angrath’s mutiny. One day you’re a pirate captain, the next you’re hanging on a gaff hook courtesy of your own crew. If you’re a vorthos, or if you just want the lore, The Art of Magic: the Gathering – Ixalan has you covered.