Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Magnus, Robot Fighter #1, #2, #3, and #4 (Dark Horse Comics)

It's been a while since I discussed Dark Horse's failed Gold Key remake line, with Turok, Son of Stone. I meant to get to the others sooner, but haven't gotten around to it until now.

All four of these remakes were written by Jim Shooter, former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, and co-founder of Valiant comics, for which he remade the 1960's Gold Key comic characters Solar, Man of the Atom, Magnus, Robot Fighter, and Turok, Dinosaur Hunter. He was booted from Valiant, and in 2010, he tried his hand at remaking the three properties (and one other random Gold Key one) for Dark Horse comics.

By the way, I've since found out the reason for the Dark Key line's failure-The release dates! Turok, Son of Stone Issue #1 was released on October 13th 2010. #2 was released on April the 1st of the next year! Fucking hilarious April Fools joke, guys! We never saw it coming! Issue #3 came out in September of 2011, and the fourth and final issue surprisingly only came out the very next month. Wow, the Dark Key line really did deserve every bit of crushing failure it got! This wasn't isolated to Turok either. All four DK lines suffered from these baffling setbacks. But you wanna know what the real kicker is? The Dynamite remakes are making the SAME DAMN MISTAKE! Wow, it takes a special kind of dumb to fail so badly! And what kind of damn schmuck can't draw a 20 page comic in two months?! The schedule ten-year-old me had when making amateur comics in school makes these industry guys seem lazy! George Beard and Harold Hutchins produce comic books faster than the comics industry does!

Before I get into detail with Dark Key's Magnus, let's talk about the Valiant incarnation. All I've learnt is that it really, really loved killing off every single character, main or supporting, it could, frequently in the most horrific ways possible. Has anyone reading ever read Archer and Armstrong #11, with Ivar the Timewalker and that comic-relief robot who apparently got sent to Ancient Egypt at the end of the issue? Yeah, he was actually sent to the third-times apocalyptic future of 4002, where he's instantly taken over by the planetary invasion of genocidal alien robots, tries to murder all humans, and is unceremoniously killed by Magnus a few panels later. As you can imagine, I 'don't exactly gel' to the series all that much. In fact, I actually respect the new Magnus series a lot for how far it's going in keeping the character of H8R (L33t for Hater) alive, despite the fact that he's just some unimportant jive-talkin' comic-relief.

In the future of 4000 (where things are so 'amazingly futuristic', humanity feels the need to say 'lev' instead of 'level', because THE FUTURE!), the 'continent-spanning' city of North Am has employed robots for various jobs for centuries, and most are simple machines. Unfortunately, others have more advance A.I. and while most of them were destroyed in a rebellion against humanity, the ones that live on want humanity dead, and the only one that can stop them (except, y'know, literally everyone else on the planet who has a gun) is Magnus, a man who has been trained from birth by his robot 'father' 1-A to fight evil robots...

#1-Metal Mob Part 1: Taken

This is a pretty horrible first issue! The story isn't bad, but this series basically starts in media res, with both the situation, and character relationships already established, as if there have been ten previous issues that you haven't read. It also does a very poor job at establishing anything about the city of North Am.

The writing is generic, and there's extremely forced exposition that 1-A gives about himself and Magnus...And he's giving this to Magnus, who already knows it! As for why Magnus can punch robots to pieces with his bare hands when he's a normal human, it's because look at the adorable kitty over there!

The title character has very little to him here, despite the exposition dump's efforts. And the only explanation we ever get for why he's so strong is some BS mind over matter crap.

Supporting main character Leeja Clane here starts off as basically a plank of wood designed specifically to wear skimpy clothing, be kidnapped, and swoon "Oh, Magnus!", however, this iteration of Leeja does show some proactive behaviour in the latter half of the issue, so things aren't all bad.

#2-Metal Mob Part 2: Deliverance

Despite being Part 2 in a four-parter, this issue concludes the story started in issue one, which is good, as it really didn't have enought material to be dragged out for that long.

So far, this series has had very little in the way of robot fighting, as the main villains are evil humans, who deal with evil aliens! The robots are only brainwashed servants and henchmen.

Remember when I said that the writing for Leeja in this series wasn't too bad? Well forget what I said there, because in this issue she's stripped naked by her captors for interrogation, which is a tad uncomfortable enough to look at on its own, but not only is the artwork very sexualized here, but the comic even makes jokes made at her expense! *sigh* 'Thanks' for that, Shooter! What the hell?!

There's one really stupid scene at the end, where an evil alien is about to eat Leeja and her friend Cinette, when Magnus pops up and brutally breaks all four of the alien's limbs...then lets it live, because killing is wrong! That's dumb enough, but what's really stupid is that he wants to let it live for the aforementioned reason, yet as the trio are walking away and haven't even walked four footsteps, an angry mob is already about to violently execute the alien! You're an idiot, Magnus!

