comicsthegathering dot com logo

MAGNUS #4

by Thegreatmagnet on September 24, 2017

Magnus words by Kyle Higgins
Magnus art by Jorge Fornés
Magnus colors by Chris O’Halloran
Doctor Spektor words by Aubrey Sitterson
Doctor Spektor art by Dylan Burnett
Doctor Spektor colors by Triona Farrell
Published by Dynamite
 
I have been loving the new Magnus series by Dynamite. It’s an exhilaratingly fresh take on the character that reflects the staggering technological advances of society in recent years, and it balances sophisticated storytelling with cinematic action and suspense. This issue boasts satisfying revelations that really bring the character of Magnus into focus, as well as Frederick, the villain of the series.
 
The most significant development in this issue is undoubtedly the revelations about Magnus’ backstory. We saw a flashback in the previous issue that Magnus found herself in the cloud world as a child. In this issue, we discover that the robot servant to Magnus’ family, Victor, invented the technology to send her consciousness into the cloud world as a means of escaping abuse at the hands of her father. As it turns out, Magnus was the first human to enter the cloud world, and she spent her entire childhood and adolescence there with Victor serving as her loving parental figure in between his work shifts in the real world. For some reason, Magnus was unable to leave the cloud world without outside intervention, and I’m wondering if this was an intentional design by Victor, who wanted to keep her safe. It may also explain why Magnus is the only human who is able to stay there indefinitely, if this was intrinsic to Victor’s plan.
 
This backstory goes a long way toward explaining Magnus’ motivation in the series. She had a happy childhood in the cloud world surrounded almost exclusively by A.I. systems, which would undoubtedly breed empathy and understanding towards their kind. Her experience with Victor really illustrates that systems are capable of love and human-like emotions. By the time Magnus returned to the real world, she had no remaining family or friends there, and no marketable skills. In addition, I’m struck by the parallels between the abuse of Magnus’ father and the widespread abuse (torture) that humans seem to inflict against their own A.I. servants. I would assume that Magnus must empathize with the suffering of these systems due to her own experiences, and that this may have lead to her vocation as an A.I. therapist. Now, she finds herself in an erupting war between humans and systems, and I would be surprised if her loyalty lies with the cruel, sadistic slavemasters.
 
This issue also reveals the motivations of Frederick, who is inciting the current crisis. Frederick is a revolutionary, and he was radicalized by witnessing the torture that his wife suffered at the hands of her human employers. He is starting a war to end the slavery of A.I.s, and a crucial element of the plan is to destroy the cloud world. His position seems to be that the cloud world represents a false freedom for the A.I. systems that is propping up the entire system of slavery, subjugation and brutality. The cloud world is an attractive cage for the systems, which is underlined by the fact that they cannot survive in the Outskirts (the area outside the city where no permanent memory storage is allocated). If the humans’ overreaction in the coming issues leads them to shut down the cloud world, then A.I. systems will have no choice but to confront their reality in the real world and begin the fight for freedom. One thing I do find intriguing is why Frederick would choose to mercy kill his family before his plan even truly gets in motion. Perhaps he’s unsure if the systems will actually prevail in the emerging conflict, and he’s equally satisfied by total annihilation of his fellow systems (which would represent a functional end to slavery, albeit unspeakably ghastly and genocidal). It once again speaks to Frederick’s role as a terrorist, more concerned with starting a war than the consequences or outcome of the war.
 
Once again, I think the art in this book continues to be solid. The cloud world is always a visual treat, and it got even more psychedelic in this issue as we entered the Outskirts, where objects and systems degrade and fragment. Fornés’ line work is a bit cartoony and expressionistic, but it’s well suited to the more fantastical environments in the series. In this issue, I finally noticed a cool, subtle touch, which is that scenes in the cloud world incorporate accents of halftone coloring, which contribute to the otherworldly vibe. I also think the color work is wonderful. O’Halloran uses wildly different palettes to convey the different environments in the issue: the bright cloud world/Outskirts, the gritty and moody real world, and the muted reds and browns of the flashback sequences.
 
I have to say, while I’ve found the Doctor Spektor backup stories to be hit or miss, I thought the latest installment is straight up dumb. The story continues to hinge on Spektor needing to find money for a security deposit, and it’s starting to get old. In this installment, his approach is to summon a demon who is essentially a frat boy that calls people “bro”. Really?!? If this is indicative of the direction of this series, I think I will be dropping off very quick. That being said, I did enjoy some of the art, especially the color work during the magical moments. I am dreading having to read and review this series when they finally get around to issuing a proper number one, although mercifully it will mean that I can stop shoehorning these side reviews into my Dynamite/Gold Key coverage.
 
Overall, I think this was a great issue and it was a strong end to the first arc. We now have a pretty good understanding of Magnus’ past and her current motivations, and the motivations of the villain, and the war between humans and robots is already unfolding before our eyes. I think this series has shown incredible promise, and it has the potential to stack up with the best Magnus stories that have ever been told (including my personal fave, the 90s series from Valiant). The premise is compelling and pretty original, and the larger themes and concepts are meaty and sophisticated. I’d recommend this to any sci-fi fans, even if they have no prior knowledge of Magnus Robot Fighter.
 

Our Score:

9/10

A Look Inside