(Dynamite Entertainment, 2014)
Writer – Fred Van Lente
Artist – Cory Smith
Colorist – Maricio Wallace
Letterer – Marshall Dillon
There’s something magical about finding a thing you like where you didn’t expect it to be. It’s happened to me at various times with films, mostly because I had paid little attention to the trailers and previews, and then saw the film totally blank. Just so with comics, it seems that, though I often read reviews and previews, I’m often most surprised by something I had no intention of reading.
Magnus: Robot Fighter came out yesterday. The title is self-explanatory; the story that Fred Van Lente (The Incredible Hercules, Archer and Armstrong) has crafted is not.
Magnus is another of the rebooted Gold Key characters that Dynamite has successfully revived in recent months along with Turok. Magnus has had many incarnations over the years, but one thing has always remained the same, it’s the year 4000 A.D. and he has to fight robots. The character was created in 1963 by Russ Manning and has gone through several reissues over the years. Although I didn’t see a specific mention of a year, we can assume that in this current version it is well past our present. Robots have been finely woven in the day-to-day life of humans, taking care of everything from fixing your car to raising your children. Magnus is a history teacher in Maury’s Peak, Montana, a perfect little town in the mountains. He is married to a beautiful woman, is happy in his life, and then disaster strikes.
Cory Smith (Turok, TMNT Micro Series) has taken a lovely, classic style for this book. It really has a Joe Simon/Jack Kirby Captain America feel to the beginning, which works for the way the story is crafted, honing that “all-American” edge to Magnus. The story does a 180 in the middle, and the style changes, becomes a little more modern, but because of the foundation it doesn’t seem jarring and actually works quite well with the narrative transition.
Dynamite is doing these reboot in the best way. As with Turok and Greg Pak, they’ve brought Van Lente in, another accomplished comic writer, and he’s taking the story into the 21st century. (Even though it typically doesn’t take place until the 40th century…but that’s a DeLorean of a different color.) He humanizes Magnus perfectly, building the character as stable and confident. At his lowest point in the first half, he is suddenly dropped completely out of his own reality and into something far different, which will be an interesting place to go with this kind of character. What does the average man do when faced with the incredible? Van Lente builds you up as well, bringing you to a high point in the story before crushing you like a stampede of rampaging robots. It’s fantastic.
This was a book that wasn’t on my radar, and like those films I once watched, I was completely overjoyed to find that it was something that I not only liked, but would look for again in the future. Van Lente and Smith are in the ring with Magnus: Robot Fighter, and I pity the fool robot that goes against them.
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Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.