A review copy was provided by Fred Van Lente courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.
Dynamite Entertainment recently acquired the rights to the classic line of Gold Key comic characters, including the ever-popular Magnus: Robot Fighter. I’d never read a comic featuring Magnus before, but a quick perusal of his backstory got me interested and, with a great creative team on board, I was excited to check out this title. Without further ado, let’s dive into Magnus: Robot Fighter #1.
Our story stars Russell Magnus, a history teacher and martial arts instructor in the town of Maury’s Peak. In this calm village, humans and robots live in harmony, looked over by the benevolent 1A, an artificial intelligence that acts as a father figure to Magnus. Peace cannot last, however, and when the calm is shattered Magnus finds himself thrust into a world of mechanical confusion.
Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 flows from the pen of Fred Van Lente, one of my favorite comic authors thanks to his work on Archer & Armstrong. Though Van Lente is often known for writing humorous stories, this comic is more serious and heartfelt; this is not a bad thing, however, as we get to see the breadth of expression Van Lente can place into his characters. I felt a strong connection with Magnus: joy resonated as I watched him teach him students, empathy flowed as I saw him go fishing with 1A, and a sense of confusion and fear percolated when his world was turned upside down. We’re treated to a great character portrait of a determined man.
Furthermore, Van Lente’s work brings new life to the old science fiction trope of man vs. machine. Far from this simplistic dichotomy, Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 addresses that, perhaps, the struggle goes deeper than simply the two sides, and perhaps battles of man vs. man is the true root of the problem. I’m intrigued and hooked by the first issue already, and am eager to see how things develop for Magnus.
Cory Smith takes point as Magnus: Robot Fighter’s artist. Smith’s work is keen and brings a humanizing sensibility to this science fiction landscape. Smith draws a strong-jawed, tough hero in Magnus, yet still remembers to infuse him with a clear emphatic human element in his expression and movements. The robot designs are, of course, exceptional as well with Smith treating us to some interesting technological presentations. Finally, Smith’s work on Magnus’s supporting cast strengthens the story even further, as Moira, 1A, and Magnus’s students each resonate with a life of their own their excellent work on the characters’ expressions.
Colorist Mauricio Wallace work cannot be overlooked; his palette shift from the first half to the second half of the comic really helps set the tone and reinforce some of the overarching themes. I loved his choices to switch from a more earthy, realistic palette to a wilder, brighter tone-scape as the story shifts moods. Finally, letterer Marhsall Dillon uses some great techniques to differentiate between the speech of robots and humans, which adds a subtle, but great, touch to the story.
My only gripe about Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 is that the story shift may seem a little jarring; still, this is clearly Van Lente et al.’s overarching goal, as it places the reader into our confused hero’s shoes. Overall, I think this is a solid comic that revitalizes the classic concept of a man facing technological horrors. This is definitely a comic any fan of science fiction would do well to pick up.
This is an early review: Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 is available in stores and digitally March 12th.
-great character study of Magnus
-superb art, especially in terms of the robot designs and shift in color palette
-intriguing twist on the classic “man vs. machine” concept
-story shift in the middle feels somewhat jarring (but this seems intentional)
Brett Simon is a twenty-four year old comic enthusiast. He still doesn’t trust robots.
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