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MAGNUS #1

by Thegreatmagnet on June 09, 2017

Words: Kyle Higgins
Art: Jorge Fornes
Colors: Chris O’Halloran
Publisher: Dynamite
 
Turok (backup story):
Words: Chuck Wendig
Art: Alvaro Sarrasecca
Colors: Triona Farrell
 
The business of re-imagining classic characters can be fraught. For starters, longtime fans are often unwilling to accept any changes to the premise, characters or storylines, and they tend to be very vocal with their criticisms. On top of that, it can be difficult to deliver something sufficiently new and original when a character has been around for 50 years, and who needs another generic reboot? I’ve admittedly heard rumblings and scoffings among the fanboy community about (gasp!) a female Magnus?! It’s funny, because in my opinion, the sex of the character is a very minor change, compared with the drastic changes to the entire premise, but I’ll assume the purists won’t care for the rest of the changes either. Personally, I think the new take is very interesting, and it adds a valuable new dimension to the character.
 
One of the central elements to the premise of the new series is the “cloud world”, a virtual world where A.I. servants are permitted (by law) to upload their consciousness for up to four hours per day. The introduction of this issue suggests that the cloud world was created as a remedy for “computer depression”, allowing them to escape from humans in a world all their own. However, as a private congregation of A.I.’s, it’s perhaps unavoidably a forum for discontentment and organization. Magnus is one of the few humans who can enter the cloud world without going crazy. She used to travel to the cloud world as a bounty hunter, but now works as an A.I. therapist, perhaps as penance for her former occupation. In this issue, she’s accused of sympathizing more with the robots than humans (much like Magnus in the excellent 90s series), which may be an insight into the larger implications of robots’ subservient status in this society. It’s probably a safe bet that the cloud world will be an essential plot point throughout the series, given Magnus was convinced to return to her former bounty hunter role.
 
Magnus’ role as a therapist (with secret bounty hunter skills) is a thoroughly original take, and it presents some interesting ideas about the nature of artificial intelligence. In a telling scene, an ex-lover tries to demean Magnus’ calling by suggesting that the robot characters are merely a product of their fundamental programming. Meanwhile, Magnus seems to stress that there is an unquantifiable aspect of consciousness that transcends the framework of fundamental programming. This scene brought to mind obvious parallels in “Westworld”, which muse at length about the elusive quest for sentience in artificial intelligence. I find this thoroughly encouraging, since I feel the best Magnus stories must address the connections and distinctions between humans and robots in the framework of a hierarchal society.
 
Unfortunately, I’m somewhat less enthusiastic about the Turok adaptation previewed at the end of the issue. For starters, I’m extremely confused what connection (if any) this adaptation has to do with the Turok that is currently appearing in Sovereigns (as I am with the Magnus in this solo series). But whereas Magnus seems like an intelligent and engaging story, the premise of the solo Turok book seems less promising: anthropomorphic dinosaurs (including a very humanoid lizard man) that speak English and run a tyrannical jungle kingdom. Enter Turok, who only seems motivated to locate a single missing girl. Assumedly Turok will become better acquainted with the lizard man in the coming issues, which will hopefully introduce some more interesting concepts to the series. Admittedly, we’ve still only seen brief glimpses, so it’s a bit premature to disregard the series at this point.
 
The art looks great. The Magnus art is a bit more cartoony, with thicker, more economical lines. The colors also create a stylized, cartoony vibe, especially in cloud world scenes. The line art for Turok also looks great, although much more finely detailed. Meanwhile the colors for Turok are naturally a bit more monotone, full of jungle green. Hopefully the forthcoming series will feature some other landscapes and set pieces that will vary the color palette a bit. So far, I’d say that Dynamite has done a great job on the art teams for the new Gold Key series.
 
I think that this is a solid start for the Magnus series. It’s actually leaning into the conceptual, sci-fi considerations of A.I. servants, rather than an action-driven book about a dude who punches off robot heads. I think that the action will likely ramp up in future issues, but it may be closer to Blade Runner than Magnus of old. I certainly hope that longtime fans of the character are willing to give this series a chance, because the original Magnus concept is admittedly a bit dated and the modern audience demands a more sophisticated story. For new readers, I don’t see any obstacles to jumping on and enjoying, with the caveat that it’s not action right out of the gate.
 

Our Score:

8/10

A Look Inside