Writer: Tini Howard & Ryan Cady
Artist: Christian DiBari
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Publisher: Top Cow/Image
For centuries, the Spear of Destiny that pierced Christ’s side on the cross has been passed down to the women who possess the blood of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Recognized by the church as the Magdelena, these women protect the secular world from demons, but in recent years, fading faith in the church has given the armies of Hell an advantage. After being wounded in battle, Patience, the current and longest serving Magdalena finds herself unable to wield the Spear of Destiny and must seek out a successor.
That successor is Maya Dos Santos in Anaheim, California, where it just so happens a sorcerer by the name of Weyer Blackwood is summing Princes of Hell to wreak havoc on the city. Together, Patience and Maya must protect the city from Blackwood’s demons, and unravel the greater conspiracy that he is only a small part of.
I get the sense that The Magdalena: Reformation is just one part of a larger series, but it manages to be inviting to new readers, quickly explaining the core concept, and after an introduction to Patience that shows off that concept in action, it swiftly switches focus to Maya as the POV character, giving the reader an into this complicated world created by Tini Howard and Ryan Cady.
The concept itself is interesting and works well for smaller episodic stories. I was a bit surprised to find that Reformation doesn’t actually attempt to do that. It instead goes right for the larger conspiracy behind the smaller stories. This means that some things can feel a little rushed – Maya’s training is pretty much entirely skipped over – but it doesn’t move too fast as to lose the reader. Still, I can’t help but wish it hadn’t skipped over Maya’s training or even Blackwood’s attack on the city. If something is vitally important to the story, then Howard and Cady hit fast forward. This keeps things tightly paced and flows well, but given how short the book is(only four issues), I can’t help but comment that it certainly wouldn’t have been hurt by slowing things down just a little bit.
The characters are likable, but none have any real depth to them. Maya is introduced as an atheist, one known to get up on a soapbox at times, even, but in the same time skip that moves past her training, she becomes very religious. I suppose it isn’t illogical, she’s face-to-face with demons and the very real power of God, but it still feels like a sudden jump from point A to point B without any character development between. A bit later this conflict is lightly touched on, but the same tight pacing that keeps the plot and action moving constantly forward means there isn’t time to truly explore this.
Maya’s friend Shilpa is presented as a very smart student, and the voice of reason, but struggling to pay for community college. This is an interesting set-up that goes pretty much nowhere. The plot simply doesn’t allow time for much grounded, human drama, instead opting to explore mythic spectacle. For the most part, she exists in the cast as a skeptic and voice of reason, but even then all that really means is she sometimes throws out a quip now and then.
There seems to be a lot of history with Patience as a character, which gives the impression of more depth, and even within the comic itself, she fares better than the other two central characters. She struggles with her pride, knowing she needs to train Maya, but not wanting to give up the Spear, and the haunting question of if her loss of faith led her to this is something that gets slightly more time than any of the other character beats. There’s also a little bit of fish out of water humor with Patience that is sometimes funny, sometimes a little intrusive.
Blackwood as a villain is interesting, but undercut when Shilpa compares him to Kylo Ren and you realize he pretty much just is Kylo Ren. He takes an interesting turn later on, but without spoiling anything, it’s somewhat sudden and doesn’t feel truly earned.
A large part of the comic is action, which manages to get the spectacle of angels and soldiers of God fighting, but often when it comes to the specifics of choreographing those fights, it falls apart. Not helped is that these fights are never simple, it always involves going after specific sigils or markings as opposed to the very obvious threats in front of the characters. This means the actions taking place are more complicated than Maya simply stabbing demons with a spear, and the art, unfortunately, isn’t able to keep up. It’s hard to know what is being depicted, and things almost always fall into confusion.
While it’s hard to follow what DiBari is trying to depict, it’s always fun to look at. A lot of that is down to the use of colors by Mike Spicer, keeping the comic looking varied and making scenes pop. It’s also down to the sheer scale and spectacle with which DiBari illustrates the events.
Overall, The Magdalena: Reformation is an enjoyable if somewhat shaky comic. The concept is executed well, but the pacing is a bit too tight to give any real depth, and the action which makes up the majority of the comic can be somewhat confusing.
Geek-o-Rama received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments and opinions are those of the individual reviewer.