Monday, November 26, 2007

Discount Bin Finds

MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER #32Magnus, Robot Fighter #32

Well, that certainly was a long Turkey Day break, from work as well as from blogging. I thought that after being MIA for almost a week, I should ease my way back into things. And what better way to ease into comic book blogging than by talking about a guy fighting alien robots with karate in the far future? And we all know that when that is the taste you are craving, you turn to none other than Magnus, Robot Fighter.

A little catch-up for those unfamiliar: Magnus fights robots. using karate. In the future. In all seriousness, this story takes place during the invasion of the Malevs, evil space robots who attack Earth and manage to capture and enslave NorthAm, the giant city consisting of the entirty of North America (Magnus' traditional stomping ground). As the issue opens, Magnus and several of his freedom fighter allies are in SouthAm, where the Malevs are trying to spread their conquest by destroying the rain forests in an effort to choke out all resistance. In the aftermath of stopping this plan, however, a most curious event takes place: A Malev drone develops Free Will, and is forced to ask the question of Why am I killing?

For a stand-alone story which takes place during a larger arc of an even larger ongoing saga, this comic is surprisingly easy to read. There is some continuity-stuff which will confuse new readers (who is Talon and his Steel Legion, for one), but I think most readers familiar with certain science-fiction trappings will be able to enjoy this one. Anthony Bedard (better known around these parts as Tony Bedard) poses some heavy questions for a comic from 1994. Talon, a Freewill robot, accuses Magnus of genocide, for his countless deactivations of other Freewills, while Magnus believes he acted in the best interest of humanity. The Malevelent Emperor Malev-7 questions the ramifications of a Malev gaining sentience and emotions. And poor Unit 2438, who must come to grips with the fact that it (he?) is little more than an engine designed to murder humans and harvest their base elements for fuel -- and finds quite a few people very interested in it's very existance.

Califiore's pencils are not showy or ostentatious, but he seems to enjoy rendering the various robots and sci-fi tech on display as well as the action. In a lot of ways Bedard's script embodies a lot of the strengths of a property like Magnus -- or, really, a lot of science fiction settings -- by mining the surface premise for the allegorical core. That is a generally superior aspect of this series from it's revitalization by Valiant, but here, stripped of some more commonplace superhero window dressing, the meaning rises the tope easily.

If you find this one in a discount bin someday, give it a shot. Even if you don't normally like Valiant or Magnus, this is a thought-provoking tale about morality and freedom.

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