Sunday Slugfest: Magog #1

A comic review article by: Thom Young, Robert Murray, Jason Sacks
Due to a lack of reviewers over the Labor Day weekend, this week's Sunday Slugfest has only two participants--Robert Murray and Jason Sacks.

Robert Murray:
Jason Sacks:

Robert Murray:

Like some of you reading this right now, I don't understand why DC decided to give Magog his own ongoing series. With all of the characters I would like to see in their own monthly title, Magog ranks pretty low on my list. My hypothesis is that an antihero based on the character from the perennial fan favorite Kingdom Come has to create some interest for superhero comic fans looking for a new fix.

Still, for those of us who read Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come (issues 7-22), the current David Reid incarnation of the character just doesn't cry out for a solo ongoing series. I think it's this lack of mojo that keeps this first issue of Magog from succeeding, but there are some other factors working against it as well.

Keith Giffen produces a very stereotypical antihero script--full of all the blood, guts, and bad attitude you could possibly need. Also, Howard Porter's art is lackluster, with lots of goofy facial expressions and static action scenes. Being a fan of both of these creators, I was disappointed to find their individual efforts on this project to be well below their top form, and I don't see how the series can improve beyond breaking down the standard antihero formula that is essentially a cliché at this point.

In case you don't know anything about David Reid or Magog, Giffen gives us a short synopsis of his story on the first page. From there, we're thrust headfirst into the dark heart of the Sudan, where blood and body parts are as common as clouds in the sky--a perfect setting for Magog's first action of the series. Oh, did anyone else notice that the severed arms early in the issue looked Caucasian? A coloring goof by Hi-Fi Designs?

Moving along, Magog does what you figure he would do when confronted by extreme military brutality; he hands out his own brutality to the brutalizers. This violent sequence is completely gratuitous (how many broken teeth can we take in a single issue?) and it lacks any kind of kinetic flow. It's simply gruesome snapshot after gruesome snapshot that supposedly is meant to show us that Magog is doing some good in the world by cleaning up messes that the Big Guys won't touch.

Hmm, this sounds familiar to me . . . wait, almost got it . . . oh, yeah! The Punisher!

Yawn! Please stop the tired-concept bus, I want to get off.

As in any of these kind of antihero titles, time must be taken to show that this capable man has a heart buried somewhere in his cold exterior. In this case, David tutors an abused young woman in the ways of combat so that she can finally teach her husband a lesson. This tutorage fits with the familiar formula, and the whole scene felt so forced and so full of caption boxes that I almost laughed out loud.

Finally, we have the mysterious antagonist (Henry Gyrich with a goatee) who will surely become the thorn in Magog's side for the next three or four issues--just enough to produce a trade paperback collection.

Unfortunately, Magog #1 is a paint-by-numbers comic book by two creators who should know better. I expect this kind of work from less-experienced creators who grew up loving their Punisher comics. However, this isn't the type of work that two veterans should release to the comic reading public.

Still, there are going to be some readers who will love the violence and Magog's edgy attitude, but I'm not one of those readers, and I can't possibly recommend this issue to any comic book consumer.

Jason Sacks:

Okay, first the quickie review and then the rant.

Quickie Review: Magog #1 is a pretty efficient superhero comic book. Keith Giffen delivers a story that's well told and fairly interesting, and he does a thoughtful job of differentiating Magog from his superheroic brethren.

Magog believes that heroes have a responsibility to the world around them--which means helping the innocent wherever they are found, whether they are refugees in an African country or an abused wife. Magog's stance causes him to have a difficult relationship with his partners in the Justice Society of America--causing Alan Scott to spy on him, which is kind of an intriguing plot point. Why doesn't the JSA trust Magog?

The art by Howard Porter and John Dell is effective for the subject matter. It's slick and professional, but not flashy. It's the kind of art that does its job but doesn't draw a ton of attention to itself.

Overall, Magog #1 is a thoroughly professional midline superhero comic book by some thoroughly competent creators.

Okay, now The Rant: Insanity, they say, is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

Ladies and gentlemen, the people who brought you Magog #1 must be insane.

DC Comics recently cancelled Blue Beetle and Manhunter, and they have brought us such series as Simon Dark, John Byrne's Doom Patrol, The Mighty, Solomon Grundy, Vigilante, and R.E.B.E.L.S.. What do all those comics have in common? They're all quite professional and competent mid-range comic book series. However, none of those comics have averaged monthly sales of more than 15,000 copies.

The market has shown, again and again, that there is just no sales potential for third- or fourth-tier heroes--or for quirky action stories. If there's not a connection to Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, or some other sort of fannish hook, then the comic will inevitably die within its first two years.

Yet, the editorial staff at DC keeps try, try, trying again.

Last month brought us the fifth (or is it the sixth?) version of the Doom Patrol. I liked a few of those runs. John Arcudi's run on Doom Patrol (series three, version four) is criminally underrated.

In fact, I enjoyed Keith Giffen's take on the Patrol in the first issue of the current series--but come on, what's the point? The new Doom Patrol will sell a microscopic number of copies, so few that it'll barely qualify as quarter-bin fodder.

And here's Giffen again with Magog--delivering yet another relatively competent mid-range title. Same beat, different song.

What would compel a casual reader to want to buy this comic every month? Magog has a slightly different vibe than other hero books, but the vibe isn't different enough to give any sense that the book will be selling more than 7,000 copies per issue by issue #8. It'll inevitably get cancelled.

However, before Magog is cancelled, it'll kind of drift off the stands at your LCS, such that when you read news online that the book was cancelled you'll think, "Oh yeah, I completely forgot about that book."

So what motivates DC to publish comics like Magog? What masochistic deep thinker greenlights comics that everyone knows have no possibility of lasting? Is Keith Giffen's contract with DC an albatross that compels the company to publish whatever he feels like writing or does someone actually believe that Magog will catch fire in a way that The All-New Atom did not?

It's the same thing over and over again. That's insanity.

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