In Magdalena #1, writers Tini Howard and Ryan Cady, artist Christian DiBari, and colorist Mike Spicer dust off a nearly 20-year-old character from the Witchblade universe and give it a soft-ish reboot with style. Patience is a 32-year-old woman and happens to have the blood of Mary Magdalene, which allows her to wield the Spear of Destiny that pierced Jesus Christ’s side when he hung on the cross. She uses this Spear to defend the Earth from demons, but isn’t on speaking terms with the Vatican, her old employers. Except her powers have been going wonky recently, and the spear and her abilities don’t have the same effect on evil as she used to be.
Howard, Cady, and DiBari bookmark Magdalena #1 with riveting action scenes featuring freaky demons and pyrotechnics from colorist Spicer, but do an even better job fleshing out the women behind the spear. Patience has been feeling the weight of her burden as the longest serving Magdalena in history and just the persistent crush of evil and institutions that do nothing about it. Howard and Cady’s dialogue for Patience is wry action hero one-liners, but their captions for her are more vulnerable and thoughtful. She is coming to a crossroads in her life, and maybe it’s time to pass her mantle on. Di Bari’s art helps with this as well with panels of wounds on Patience’s torso that are slow to heal as she falls into Logan with even more religious imagery mode and comes to grips with her own mortality.
And this is where Maya Dos Santos aka your new favorite Goth Latina skeptic mystical weapon wielder-in-training comes in. Her first scene in Magdalena #1 is an argument with her mother about religion and not going to Mass. However, Tini Howard and Ryan Cady don’t writer her like a Reddit/Bill Maher atheist and give her a nuanced view of religion. Maya wishes she could believe in a higher power, but sadly can’t. Maya has strong emotions and her passion as a character makes her endearing from the get-go as her long-suffering friend Shilpa deals with her from wanting to have fun at the club to pining for a boy and then back to feeling sad. They have an easy, self-aware banter with Shilpa being the more responsible one while still having fun.
His faces and inking style reminds me a lot of fellow Top Cow artist Stepjan Sejic (This is a compliment.), but Christian DiBari’s work in Magdalena #1 stands out when he indulges his taste for devilish horror. For example, Maya’s problematic crush Greg, who happens to be the host for the demon Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, starts retching and then his neck snaps when the demon takes over his body. The neck snap, and the gruesomely green vomit from DiBari and Spicer crosses the book from urban fantasy into horror territory and provides Maya with a rude awakening into the world of being a Magdalena as she must learn her new abilities while one of the most powerful demons is on the loose. I look forward to more slicing, dicing action from DiBari and Spicer like the first time Maya wields the Spear of Destiny and gets a surge of energy that almost pops up in the page.
Tini Howard, Ryan Cady, Christian DiBari, and Mike Spicer successfully reimagine a popular 90s character in Magdalena #1 by giving their two protagonist relatable feelings and personal issues to go along with the demon ass kicking. Maya is 19 and trying to become her own person when she gets drawn into a world of Christian symbolism and demons while Patience is having a midlife crisis on a cosmic level.
Patience and Maya’s doubts and flaws along with their grit and determination plus some cool action, demon designs, and general gore make Magdalena #1 worth picking up even if you’re like me and only knew Magdalena from a lyric from “I Wanna Live in a World Full of Heroes” by nerd rock band Kirby Krackle.
Story: Tini Howard and Ryan Cady Art: Christian DiBari Colors: Mike Spicer
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics/Top Cow provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review