Written by Reuben Bresler
Livia Prima is an Indonesian artist who has done more than 50 pieces for Magic: The Gathering. Starting with her pieces Ley Weaver and Lore Weaver for Battlebond in 2018, Prima’s command of depth and shadow set her apart from her contemporaries. She is able to translate wistfulness, woe, love, courage, adoration, ambition, and any other complex emotion she sets her mind to recreating with not more than a palette and a canvas. When one recalls the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,”nowhere is that more the case than with the art of Livia Prima.
For this Secret Lair Collection, she set her sights on four of Magic’s most complex non-planeswalkers: Akroma, Glissa, Mikaeus, and Olivia. All four of these characters have achieved much and suffered more, and they also all share another trait in common: while many of Magic’s protagonists and antagonists have experienced strife in one life, each of these people have experienced it in at least two.
For these Magic characters, death is just the beginning.
Akroma began her life as a manifestation of the illusionist Ixidor’s grief. Having lost his wife, the Reality Sculptor sacrificed his arm and created the platonic ideal of good and righteousness in the world. And Akroma was that, but she was also much more. She fought wars and battled armies, she led mortals and immortals alike in combat dozens if not hundreds of times. Ultimately, her death came at the hands of Kamahl, but in doing so she did know that she was at least a part of helping her creator’s soul rest in peace… but that peace was not for her, as later she would be twisted and recast in the role of Karona, The asle God. But that’s a tale for another Secret Lair…
Glissa Sunseeker was just a normal elf who distrusted the established order of things, until one day her home was destroyed by machines and she was saved by the beings whose influence she once abhorred. She became a protector, a freedom fighter, and a seeker of truth. Her role was one of having greatness foisted upon her, and she answered the call. But despite her heroism and her efforts, she was reviled, often incorrectly and without cause, for events outside of her control. She would eventually succumb to the same fate as so many before her, and was Compleated by the Phyrexian Praetor Vorinclex. If any protagonist in Magic has gotten the short end of the stick, it’s Glissa.
Mikaeus was once the highest ranking mortal in The church of Avacyn, and reported to no one but the Archangel of Hope herself. In a land of horrors each more terrifying than the next, Mikaeus was a bright light in the darkness. At the battle for The Helvault, Mikaeus was instrumental in the eventual pyrrhic victory of the mortals against the undead hordes… but it cost him and many others their lives. Unsure whether Mikaeus’s death would lead to widespread panic among the faithful, the cathars buried him in secret. Unfortunately, not everything that is laid to rest rests for long, and Liliana herself raised Mikaeus and robbed him of The Blessed Sleep. Thus, The Unhallowed rose from the catacombs and once more shepherded a flock of followers in an ironic mockery of his mission in life.
We don’t know much about Olivia before her first death. What we do know is that she was a wanderer and a traveler, a trait she maintains now that she has been reborn in her vampire form. The progenitor of the Voldaren bloodline, Olivia is an extremely powerful vampire with many capabilities. Not the least of which is her charm and charisma, which rallies allies to her causes and suitors to her doorstep. Countless small fights and big ones as well featured her inpu both behind the scenes and on the big stage. Her marriage to Edgar Markov recently in particular struck a nerve with many. And unlike the rest of her fellow Secret Lair cohabitators, this is unlikely to be the last we will see of the vampire leader…
These stories are sad. They are about people who lived difficult lives with hard problems and insurmountable odds. Akroma, Glissa, Mikaeus, and Olivia are tragic heroes, and oftentimes villains. And what’s more sad than that is they did not get happy endings like we’re told all heroes oneday will get. Not everyone gets what they deserve, and these characters are prime examples of that.
But the other thing these characters share is that they never gave up hope. Even facing down god-smiting weapons, mechanized abominations, undead hordes, and entire planes set against them, they did not waver in their beliefs. They did not surrender to their sadness and grief and frustration. The stories they tell are of perseverance. Despite everything, they kept trying.
Livia Prima’s Secret Lair showcasing the characters of Akroma, Angel of Wrath; Glissa Sunseeker; Mikaeus, the Unhallowed; and Olivia, Mobilized for War are able to deliver these complex emotions in a single image without issue. Her art is able to do justice to these tragic and complex tales with grace and ease. A picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures of these characters needed someone like Livia Prima to deliver their messages.