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...
In Dynamite’s 2017 reboot of Magnus, Robot Fighter simply titled “Magnus”, we see Kerri Magnus take on the mantle to bring something completely new and modern to the series with a moral dilemma that explores a fundamental relationship between humanity and artificial intelligence. It’s a question that has been asked often in media, but this story presents a dichotomy of rehabilitation and oppression that proves there is a lot of stories left to tell about A.I insurrection.
Let’s start with the nature of the reboot, because let’s face it, Magnus, Robot Fighter isn’t known for therapeutic sessions with robots. The stark contrast that is immediately noticeable with this 2017 Magnus series featuring Kerri shows that this creative team had a vision they both understood and believed in. Kerri is essentially a therapist for robots by day and a bounty hunter by night, which affords the character remarkable amounts of depth right when getting to know her. Set within a story about overcoming enslavement, we see Kerri not out to just punch robots into submission, but actually navigate a more complicated situation with dangerous implications.
While robots are technically enslaved to humans, they are allowed just a few hours to visit their own artificial construct society to do as they wish, free from their human’s demands. Eventually, one named Frederick snaps and kills his owners, setting off a chain of events that looks to start a robot uprising and change the societal dynamics of both our own world and theirs. Magnus is caught between these worlds, raised against humanity’s knowledge within the A.I city and now able to walk in both worlds. As we unravel this murder mystery and expose the greater political connections and possibilities, the story takes shape rather quickly into something truly exciting.
Kerri is the type of character you honestly can’t help but root for. She’s got heart and can hold her own as a bounty hunter, but she struggles with concepts that feel uniquely modern. Split between living in the digital world and enduring our own, caught up between opposite ends of the spectrum in a conflict that feels like she is fighting against only herself to take sides in. Her understanding of the oppression from humans gives the series depth and turns the tables on a typical good versus bad narrative. The result is a story that is a well-developed five issues that know how to captivate.
There are a lot of dialogue-filled sequences that come as a result of this more investigative style of storytelling, but the visuals come through in all the right times. The pacing still feels brisk despite the sometimes overly long explanations and the color palette sets the world off. While I understand this was never meant to be an action-packed series, I think it still could have benefited more from showing Kerri in more strenuous situations as a bounty hunter. There are quite a few splash pages in the five-issue series that are sure to impress, but it’s mostly traditional panel layouts with intricate exposition and a lot of moving pieces. This is where letterer Taylor Esposito pulls off great work though. I’m a fan of Esposito’s work because of this seemingly innate ability to guide readers through sometimes hectic layouts or when there is a lot of text. You won’t have a problem following this story thanks to such strong letters.
Magnus #1-5 isn’t a perfect miniseries by any means. The eventual outcome feels a bit inconsequential as it hopes to look towards the future instead of hitting a powerful conclusion. We even end with the phrase “the end of the beginning” which is nice, but somewhat downplays the importance of what just transpired. Kerri’s origins come a little late in the series in issue #4, but when it does come to light, a lot of the other elements in the story start to make more sense.
Ultimately, the reboot of Magnus is an intriguing story with solid visuals. It’s worth the read any fan regardless of how long you’ve known the character, and for those looking for a sci-fi mystery thriller, this is definitely one you will want to read.
Magnus #1-5 brings something completely new and modern to the series with a moral dilemma that explores a fundamental relationship between humanity and artificial intelligence. For those looking for a sci-fi mystery thriller, this is definitely one you will want to read.
Magnus #1-5: A Robot Without a Leash
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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