And, in fact, I think I enjoyed it a lot more than if I would have if I HAD read it from the beginning. I assume the first volume contained some semblance of origin story, but since I didn’t have that, I was thrown directly into the middle of this strange future world and had to piece together what was going on for myself. It’s not too difficult. It’s a collection of reprinted classic comics from the early '60s, and the title tells you just about everything you need to know.
Magnus lives in the year 4000 A.D., and he fights robots - mainly by punching them - because, apparently, using weapons to fight is for wimps. His signature move is decapitating robots with a single karate chop. Though it’s unclear at first whether he’s some sort of superhero, or if robots in the future are just really shoddily constructed, eventually, it becomes (somewhat) clear that Magnus’ robot-fighting abilities come from his “perfectly-trained, steel crushing muscles.” So, he’s apparently a regular human, but a really, really awesome regular human.
Magnus also has a transmitter implanted in his skull which can pick up robot speech. (The robots do speak perfect English, as well, but, apparently, “robot speech” is some form of robot telepathy that they use to talk only to each other.) He uses the transmitter to figure out where the evil robots are or what their mission is, but, apparently, it’s a very bad thing to have in polite society in 4000 A.D., because he’s deathly afraid of anyone ever finding out about it. So, he hides it from everyone at all costs, including his girlfriend Leeja. No one ever asks why every now and then he presses his hand to his skull and moments later knows that they’re about to be attacked out of the blue by robots.
Magnus and Leeja live in the vast, teeming metropolis of North Am, which is the entire continent of North America, united into a single city. They have robots to do just about everything for them: pol-robs (police robots), med-robs (medical robots), guard-robs (guard robots), etc. It’s a little odd that they call them robs instead of the more traditional “bots,” but to each their own.
Magnus constantly warns the good citizens of North Am, though, that their dependence on robots is growing too strong, and it will eventually cause them to lose their humanity and ultimately end in disaster. And then, every so often, robots attack the city, and Magnus has to punch them.
If you really want to know Magnus’ origin story, you can read the back cover, and it will give you a brief rundown on how it all came to this. But, honestly, that kind of ruins the fun. Just jump in headfirst and get straight to the robot-fighting goodness.
Volume 2 collects Issues #8-14, and each one is a separate adventure. Magnus fights animal robots, humanoid android robots, flying octopus robots, crazy space monster robots, and many others. Disappointingly, there are no vegetable robots, so Magnus never gets to fight “Broccoli-rob.”
The robots themselves aren’t evil, and, in fact, most of them ostensibly have to obey the first of Asimov’s Laws of Robotics (“A robot may not harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”), unless they’re programmed or reprogrammed by a mad scientist bent on the destruction of North Am, which happens frequently.
The stories in each issue are cheesy, in the way only a '60s sci-fi comic can be. In a perfect world, a film version would have Magnus played by either a young Charlton Heston or a young Kirk Douglas. Strong, handsome, relentlessly good, and always right. Leeja is essentially Lois Lane, but without the reporting skills or any kind of personality. Her entire function is to be kidnapped or otherwise put into danger by the villain, so that Magnus can go after her and punch some robots in the process. She’s utterly useless in a robot fight, yet every time Magnus goes to investigate the current danger, she insists on going with him.
Casual sexism aside, Magnus, Robot Fighter: 4000 A.D. is a lot of fun. Some issues are stronger than others, but this isn’t something you’re going to be reading for its believability or its brilliant storytelling. If you’re a fan of cheesy, '60s sci-fi comics and of rollicking, robot-fighting adventure, then Magnus is the comic for you.