Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Ice Age #1-4, part deux

This is the conclusion of my look at the Ice Age comic. You can find the summary and review of the story here. In this installment I'll cover the continuity and timeline issues associated with it.

Let's start with the really big question: Is this comic even still in continuity? Two weeks ago we looked at the comics telling the story of Antiquities and I said they were no longer canon because the novel The Brothers' War replaced them. This isn't a controversial statement. The novel says as much in its introduction, it covers exactly the same things as the comics, and later stories are build upon the novel, not the comic. The replacement is thus complete and neatly done.

The situation surrounding Ice Age is a bit more complex. Wizards released the novel The Eternal Ice, but it only tells the story of Kjeldor's battle against Lim-Dûl. It does so in a way that completely contradicts issue two of the comic. The Summit of the Null Moon is not shown, but Freyalise does pop in every now and again and in the end she casts the World Spell and there are allusions to the events of the comic. For example, at the casting of the World Spell Kolbjörn and a girl the main characters think must be his adopted daughter show up, a clear reference to Kaysa. Tevesh Szat's plan to freeze Dominaria isn't shown either, but at one point Arcum Dagson turns up with his magical weathervane, which foretells the winter lasting forever, a hint that Szat's plan still happened behind the scenes. Later, in Invasion, Szat confirms this.

My preference is to say that The Eternal Ice just replaced issue two of Ice Age, and that the other three issues are still in continuity. Mostly this works out fine. Unfortunately Lim-Dûl has a few cameo appearances in issues three and four, and becomes a main character again in the Shandalar comic. Those appearances can't be squared with The Eternal Ice in any way, so we're caught between a rock and a hard place here. Either we say the last two issues of Ice Age are still in continuity, but riddled with continuity errors, or we strike them from continuity, but then we're left with the bizarre situation where some of the most important events in the canon are not told in any in-continuity stories.

For my project I have decided the first is the lesser of two evils. Thus I've still put the Ice Age comics on my timeline, except for issue two, and in this entry I'll list which parts of them are contradicted by The Eternal Ice.

First, a quick run through the differences between the two tellings. In issue two of the comic Lim-Dûl is transformed into a monstrous form, faces a small group of Kjeldoran knights and is imprisoned in an Icy Prison. It's unclear when this happened exactly, but from Leshrac's comments it may be as much as a few years before the Summit of the Null Moon. During that Summit Dûl is freed from his prison, a side effects of Freyalise and Szat having their duel. A few weeks later, at the same time Freyalise is casting the World Spell, Dûl turns up with an army of undead at the ruins of Storgard, just in time to witness Szat being defeated by the Amulet of Quoz. Szat flees to Shandalar, taking Lim-Dûl along. In the first issue of Shandalar we'll see that Leshrac has been hanging around on Shandalar since the Summit, with Szat and Dûl turning up a few weeks later.

In The Eternal Ice we'll first see Dûl, still in human form, a few weeks before the World Spell is cast. Over the course of the novel he'll be turned into a monstrous form, but faces no Kjeldoran knights and isn't put in any kind of prison either. On the day of the World Spell he leads his armies not to Storgard but against Kjeldor. In the aftermath of his defeat Leshrac turns up and takes Dûl to Shandalar. Szat isn't present at all. Also of note: Shandalar's approach is discovered during the course of the novel, meaning the Summit has to take place sometime during its events. So we can't even make a strange timeline in which Dûl is turned into a monster, put onto ice, is freed during the Summit, somehow turned back into human and then stars in The Eternal Ice only to be turned into a monster again. Heck, doing that wouldn't even solve his appearances while the World Spell is being cast, when he's supposed to be at both Storgard and Kjeld at the same time, only to be taken to Shandalar by both Szat and Leshrac simultaneously!

Basically, the entire chronology of Lim-Dûl before the World Spell doesn't match up and during the World Spell he's supposed to be at two places at once.

