Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find more comic reviews that you never asked for than you ever asked for. What? Well it makes sense to me!
Although things are slowly getting back to something resembling normal in the great state of Utah, my work schedule is still just flappin' in the wind. It seems that the government in their "wisdom" has decided to pay an unemployment bonus that lets people make more money by NOT working than they usually make on the job. I'm not gonna get political here, but it's created an interesting situation where my hotel has full-time jobs available, but nobody wants them.
ANYWAY. . .
Because my schedule is still pretty chaotic (and to make it worse, I've also been a bit sick. . .not "the virus"), I'm still sticking to some shorter reviews of single first issues I've picked up recently during my dives into my Local Comic Shop's back issue bins. I call this little effort to keep the Longbox Junk posts coming on a somewhat regular basis "First Issue Fun".
When I read the first issue of a series, I look for TWO things: Does it introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way? Does it tell a story that I want to read more of? Is that really too much to ask for? I think it's actually a pretty low bar, but for some reason, it seems that a lot of first issues somehow manage to fail at one or both of those two little things.
So let's take a look at a couple more first issues and see what happens, shall we?
FIRST ISSUE FUN
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA #1
MEMORIAL - Part One
SCRIPT: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
PENCILS: Cezar Razek
COVER: Alex Ross
If you're a big Battlestar Galactica fan like myself, this cover is as good as it gets! A real stunner by the legendary Alex Ross that not only perfectly captures likenesses of the T.V. show's characters, but also gives us a taste of the sci-fi combat action that Battlestar Galactica fans expect. I love everything about this cover! Let's get inside and see what else is going on. . .
Our story takes place many years into the Battlestar Galactica's long search for the fabled planet "Earth". After a ceremony commemorating the human defeat at the hands of the Cylon Empire that led to the Galactica being the caretaker of the last known remnant of humanity, the fleet is taken by surprise by a massive Cylon attack!
By using the same nebula that Galactica had used to hide from Cylon pursuers, multiple Cylon basestars are able to take the human fleet completely unaware, forcing the Galactica to take the brunt of the attack in order to give the rest of the fleet time to escape.
After Galactica is severely damaged by Cylon suicide attacks, Commander Adama reluctantly agrees to allow the young scientist Zee's experimental temporal weapons to be used as a last resort. Ace pilots Starbuck and Apollo are pulled from the battle and are quickly given two heavily-modified Vipers with instructions to take down the Cylon base ships with the temporal weapons at any cost.
As the two pilots fight their way through the desperate battle, another suicide attack hits the Galactica, heavily damaging Zee's temporal generator onboard, causing an overload and wave of temporal energy that leaves Starbuck and Apollo alone in space without the Cylons, the human fleet, or Battlestar Galactica anywhere to be found.
To be continued. . .
As a big fan of Battlestar Galactica, I really liked this story a lot! It explores an area I haven't seen stories going into before. . .the gap between the original Battlestar Galactica series and the later short-lived Galactica: 1980 series (which took place about 10 years later). There's really not too much to it. . .a bit of exposition to set the scene and then a Cylon surprise attack that calls for desperate measures to escape that go wrong and sets up a cliffhanger going forward. . .but for a fan like me, this was pure candy!
And therein lies the problem with this issue. Although it tells a story I definitely want to read more of, it utterly fails to present itself in a new reader-friendly way. This is a story written for existing Battlestar Galactica fans ONLY. It makes absolutely no effort to introduce any characters to new readers, instead assuming out of the gate that if you're buying this comic, you're already a fan and know who everyone is.
It's a well-written story with surprising nods to Galactica: 1980 characters like Zee, but if you don't understand what that means, this comic isn't going to do much for you.
The art inside doesn't come close to matching the brilliance of Alex Ross's cover (but there's not many artists who can, so no foul there), but the style is well-suited for the story at hand. It's darkly-inked and dramatic, really shining during scenes of space battles with some panels that are borderline great. The quality dips a bit for character scenes, but not so far as to bring the story down at all.
Overall, what we have here is a great first issue for fans of the original Battlestar Galactica. It explores an unusual area of BSG continuity and tells an interesting, action-packed story that ends on a cliffhanger practically begging me to pick up some more issues. It's backed up by some really good art and sits under a cover that's practically worth the price of admission alone.
BUT. . .
If you aren't already a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica, this is NOT a good introduction at all. This is a story written only for existing fans, which is a bit of a shame because the original series and Galactica: 1980 only made up 34 episodes total between them. Comics are a great way to continue the story of the last Battlestar guiding the remnants of humanity toward the fabled planet Earth. To not reach out even a little bit to new readers with this first issue just makes me sort of sad.
In other words, definitely grab this one from the back issue bin IF you're a Battlestar Galactica fan. If not, you can pretty much safely leave it for someone else and not be missing much.
