Monday, June 30, 2014
Magnus, Robot Fighter #2, #3, and #4 (Dynamite Comics)
Three months back, I posted a glowing review of the first issue of Dynakey's Magnus, Robot Fighter series Do the following three issues stack up, or is it an underwhelming continuation?
Russel Magnus has been torn from a virtual world he thought to be real, and has found himself in the strange new world of North Am, a futuristic city where robots rule over humans. Having been arrested by the authorities, Magnus is interrogated by Inspector Leeja Clane, a brutal 'human hunter' who sees Magnus as a terrorist. He soon manages to escape with a rogue robot, and goes in search of the Gophs (feral human outcasts), and his 'father', 1A, the Artificial Intelligence that created Magnus' virtual home. Unfortunately Clane is on his tail, and her shady senator father is desperate to be rid of Magnus, regardless of collateral damage...
This issue is a pretty decent read, even if it doesn't cover a whole lot of ground. It properly introduces Leeja Clane, who I'll get to later, as well as showcases Magnus' newfound abilities of communicating with and understanding the code of machines.
The first half of this issue is set in the sort-of Virtual Reality Correctional Facility, which the illustrators used as an excuse to not draw backgrounds. I'm not judging, though, as it is a decent looking location. One slight irritation with the layout is a 2-page spread that could have easily made up one page, as it feels a little sparse for two. As the issue tells a fair amount of story though, I don't mind there being a spread, and at least it's not the most wasteful I've ever seen.
The only problem I had with this issue is the comic relief-A jive-talkin' robot name H8R. I GET IT. "Daaaaym, dat was da shiz nit, my flesh brother!" Ugh! He even says "YouknowwhatI'msayyn?". But to be fair, the character isn't grating, has a slightly interesting backstory, and doesn't appear a whole lot, so there's not much opportunity for him to be annoying.
One odd thing I might as well talk about here (given the Valiant Magnus comics are in copyright hell) is the robots' dying screams of 'Skreeee!' In the Valiant (and maybe Gold Key too, I'm not sure) Magnus series, they screamed 'Squeeee!'. Yes, really! I guess it was just random gibberish back then.
There isn't much story this issue, and the only thing is manages to establish aside from Leeja's reality show trade in busting criminals is an explanation on what Gophs are. Thankfully it doesn't come across as an issue-long fight scene, as there are varied things happening, as welll as good dialogue exchanges.
While we know way less about this universe than we should three issues in, it's serviceable, and mildly interesting. I like the idea of robots being religious, even if it is stupid and illogical. As for the state of this dystopian future...
...That actually sounds really good! Sign me up! As that sounds so awesome, I'm sure it'll end up being revealed that the Powers That Be behind it all will be a bunch of corrupt evildoers, etc, which is why we won't want to kick the crap outta Magnus for tearing down a perfect society. It isn't exactly difficult to tell where this series is going. It's predictable as hell!
The attempts at humour is where this issue really fails. The song at the start is unfunny, tonally awkward, and annoyingly hipster-ish, as is the reference the Bechdel Test. And as for the DRM joke-Hmm, I wouldn't think DRM would be a common thing TWO THOUSAND YEARS IN THE GODDAMNED POST POST-APOCALYPTIC FUTURE! Guh, this is like how in recent episodes of Futurama, stuff like apps and smartphones are mentioned, dating what's supposed to be a show set in the far future.
Another problem is the poor scene transition when the robot woman in the church defends Magnus. It feels like there's a panel missing.
Issue 4 finishes off this first arc, and unfortunately it feels like nothing has been accomplished. Four issues in, and Magnus has successfully ran away from the authorities. That's it, basically. And the brief exposition we about the Swarm and Singularity is a bit confusing. The ending for Magnus is a pretty neat cliffhanger, though.
Leeja is severely underused this time round, spending most of the issue unconscious under rubble, H8R continues to be 'eh, ok', and the Synod (robot church) is still annoyingly unexplored. The Swarm is a pretty interesting enemy, and I liked the way Magnus defeats it.
Magnus, Robot Fighter is doing an ok job at world building, but too little too late, given Dynakey's pathetic issue structures. If you can't tell a story in one comic issue, that's bad enough, but if you need four to tell one, you FAIL! Let's compare, shall we. The latest volume of Deadpool takes several issues to tell it's arcs because they're big arcs with heaps of characters and plenty happening, and the same goes for the current Quantum and Woody series, whereas Dynakey's Turok, Dinosaur Hunter spent four issues on a barebones story with barely any characters, who we know nothing about in a world we know nothing about, and Solar is doing the same thing. Thankfully Magnus fares a bit better in both the storytelling and character departments, but the problem still stands-We're four issues into this series, and we still barely know anything about the world that we're in. It's especially annoying because it only took me a couple of minutes of brainstorming of how to fix this, and compress the story to a single issue without losing anything in translation.
Onto the characters. Magnus isn't exactly a bland character so far, and we at least get what drives him, given the events of #1, but we know practically nothing about who the guy is. H8R is decent, despite his jive-talking not really meshing with the series' tone all that well, and 'Human Hunter' Leeja Clane is a somewhat interesting character, especially from what we come to sort-of learn at the end of #4. Given who Leeja is in all the other Magnus incarnations, I can see where she's going pretty easily, but maybe DynaKey will compensate for our knowledge of past incarnations of the character by making her and what she does/goes through very different (technically they already have by starting her off as a villainous human hunter, but who else has already assumed that Leeja will realize her society is corrupt, join Magnus, and fall in lovey-love with the studly MAN hero). Her bad guy senator father is pretty underdeveloped so far, and has done next to nothing aside from releasing The Swarm, unfortunately.
The art in this series continues to be quite good. Nothing bad on display here.
One pretty minor problem with MRF is the The 'Previously On' recaps at the start of each issue. They try to be funny, and they fail. They'd still be a pain if they succeeded though, as funny recaps are not welcome in a dead serious comic universe!...Well, dead serious minus the random intrusions by unfunny comedy.
As I found out at first by perusing Dynamite's website, the next issue of MRF is a #0. My first reaction was 'Already?!', and my second was 'Aw crap, it's gonna be two months before we get back to the story proper, isn't it', but as it turns out, both #0 and #5 are being released in the same month, which I immensely respect. They could have just done the same as lots of other companies do, and release #0 in July, then #5 in August! I'm glad, because a two month gap really does screw with the flow of an ongoing series.
So far, this series is showing promise, and has some interesting (albeit frustratingly unexplored) concepts, but it's up in the air where this'll go from here. At the end of my very positive review for Magnus, Robot Fighter #1, I said 'Thanks Dynamite!'. I think I'll go back and edit that out out of spite. As for how I'll finish of this review, how about-You're on thin ice with this, Dynamite!...Actually, I think I will thank Dynamite for one thing-Thanks for not having Magnus wear a mini mini-skirt! It only brings Zapp Brannigan to mind, as well as making us wonder if Magnus wears any underwear to conceal his robot-fighting balls! (Look at the constant black shading under his skirt in those old Valiant/Dark Horse comics and tell me I'm wrong).