What does that mean for the individual issues of Ice Age?
  • Issue one is still entirely in continuity as far as I'm concerned. It happens centuries before the other stories, and thus also centuries before The Eternal Ice. Hence nothing in it is contradicted.
  • Issue two is the opposite of issue one. This story simply can't have happened because of The Eternal Ice. The transformation of Lim-Dûl is different, the rag-tag group of Kjeldoran soldiers aren't present in the novel, Jodah and Jaya Ballard aren't present here. The only way I can think of that could reconcile both sources is if this is somehow a different Lim-Dûl than the one we see in The Eternal Ice. In The Shattered Alliance the more powerful minions of Lim-Dûl are shown to have created a simulacrum of him in order to keep the stupider undead in check, so the idea of a replacement Dûl is maybe not as bizarre as it sounds. Double Dûl's could explain all the appearances of Dûl between this comic and The Eternal Ice, but you'd still run into problems with the beginning of Shandalar, where we see Leshrac hanging out on the plane for a while before Szat and Dûl arrive. Personally I prefer to say the entire issue is out of continuity, but that the Kjeldoran knights we see here did save a barbarian tribe from some undead and where gifted a Nova Pentacle for their troubles, thus explaining the appearance of the soldiers and the Pentacle in issue four.
Yes, this legendary creature is a body double of Lim-Dûl. Yes, that is weird.
  • Issue three covers the Null Moon parts of the plot, and should happen between the pages of The Eternal Ice. There are just two problems. First, there are the panels that show Lim-Dûl. Those we should just ignore, unless you want to assume that it's the theoretical Dûl simulacrum we see here. The other problem is Leshrac, who leaves for Shandalar at the end of the Summit. In the novel he turns up after Lim-Dûl defeat, moments before the World Spell is cast, to collect the necromancer and take him to Shandalar as well. Leshrac could have traveled back from Shandalar to collect Dûl, I guess. That still directly contradicts the beginning of the Shandalar comic though. The whole plot of The Shattered Alliance hinges on the scene with Leshrac and Dûl from The Eternal Ice happening, so that must be what happened. I'm accepting the idea that Leshrac heads to Shandalar here, and returns to pick up Dûl later. That does mean the first few pages of Shandalar have been ret-conned, but there is really no getting around that. (Note that the Shard is still in place until the World Spell is cast, so Leshrac should have trouble getting from Shandalar back to Dominaria. Still, when he leaves he tells Szat that he'll "assist him through", so presumably he can keep the hole in the Shard open for a few weeks.)
That Leshrac, always so helpful.
  • Issue four then. Like issue three, most of it could happen in conjunction to The Eternal Ice. The comic calls the ruins of Storgard "Soldev", while in the novel Soldev is a city nearby, but that's not a big problem. Just mentally insert the word "near" any time Soldev is brought up. Trickier is, once again, Lim-Dûl, turning up at Storgard/Soldev. The best solution, again, is just to ignore Dûl, or assume it's an illusion cast by Szat or something. Or you could go with the Dûl-simulacrum theory, but that still causes problems. If Szat leaves with the simulacrum, it would mean that Leshrac and Szat would each pop up on Shandalar with a Dûl in tow at pretty much the same moment. The Shandalar comic however, shows that when Szat and Dûl turn up Leshrac has already been there for a while. Still a possiblity of course, since I've already noted that the first few pages of Shandalar are problematic anyway. But we'll take a closer look at that in the Shandalar review.

Ignore the horned man with the ludicrous tongue and the undead army please. He's not actually there.
So yeah... in the end there is no neat solution. Even if we accept the (fairly outlandish) double Dûl theory, we still have to remove pages from Shandalar from continuity. We'll just have to read these comics, try to mentally block out any appearance of Lim-Dûl, and keep telling ourselves "this is kinda how things happened, but not entirely". Not very satisfactory, I know, but what are you going to do?

  • In the battle against the Johtull Wurm in issue one, the leader of Clan Ruby, Zilegeth, kills himself when he loses control of an Incinerate. Not that notable, you might say, but the guy is described as “almost a planeswalker”. This has long been another example on the list of “weird pre-rev portrayals of planeswalkers”, but now we can just invoke Tapestries, and say he was a mortal mage who was close to learning the secrets of planar travel. Or at least, people thought so. He can’t have been THAT good at magic if he somehow managed to kill himself with his own Incinerate.
  • Speaking of planeswalkers, Freyalise is described as a planeswalker by one of the characters before she dies in battle with Jason. This has also been a continuity puzzler for a while. I would chalk this up to mortal not knowing what a planeswalker actually is, or perhaps Freyalise actually managed to travel between planes as a mortal before her proper ascension. She clearly isn’t a true planeswalker yet at that time. If she was, her belief that the people of Storgard no longer have the power to journey through the ice makes no sense. She should just be able to transport them all herself. Plus it’s unlikely that Jason could defeat her, even with Szat’s help. 
  • On a related note, when she dies, Freyalise actually talks about ascension! The context makes it sound more like she’s talking about dying and going to heaven, but it’s a very interesting placement of precisely that word. I believe this is the first time we've seen it used in conjunction with a mortal turning into a planeswalker. Planar Chaos will later confuse matters surrounding Freyalise's ascension, by having Teferi remark on a story that she might have been from Llanowar, but since he's not sure about that, I still hold that the scene here is her actual ascension.
  • An example to show that process of becoming a planeswalker hadn't entirely been hammered out yet: Ravidel’s death and resurrection are not described with the word ascension. At the beginning of issue three he is explicitly mentioned as not being a planeswalker though, so him coming back from the dead is the most logical moment for his ascension.
  • Zaraya, the leader of the Kjeldoran soldier in issue two, is given a Nova Pentacle by the barbarians she helps. In issue four Freyalise gives the Pentacle to Jaeuhl, who uses to to kill the Priest of Yawgmoth by reflecting his own spell back to him. No mention is made of the Nova Pentacle Chaney had in Shattered Chains, but in my head-canon it's the same one.
  • Chromium Rhuell hates Leshrac because he blames him for the death of his brother. Since Nicol Bolas will later turn up alive and well, people assume that this comment means Arcades Sabboth is dead (As we know from Elder Dragons that Palladia-Mors was Chromium's sister, and Vaevictis Asmadi a cousin). Keeping in mind the colors of mana Leshrac uses though, it seems more likely that Nicol Bolas was the intended victim! Or even another dragon altogether, considering that at this point Rhuell was supposed to be A Chromium dragon rather than THE Chromium dragon.
  • Taysir calls Kristina “Wise beyond your years”.  That's a bit patronizing at the best of times, but this quote becomes particularly silly if we believe the chronology given in The Story of the Battlemage Ravidel, which states that Kristina ascended before the Brothers’ War and Taysir after it. Calling someone older than you wise beyond their years is just odd. I'm not sure if this should count as hard proof, but it is another bit of evidence that pushes me to accepting the early placement of Arabian Nights. 
  • In issue three there is a picture of Storgard at its peak, with a blurb that claims the ruins are now known as Soldev. As I noted above, Soldev was later said to be a city where loads of ancient artifacts where dug up, presumably from the vaults of Storgard. I thought I'd share the image nonetheless.
The same page also mentions an Atlas of Dominaria that would have been released later in 1995. Unfortunately it never made it to print.

