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Kickin’ It Old School: Magnus Robot Fighter #1

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Welcome to the first installment of Kickin’ It Old School, our new weekly column highlighting books from the original Valiant universe! Every week, contributor Paul Tesseneer will be reviewing one issue from the ’90s series so we hope you’ll enjoy. Without further ado, Magnus Robot Fighter #1.

Magnus Robot Fighter #1

Written by Jim Shooter
Penciled by Art Nichols
Inked by Bob Layton with Kathryn Bolinger
Colors by Janet Jackson
Published in May of 1991

Key Characters
  • Magnus- the hero
  • 1-A- his robot daddy and the first robot with free will
  • Leeja- Magnus’ lover and the senator’s daughter
  • Senator Clane- power hungry politician
  • 0-1X- leader of the robot rebellion
  • T-1- first martyr of the robot rebellion

Synopsis

The story starts out with the robot 1-A telling the story of how he gained free will 410 years ago.  After 20 years of analyzing what happened, 1-A realizes that it is likely there are other robots that had also gained free will.  This brings us to finding Magnus as a baby 25 years prior to the story.

1-A takes him in, trains him to destroy robots, and implants a device that will allow Magnus to receive robot communications, and to defend humans against other robots with free will. 1-A’s story ends with Magnus leaving their underwater shelter, entering North America, and beginning his quest to defend humans against menacing robots.

The last panel of 1-A’s story shows him destroying T-1, which becomes a key moment later in the story.

The story

Following this recap, we find out via a futuristic newspaper that there are an estimated ten million “free will” robots hiding their malfunctions.  1-A is telling Magnus to go and kill robots with free will, but Magnus is debating about the ethics of killing innocent robots.  1-A is adamant that robots are not alive, not even himself, so their is nothing morally wrong with destroying them.

Following this, their is a secret robot communication initiated by 0-1X, calling all robots with free will to prepare for an uprising against humans if they are not granted independence.  I love how this scene is done, with 0-1X’s communication displayed across the top of each panel, illustrating the same mind-to-mind communication that 1-A had with Magnus.  The rest of the panel shows robots in their daily roles listening to the message while trying to act normal.

Magnus heads back to North AM, and we meet Leeja.  Immediately, Magnus is attacked by a gardening robot.  Realizing that he is losing the fight, he goes after Leeja in an attempt to gain the upper hand, but Magnus is able to attack around Leeja and destroy the robot.  Magnus goes on a hunt for 0-1X, leading him to the Goph Lands, where they find the robots having a meeting.  Meanwhile, 0-1X surprises Senator Clane in his office, calling for peace instead of war, but Clane will have non of it.

Magnus and Leeja listen in on the robot meeting, where 0-1X tells the story of T-1 (remember him from earlier?), and the human who battered him to death while he was only trying to find his place in the world.  At this point Magnus jumps out to argue that T-1 was a killer and tries to understand the robots, stating that he also doesn’t want war.  Before talks can begin, the back up Magnus had previously calls for busts in and all hell breaks loose.  Leeja is attacked by a robot to exact revenge on Magnus.  The book ends with Magnus distraught over Leeja’s likely fatal condition and her father’s happiness over the public support he is gaining as a result.

I like how Jim Shooter went about recapping the original story.  Magnus asks 1-A to tell him the story, to which 1-A replies “But you already know it,” poking fun at him telling a story that Magnus clearly would know.  The story is shown through 1-A connecting mind-to-mind with Magnus, allowing him to share data and images, going so far as to defining which images are as recorded and which images were synthesized, really giving it the feel of a computer presentation.  The only criticism I have early on is that 1-A’s speech is shown with dots in between each word to indicate it is a robot speaking.  The dots make it hard to tell when there’s a period, making it a bit more difficult to read than it should be.  The robot speech is also differentiated by a jagged tail coming off of the word balloon, which is much more effective.

Overall

This book starts us off in a very interesting place.  Humanity seems like the bad guys to me, for the most part, trying to suppress robots and not allowing for the possibility of equality.  Robots are just fighting for their freedom, which seems sensible with their new-found free will.  Magnus understands that this whole matter is more of a grey area and wants to avoid sparking a war.  Meanwhile, 1-A insists that robots aren’t alive even if they have free will, and thus should be destroyed to avoid even the possibility of violence towards humans.

How this differs from the current Magnus Robot Fighter by Fred Van Lente

The current version of Magnus is drastically different.  Robots are already in control and humans are kept under their thumbs.  Magnus is still raised by 1-A in a free community away from the city of North AM, or so we think thus far.  Magnus is able to see the weaknesses in robots, allowing him to attack and destroy them with ease.  He’s also able to communicate with technology, giving him some element of control over his surroundings.  Fred Van Lente’s story starts the reader off without letting them know all that is going on, so it’s a process of discovery, whereas Jim Shooter starts us out with an understanding of where we’re at.

Originally from ValiantCentral.com

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