I’ve been aware of Magnus the Robot Fighter since it was published by Valiant way back in the 90’s (itself a reboot of a Gold Key character from the 1960s). While I found the premise of a leotard-wearing hero beating robots on a regular basis very interesting, I never gave it the proverbial whirl. Now that Dynamite Comics has rebooted the original Gold Key universe and this title along with it, I jumped in on the opportunity and was rewarded for it big time.
The issue opens up with scenes from the small peaceful winter town of Maury’s Peak. Our titular character, Russell Magnus, is a history teacher as well as a martial arts coach. Are there any robots? You bet, but not the hostile types I’ve come to expect (at least in these initial pages). In fact, these robots co-exist peacefully with humans. Each robot model has its own specific duties to perform and can even engage in small talk in the only way it knows how. And while they don’t have the human capacity for cognition, they are advanced enough to recognize a joke or identify an anthropomorphic remark. But then there’s 1A, who is more advanced than the others. 1A impressed me as Maury’s Peak’s own version of Big Brother, but the good kind. And while 1A is not capable of love, at least in the strict sense, this robot has become a father figure to Russell since his parents died. One can tell that writer Fred Van Lente is using these characters and the world they live in as proxies to touch on many important aspects of humanity when juxtaposed against the cold efficiency of technology. And he does it with subtlety and in a way that serves the story too.
Now after reading all that, you might be wondering if that’s all there is to it. After all, you probably didn’t buy this title to read about a story set in an idyllic boring town like Maury’s Peak, even with all those friendly robots. Without giving anything away, let me just say that you’re in for a pleasant surprise. You’ll get your futuristic techno city and flying cars and hostile robots and – last but not least – Magnus the Robot Fighter himself in all his fighting glory soon enough in this issue. Why the sudden shift in setting? You’re better off finding out for yourself.
The comic wouldn’t be as good without the strong visuals provided by Cory Smith’s art and Mauricio Wallace’s colors. Smith’s art has a distinct look that makes the characters and the world being built here feel more fully realized. Wallace showed amazing precision and versatility in conveying the mood that the narrative calls for. Every panel and every page bolstered the story in more ways than one. Let’s hope that this art team stays in this book for a very long time.
Overall, Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 is a great start to the rebooted series, not to mention a good introduction to the All-New Gold Key universe. Fred Van Lente’s skills as a world-builder are on full display in every page. In just 22 pages, he made Russell Magnus a three-dimensional character with real motivations that inform his every action. I got a good kick out of seeing robots getting punched to smithereens too. I’ll definitely stick around for this one.
Reviewed by: Lawrence Arboleda
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