#3-Metal Mob Part 3: Prizefighter

This feels like a separate issue moreso than a part 3 of a four-parter, which is good, as having a one-shot could help greatly in fleshing out your series' setting a lot more...Except this issue doesn't do that at all. It just shows Magnus banging Cinette despite having a thing for Leeja, and stopping a menace at a robot fight club.

The 'robot vs enhanced humans fight club' idea is an interesting one, but severely underutilized, unfortunately.

#4-Metal Mob Part 4: Most Dangerous Game

Again, this issue is still part of the same big story, but feels separate, which is good, although as this was the final issue of this series, it really is too little too late.

The story here is an ok 'finale'. Nothing special, but mildly entertaining.


This is a very problematic series! Let's start with the robots...

Like I said above, the robots feature very little in the first two issues, and when they do, they're just window-dressing. One weird aspect to the robots is that they say 'squee' when they die, just as they did in the Gold Key/Valiant Magnus comics. Now I can let that slide for comics made in the '60's and '90's, but when a comic from 2010 does it, there's no leeway for mercy! The writer is being an idiot or a child!

This series does a crappy job at at establishing North Am, and showing it off. The only thing it amounts to is looking stylish and cool in a few shots here and there.

Onto the concept: Unlike other incarnations of this series, Magnus isn't fighting robots because humanity is growing too reliant on them and evil ones are taking advantage, but is instead simply hitting evil robots because they're evil. Society and their connection to robots seems to have gone pretty swimmingly without Magnus.

The writing in this series is pretty dull,  but it'll kill an afternoon. What's pretty annoying about the writing is that it has repeated mentions of the Q-Bot uprising, a huge rebellion that Magnus single-handedly stopped...And we don't see any of it! 'Maybe' that would have been a good opening story arc, Shooter, ya think?!

The series tries to build a connection between this and other Dark Key series Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom by having a big corporation in North Am that's frequently brought up be called Lovejoy, which is the company run by a villain in Solar. This never comes into play or anything, it's just there for the sake of a cheap continuity tie-in.

Magnus is a pretty dull character, and while the comic thinks he's a good guy, his moral code is pretty screwed-up. His attitude is basically 'I never kill robots with AI, even if they're evil brutally sociopathic murderers, but I'm totally willing to murder innocent police robots who get in my way, because they don't have AI, and are therefore appliances'.

1-A, Magnus' trainer and mentor is basically a commentator on the events most of the time, given his constant comm-link with Magnus. He's pretty dull too, and his motivations are very cliched at this point.

The villains of this story are pathetically one-note. They have no character to them, are evil just because, and the main one Timur leaves zero impression in the first three and a half issues! He only becomes interesting at the end of Issue #4, when its revealed he's a Q-robot...which is a pretty moot point, as he's literally defeated by Magnus in one panel!

Now onto the female characters! This comic does not like women! They're all always dressed in extremely skimpy clothing, and are either damsels, prostitutes, victims, or villains! And the only conversations that Cinette and Leeja have when not kidnapped break the Bechdel test constantly!

You have to wonder if Jim Shooter has said the most about the horribly sexist travesty that was Avengers #200 out of guilt, but then again, if that was true, that'd mean he cared, and if he did care, why would this be so misogynistic. Either way, Shooter, you may not have been responsible for the 'My woman!' moment in Secret Weapons #1, and you may have even had no part in Avengers #200, but still, I got my eye on you, boy!

The artwork overall is passable. It's a bit sketchy, but decent. Now with Turok, Son of Stone, the schedule delay necessitated the need for a new artist for the third and fourth issues, and said art change was horrible. Here, the series artist stuck with the comic until Issue #4, when a new one took over, and thankfully they could actually draw. In many ways, the replacement's art is superior to that of the first three issues, but in others, it's worse. One hilarious error in Issue #1 is this...

...Oh my God, she's been idnapped?! There's nothing worse than that!

The covers are pretty mediocre. Magnus' facial expressions are awkward, and the action on the covers themselves are lacking, either showing too little, or being too cluttered.

By the way, on another note with the artwork, should I be concerned that 1-A, Magnus' surrogate/adopted father, felt it necessary to dress him in a mini miniskirt which would undoubtedly show off his balls, or at the very least, his packaged package?! Thank God the new Dynamite Magnus actually wears pants!

There are a couple other layout tidbits that are annoying, such as the lying 'Previously on' recap page in Issue #4, and the comic's use of the C.E. form of dating. I don't care what some historians/archeologists/etc. class it as nowadays-It's been A.D. for the last 2000 years, so in my eye, it's staying as A.D.! Couldn't they have just made a backronym, like they did when swapping out B.C. with B.C.E.?! Clearly they went to the effort then! *grumbles*

To finish, in my opinion, Magnus is just a boring character, and the series' whole conceit is terribly, irrevocably cliched, and when you've read four completely different versions from completely different decades and still feel that way about these things, there's something wrong! But opinions are always different...

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