Magnus, you’re a tricky one. I’ve read several incarnations of Magnus: Robot Fighter and I can honestly say only one series ever stuck with me—the Acclaim version by Tom Peyer and Mike Mckone. I read many a Valiant title and even some Dark Horse reboot, but only Peyer could actually get me interested in the character. I mean, Magnus fights robots. He punches them, they break. It’s not the most exciting premise, but I knew in the right hands anything was possible. Hey, I cared about Magnus once, was it a fluke because of an awesome creative team, or was there more to the character? I took one look at the cover of Dynamite’s new Magnus reboot and instantly knew there was something special in there.
So let’s start at the cover. What did they do right? Everything, it seems. You can’t go wrong with a Gabriel Hardman cover, and that new Rian Hughes logo is simply sparkling. We’ve got Van Lente’s name on the side—always enticing, and the words Gold Key near the bar code for that “rich heritage” touch. The only thing that really misfires is the $3.99 price staring you in the face, but guess what? It’s worth it.
Fred Van Lente has proven to be one of the most reliable writers around. He’s a master of the perfect touch, never getting too heavy or dark and always maintaining that great balance between comic fun and literate density. Accessibility is the name of his game and if Van Lente can’t sell you on a character, you’re reading it wrong. I’m sold on Magnus, thanks!
The setup here is deceptively brilliant. Sure I’d seen Magnus’s origins before, but this is the best telling. Without giving anything away I can tell you that Van Lente gives Magnus the perfect reason to fight robots. Better yet, he gives the reader plenty of reasons to actually care about Magnus, the character. And he’s likeable! For a character I never clicked with it’s very refreshing to finally like Magnus.
The world building is impressive too. By the end of this first issue we know everything we need to, have a great bunch of characters we want to read more about and a clear conflict that could go in endless directions. I’m excited by the possibilities and can’t wait to see more of the world Van Lente and Cory Smith have designed for us. The first half of this book is so well made that by the end of issue, we feel exactly the same way Magnus does. An average book might outline a character’s goals and convince the reader they should succeed. Magnus treats the reader the same way it does its character. When Magnus loses utopia, so do we. That’s something special, right there.
Cory Smith is not a name I’m not familiar with, but I feel like I should be. His work here matches Van Lente’s style perfectly. It’s accessible and incredibly impressive. I’d liken it to a cross between David Lapham and Rob Guillory. It’s not as cartoony as Guillory, but maintains the level of expression. I was especially impressed with the level of detail. All too often we get great looking characters and dull, fog-filled backgrounds, but not in this book. The attention to setting is astounding. There is a lot to be seen here.
Mauricio Wallace’s colours have to be noted as well. The colour accentuates the mood tenfold and brings layers of emotion to a scene that could otherwise have been quite simple. Each setting feels different yet completely familiar. Both the city and suburb scenes feel like they were drawn for places I’d been, but skewed. I simply can’t get enough of this art team’s style.
The last thing I must praise is the amount of content. No, this isn’t an extra-sized issue. No, there aren’t mounds of extra features to sink your teeth into either. This book, unlike so many titles these days, actually gives you a decent chunk of story. The pacing, the text to picture ratio—everything is exactly how I want it. In a world of Hickman’s Avengers and Bendis’s X-stuff, it’s a breath of fresh air to get a book where something actually happens. If I’m going to spend $3.99 on a single comic book, I don’t want a snippet of a scene. I don’t want 6 pages that amount to a single action in a single location. I want progression, new ideas and interesting character building that doesn’t come at the expense of plot. I want a book like Magnus.