Magdalena’s origin bent “history” to its own narrative well before Assassin’s Creed made it mainstream. In its world, Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ were not alleged lovers. They were married.
For decades, the Catholic Church hid the Magdalene bloodline from the public, training a chosen female descendant to serve as Magdalena, weapon against all of the Church’s supernatural enemies. As with all Top Cow major titles, the chosen wields an artifact. In the case of the Magdalena, hers is the Spear of Destiny, power by the blood in her veins.
When last we saw this comic book, the Magdalena was named Patience, and unlike her predecessors, she decided to break way from grasp of the Church. Her struggle was one of fighting for independence despite the pulls of not just implied duty, but of her blood.
My initial excitement to see Magdalena back in print was immediately followed by concern upon receiving my advanced copy. What tale was left to tell? What more could Patience do, or be challenged with?
Out of the gates, writers Tini Howard and Ryan Cady give me an answer. Within the first few pages, I realized there was an end I never saw coming. Magdalena #1 starts with a routine vanquishing of a demon; however, the Spear of Destiny fails Patience and, per the demon’s subsequent curse, strips Patience of the title Magdalena.
Spoiled on the detail and sheen of artwork from greats like Mike Choi and Stjepan Sejic (to name a few), I was taken aback by Christian Dibari’s art, which felt rushed and messy. In reading on, I saw that it added to the pace of story, as the book blazed ahead to set up what looks like the first established arc of this new edition. Patience realizes that her job is now to seek out and train the next Magdalena in order to vanquish the demon and all enemies that are sure to follow. By the end of the book, we find the next in line: a plucky teen with bright red bangs named Maya.
Magdalena #1 does what Top Cow does best: taking convention and unapologetically turning it on its head. Upon the first act, I was blindsided by the escalation of crisis - the protagonist I knew immediately stripped of her title. But all of this is tactful, allowing for anyone to jump in on this new #1 issue. The lack of apology doesn’t stop at abandoning all rules us Magdalena fans are used to, but also showing us that the heroes we love are flawed and those flaws can sometimes mean their end. Magdalena #1 has set itself up to be a compelling read, with a story entertaining enough to usher in new fans, but posting the questions of faith and future that hold true to veteran readers.
*Magdalena #1 will be available in comic book stores on March 22, 2017.