MAGNUS: ROBOT FIGHTER #1
SCRIPT: Fred Van Lente
PENCILS: Cory Smith
COVER: Gabriel Hardman
I really like the dark and moody feel of this cover a lot, and it's very nicely detailed, but between the giant title taking up most of the real estate up top and the pile of robot bodies down below, the main character seems a bit small and insignificant. Maybe that fits the theme of the story inside of one man against a world and was done on purpose, but it kind of takes an otherwise great cover down a notch, in my extremely humble opinion.
Our tale begins with Russ Magnus, a respected schoolteacher and martial arts instructor, living a life of peace and fulfillment in the sleepy mountain town of Maury's Peak with his wife Moira.
After receiving the good news that Moira is pregnant, Magnus goes on a celebratory fishing trip with the town's benevolent Artificial Intelligence Overseer, A1. . .who raised Magnus from the time he was a child after the loss of his parents.
BUT THEN. . .
Magnus' peaceful life is violently interrupted by a mysterious attack on Maury's Peak! As Magnus rushes into town to his wife, he is confronted by robotic soldiers, whose attacks cause Magnus to wake up in a completely different place!
Confused by the sudden change from the idyllic mountain town to a network of filthy tunnels, Magnus is commanded by A1 to escape and try to find the Overseer at "The Central Network". After evading a team of pursuing robotic soldiers, Magnus finds an exit from the tunnels, but when he emerges, he finds himself in the middle of a crowded, futuristic city!
As the overwhelmed Magnus tries to get his bearings, he realizes that somehow he can see THROUGH the faces of the surrounding crowd, revealing them all to be humanoid robots. He manages to make his way to the Central Network Building towering over the city, where he is quickly identified as an "Unregistered Human" and attacked by robotic security guards intent on capturing him.
As Magnus fights his attackers, he discovers that he can somehow see the weak spots on the robots, and that his bare hands have become destructive weapons that can easily destroy his mechanical enemies. As the newly-empowered Magnus tears his way through the robot security guards, he is confronted by another human. . .his surprise at seeing the first human in the city makes him pause long enough for her to shoot, knocking Magnus unconscious and ending the battle.
To be continued. . .
I'm not really familiar with Magnus: Robot Fighter. I've read a few of the old Gold Key comics and have seen him here and there in some 90's Valiant Comics, but I've never been interested enough to seek out more than the few bits I already have. He's a guy named Magnus. . .he fights robots. That's pretty much what I know about Magnus: Robot Fighter. I was a bit nervous about this issue because this is a character that started in the 60's and has been through several different versions over the years, with a Wikipedia page leaning toward a long and convoluted history.
THAT SAID. . .
Dynamite does a great job in this issue of presenting characters in a new reader-friendly manner AND giving me a story that I want more of! All I ask of a first issue are those two things, and Magnus: Robot Fighter #1 gives me both of them.
Like the Supergirl #1 issue I reviewed for the last Longbox Junk First Issue Fun post, the writer introduces Magnus by letting the reader share the character's confusion. . .one minute he's in a peaceful mountain town, the next he's on the run in a far future New York City populated by robots! I really like this introduction to Magnus, even if it IS a bit derivative of The Matrix.
I don't have to have any knowledge of past continuity or other versions of the character, I can just get right on board with this first issue and base my opinion on this and this alone. And my opinion is that I want to read more! I like that Dynamite got it right with this one.
The art is a perfect compliment to the story. It starts off with a muted color palette during Magnus' false idyllic life in the mountain town. . .
. . .and then switches to a darker, heavier, more colorful style when Magnus is awakened to reality in far future New York City. . .
It's a great storytelling device that just made me like this first issue even more.
Overall, what we have here is a great first issue! It gives a character with a long and tangled comic book history a fresh start geared toward new readers. It tells an action-packed science fiction story about a man who discovers that he has been living a lie and finds himself surrounded by enemies in a strange place, ending on a cliffhanger that makes me want to get right into the next issue and learn more. It's backed up by some pretty darn good hard-edged Sci-Fi comic art.
Really, what more could you ask for in the first issue of a series? Not much, in my extremely humble opinion. You don't need to be an existing fan of Magnus: Robot Fighter to enjoy this. If you're a science fiction comic fan and spot this one in the back issue bin, check it out!
Two pretty good first issue picks this time out. . .both from Dynamite, even though I didn't really plan it that way.
Battlestar Galactica doesn't hit the mark of being very new reader-friendly, but for existing fans it has an interesting story that you're going to want more of (SPOILER ALERT: I picked up the next few issues and it's a great little time-twisted Battlestar Galactica version of Star Trek's "Mirror Universe" stories). It's a solid comic worth a read for fans. If you're not a fan, you might not get much mileage out of it.
On the other hand. . .
Magnus: Robot Fighter is a great example of a comic that nails not only introducing a character for new readers, but also telling a very nice hard-edged science fiction "man on the run" story that makes me want to see what happens next (I haven't been able to find any other issues of this one yet). You don't have to be an existing fan of long-time comic character Magnus to enjoy this story at all.
Up Next. . .
Even MORE First Issue Fun!
Can the next couple of picks manage to tell a good story I'll want more of AND start off in a new reader-friendly way? Join me and we'll both find out.
Be there or be square!