Like with Fallen Empires, this comic starts with a blurb telling us when it happens. Again like Fallen Empires, it’s not a date that made it through the Revision.

We’ll get to what “The Gathering of the Sages of Minorad” actually is, and when it happened (the placement itself is a somewhat tricky one) when we get to Wayfarer, but for now I'll note that we can say with certainty that it has to occur before the Phyrexian Invasion, so if this comic happens four millenia before that, it should happen before the Ice Age even started, probably even before the Brothers’ War. Obviously that's not the case, so we'll ignore this comment. The official Wizards timeline trumps the older dates.

Similarly, the blurb in issue three saying the planeswalkers have been trapped for “Ten centuries” has also been invalidated by the revisionist timeline.

Luckily there is nothing that contradicts the repeated mentions from the second issue that five hundred years have passed between the fall of Storgard and the age of Kjeldor and Lim-Dûl. I'm particularly glad that Tevesh Szat repeats this in issue four, since it means we still have a relevant source for that date even if we strike issue two from continuity altogether. Since the official timeline places the end of the Ice Age in 2934 we can place issue one at +/- 2400, issues three and four in 2934 itself, and issue two... if you want to include it, it should happen shortly before 2934, since Leshrac mentions the Summit of the Null Moon will happen "in a year... or five".

Whew! That was it then, everything I could say about the Ice Age comics! Even with all the continuity baggage, this comic series is pivotal in the canon and very enjoyable in itself, and thus mandatory reading for any Magic the Gathering storyline fan! Funnily enough I can say the same about The Eternal Ice, which is a great novel but causes all sorts of continuity issues when put next to this comic, or next to all the references to the Sages of Lat-Nam in the Harper Prism novels.

The review of The Eternal Ice is still a long way of though. The coming weeks I'll be looking at the stories that were written while Ice Age was still very much in continuity. Next up we'll check in on the plane where all these planeswalkers are fleeing towards: Shandalar!


  1. Man, I loved The Eternal Ice (and the entire Jodah trilogy). Can't wait for that one!

    All these continuity problems you keep bringing up are a bit hard to follow without links to TEI and the Shandalar comic. Something to keep in mind for future reviews perhaps.

    1. I'll put up the review for Shandalar next week, The Eternal Ice is a bit longer into the future. I'll try to remember to put in a link when I finally get there. Is there anything specific that is unclear that I could add to the article now?

      And thanks for the head's up on the Storgard/Strogard thing. Some things I am just unable to write/read correctly. Be prepared for a lot of Tahngarth misspellings when I get to the Weatherlight Saga!

    2. These were the things that confused me the most:

      In paragraph 3, you first comment that the stories of Lim-Dul vs the Kjeldorans don't match up, but for the remainder of the paragraph you only talk about what DOES match. What's the problem then?

      In the paragraph above the picture of Lord of Tresserhorn, you say that the events in the comic are at odds with the events of the novel, but you only describe the events in the comic. What happens in the novel?

      Throughout your analysis you make references to problems concerning Lim-Dul's transformation and his imprisonment in the Icy Prison, but it's never quite clear to me what those problems are.

      Hope this helps!

    3. I've added a summary of Dûl's appearances in the comics and in The Eternal Ice before I get into the individual issues, and did some little rewrites to the discussion of those issues. I hope that makes things a bit more clear!

      Thanks for the feedback!

    4. Yes, those paragraphs clear up a lot!

  2. Ten centuries is only 1000 years, though. Does the revised timeline really invalidate the Shard lasting that long? I thought it formed before The Dark.

    1. Oddly, this is the one place where the timeline is elongated, as the official timeline gives almost 25 centuries for the Ice Age! Good eye, I should've elaborated on that!