My memories of Magnus are probably like most people who grew up in the 90s: a muscle-clad hero standing on a pile of destroyed killer robots. It was an ad that ran in so many books and it always looks so damn cool. Enter Dynamite’s new series, where there’s a lot less smashing and a lot more psychological drama.
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Jorge Fornes (Colors by: Chris O’Halloran | Backup by: Triona Farrell)
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Do humans dream of owning electric sheep? Artificial intelligences, rather than becoming our overlords, have settled into an uneasy symbiosis with humanity – they work for us as our colleagues and servants, earning vacation-time they spend in a boundless digital universe running on human-maintained server farms. But not all AIs are cool with the deal. Enter Magnus – a human psychologist tasked with navigating both worlds in order to bring recalcitrant AIs back into productive society…
Why does this book matter?
After the smash success of Tom King’s Vision series, it’s obvious readers are more interested than ever in human-like minds in robots. This series delivers that and then some. Add in the fact that there’s a Matrix like idea of a hero who can go into a world of A.I. computers and you’ve got some high concept science fiction on your hands.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Okay, that’s weird…
Opening with an average family man shoving off to work, Higgins creates a very idealistic look at the family unit. We quickly learn however that none of this is real, at least how humanity understands it. In fact, the man is a robot and the family live in an artificial world. He talks about going on vacation and ending his work life, which is weird because he’s actually a robot butler and the owners don’t seem to understand that’s in the plan. Then people die. It’s a dramatic opening and it sets in motion what will drive the story in the last half of the issue.
Before that though, Higgins does a great job detailing where the world is at when it comes to computers in a fantastic double page spread of TVs piled up in a shop window. In these brisk two pages we get the idea that devices like Siri or Amazon’s Alexa will soon be automated robots and they’ll be gaining some kind of sentience. The general premise of this world is easy to relate to since we’re almost there anyway.
Enter Magnus, a robot psychologist (a clever idea in its own right) who helps fellow robots who are confused. The psychological element is strong in this issue and you’ll relate to these characters due to the well written dialogue. They seem real, and Magnus has her own problems in her personal life too. There’s a good amount of complexity to chew on in this series.
The art by Jorge Fornes is very good with a David Aja feel at times that positions the art in a 2D platform angle. Chris O’Halloran’s colors add to the art immensely too, allowing backgrounds and other elements to lift the characters and really make them pop. There’s a symmetry going on in many of the pages, which suits the robot-centric storyline. In one excellent layout, we see the demise of the robot’s owners, the whir of devices in the kitchen, and the panels closing in on the robot and his unfeeling expression. The character feels nothing for people, yet we just saw him lovingly say goodbye to his family. There’s a disconnect there that gives the book a haunting feel.
What a great page!
It can’t be perfect can it?
It’s clear Magnus was introduced properly before this issue, which does leave new readers slightly unfamiliar with her. She has character beats in this issue for sure, but I never felt like I knew her all that well. That’s on the reader to some extent to not do the homework, but if you’re looking for a strong protagonist it’s a bit early as the script focuses more on plot and the character of the robots.
Is It Good?
Magnus may not be a robot fighter anymore–at least not with her fists, as Dynamite unveils a deeply meaningful and well written first issue. This is a must buy for fans of Marvel’s recent Vision series. Mixes psychological drama, eye catching art, and a highly relatable story about humanity’s relationship with machines.