In Review: Magnus #1

A huge departure from previous Magnus incarnations has this often stumbling.

The covers: Nine covers for a fan to hunt down. The A cover is by Giuseppe Camucoli and it’s the one that accompanies this review. Dr. Kerri Magnus is holding a robot’s skull, contemplating it as though she were Hamlet. She and the skull look great and the background, composed of Matrix-like green numbers and letters looks great. The B cover is by interior artist Jorge Fornes and this is a funky frontpiece. A female body, presumably Magnus, has a monstrous globe of circuitry over her head, with four different sized monitors that show close-ups of her brain. There’s a circular scan that’s being done on her shoulder with the three laws of robotics stated sideways below it. This is 1960s freaky-cool. Aaron Conley has done the C cover and it features a massive robot that has had its brain extracted, held up by several cables. Magnus is walking to the iron giant on one of these cables. I like the difference in sizes and that Magnus can be clearly seen, however the focus isn’t on her, and that’s not good on a premiere issue. The D cover by Daniel Warren Johnson is the most intense of the covers: Magnus is sitting with her back against a monstrous brain in some type of control room. She’s holding a ginormous pistol and looks as if she’ll take a shot at the first person to challenge her. This is really nice — I like the mood. The E cover is a Black and White version of the B cover. This features only the body and the covering on its head. This loses its freaky feel without colors and comes across as creepy. The next variant is also a Black and White cover, with the F being the same artwork as the C. This allows the reader to see more of the details in the bot and I like it. The final Black and White cover is the G, featuring the artwork from the A cover. This doesn’t have the Matrixy background, but retains the doctor holding the skull. Nice, but doesn’t have as much futuristic flair. The H cover is a Textless Variant of the B and is awesome. This feels like the cover from a 1960s black and white magazine. Outstanding. The final cover is the I, which is a Textless Variant of the C. The colors are too dark at the top and to the left; brighter colors would have made this better. Overall grades: A A, B A+, C B+, D A, E B, F A, G C+, H A+, and I C+

The stories: “Between Two World” is written by Kyle Higgins and nice summarizes where title character Dr. Kerri Magnus is in her career. Before the good doctor is introduced, a father is leaving his family for work. The children wish to go with him, but he says, “…my place of work is no venue for children. Besides, after today, it will no longer be my place of work.” He says goodbye to his children, kisses his wife, take two steps outside and breaks into shreds that trail off into the wind. In the real world, robot Frederick reinhabits his body to serve his two human masters. He begins his breakfast protocol and is cut off as he begins to ask a question. “Stop right there, Freddy. If this is a conversation about how you want more time away in you little ‘world,’ then you can save your breath.” The robot returns to the table. “Yes. I know. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to about. I simply wanted to wish you well.” Frederick is shown with a butcher knife behind his back. “Where you will go.” He slaughters his owners, then sits in chair as all the appliances run and finally shut off. The robot appears to have returned to his AI life. The next two pages tell how robots were created and the problem that some of them wish to solely exist in their AI worlds. This is the domain of Magnus, who can travel into a robot’s central processor and communicate with them. She’s a counselor trying to keep robots sane. After ending a session with a patient, she has dinner with a friend who introduces her to the crime that opened the book, leading to a pair of detectives who want her to help with the case. Higgins develops the characters nicely, with Magnus getting a telling scene on Page 13. The detectives are also well written and the final page shows that trouble can be found anywhere. This was a decent start for this new Magnus, though it’s radically different from what I’ve enjoyed and seen in previous incarnations. There’s also a four page Turok story by Chuck Wendig that continues with the interrogation of two dinosaurs regarding the location of missing girl. One character dies, another shows his salt, and Turok is on the move to find the girl. This, too, is a radically different version of Turok and was okay. Overall grade: B-

The art: Jorge Fornés is the artist on the Magnus story. This version of Magnus is obviously trying to stay far from the character’s origins and the art is doing that as well. This is the most realistic looking Magnus I’ve seen, and I’m not keen on it. The book opens with Frederick leaving his house, which looks like a slice of life until he falls apart in the final panel, and that I liked. The look of Frederick in the real world would be a man in a mask if this were filmed. Yes, this is a much more realistic looking robot than those usually in Magnus, but it’s not as fun. Page 3 nicely shows the horrific aftermath of the robot’s rage, and the final panel on the page shows that Frederick got what he wanted; I like the nine panel breakdown on this page. Pages 4 and 5 is a double page spread and it’s not a great layout: it’s cluttered and not exciting to look at. It allows the story to be told but is boring. Worse still is the environment that Magnus is introduced in: it’s very, very boring. The pages set in the real world look fine, but, again, just aren’t visually exciting. Page 13 is the exception: this looks outstanding. It’s different and creates backstory without dialogue. Fornés’s visuals tell the story, but had me thinking I was reading a photonovel version of a low budget SyFy Channel series. The artwork on the Turok story by Álvaro Sarrasecca isn’t much better. The dinosaur people come off as comedic looking, making the violence that occurs unintentionally funny. The final two dinopeople shown on the last page cemented my avoidance of any Turok stories. This reminded me of a 2000AD story from the 80s. Overall grade: C-

The colors: Not helping the Magnus story are the drab colors by Chris O’Halloran. They start off very bright, with an orange sky and dialogue balloons that give an early clue in beautiful blues. But in the real world, the colors go drab, showing how life has become meaningless for human, though allowing for blood to stand out in crimson. The double-paged spread of 4 and 5 is too dark, with the narration being lost on the page. Wilder colors during the counseling session would have helped, but the primary color for the background is white. Colors are washed out or faded on the pages that follow, with only 13 having any punch. An attempt for bright colors is done on 16 and 17, but the art doesn’t give O’Halloran much to work with. The colors are much brighter on the Turok story that Triona Farrell contributed. Though, the backgrounds, even those that are illustrated, are given a blanket coloring, which captures the feel of an old comic, but stand out negatively because they’re so different. Overall grade: C

The letters: Taylor Esposito is the letterer for both stories and he does some good work. In addition to colors, the shape of the dialogue on the opening page provides a visual clue as to who Frederick is. The sounds on 3 make the violence that’s occurred even more maniacal. The lettering on 4 and 5 is difficult to read because of its size and design; it can be read, but really takes some effort. The dialogue and the sounds are well done, but the tease for next issue has the futuristic feel that I wanted for this story. An entirely different font is used by Esposito for the Turok tale, which is neat to see. The sounds are much bigger in this tale and the tease for next week is also different looking. It’s impressive that Esposito gave each tale its own lettering. I can’t think of many letterers who would do so in the same book. Overall grade: A-

The final line: A huge departure in story and art from previous Magnus incarnations has this often stumbling. I’ll give this one more issue, but if it’s more of the same, I’m out. Overall grade: C+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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