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What's New with Phil and Dixie 3: The Magic Years. By Phil Foglio with Kaja Foglio. Seattle, WA: Studio Foglio, 2000. 64p. $10.95. ISBN 1-890856-09-6.

Fantasy, gaming, humor

Adults, teens, kids

This book collects Phil Foglio's What's New strips from The Duelist magazine and also includes a new eight-page story. The strips focus mostly on Phil and Dixie romping through Magic: The Gathering, the fantasy trading card game that was the gaming phenomenon of the late 1990s. As Foglio was involved with the company, Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), almost from the beginning, he was in a unique position to observe the progress of the game from simple entertainment to craze--and to make fun of it at every step.

The book starts with a page of joke cards and then swings into the parody-history of Magic. Subjects covered include "degenerate" decks, expansion sets galore, collecting, and tournaments; jokes about the characters and items depicted, as well as WOTC employees; speculations about such things as what would happen if the whole world played Magic, the composition of Magic: The Movie, and jokes to play on Magic players; and stuff that just defies categorization, such as when the character Phil finds out that a "Magic widow" is "building a robot army to conquer America" while her husband plays. The eight-page original story is craziness about robots from the future trying to force Phil and Dixie to do exactly as they say in order to ensure the proper kind of future. The famous ever-multiplying Growf Dragon makes occasional appearances, as does Krosp, a cute white cat Minion of Evil who later became a major character in Foglio's series Girl Genius. Kaja Foglio supplied little footnotes for the stories and one panel of art in the new story.

This book is very funny and very specialized; only gamers will get much out of it, and only Magic: The Gathering players will fully appreciate all the jokes. I'm a gamer but have never been interested in Magic--until I read this book. Now I rather wish I'd been playing all this time, though it's probably pointless to start now. Anyway, that's how good this book is: parody it may be, but it's a friendly and appreciative parody, saving its sharpest barbs mostly for the excesses of the players and displaying a love of the game and a real sense of its captivating qualities. (I have a feeling that in practice I'd probably be bored with the game in a few months--my real love is role-playing games, which is also one of Foglio's interests [I've been reading his stuff for twenty years now because his What's New? column first appeared in Dragon magazine, the house organ for Dungeons & Dragons]).

As for the art, well, Phil Foglio is one of my absolute favorite artists (IMNSHO, he's one of the top ten humor cartoonists ever), and he doesn't disappoint here. I was musing about whether we'd ever see an animated cartoon using his style, and I realized that would be redundant; his art is practically animated already. One of these days I'll get my scanner hooked up; until then, go look at it at the Studio Foglio website.

Gamers, especially Magic players, are urged to get this book; the laughs are well worth the cover price. Others would be better off with one of Foglio's more general works, such as Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire or his outstanding adaptation of Mythadventures (highly out of print but worth a serious search).


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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