Patience, the semi-rogue Magdalena (she wields the staff, but doesn’t bow to the Vatican’s every whim), is tasked with a new mission. She is to travel to Mexico to retrieve a fragment of The True Cross, i.e. the cross on which Christ was crucified. The fragments are highly valuable though, and the Vatican isn’t the only ones pursuing them.
Ron Marz’s The Magdalena continues to be one of my favorite reads every month. It isn’t incredibly deep or overtly literary, but it has the wonderful feel of a supernatural Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons tale. Arcane church enemies like demons, pagan monsters, (such as the “Forest Man,” a creature whom Patience confronts and destroys in a Romanian Catholic church this issue), and her scheming enemies and supporters within The Vatican pepper The Magdalena’s tales with interesting villains, both supernatural and mortal. Patience, like her namesake implies, deals with these threats calmly and thoroughly. Marz’s gradual, yet steady, development of her character is as realistic and nuanced as one can expect from a protagonist in these types of tales, and her Vatican based surroundings and intrigues are constantly surrounding and dogging her. The best thing about Marz’s The Magdalena though is that he eschews the phony demon and church route to actually use real life institutions, albeit exaggerated. This lends a weight of realism and relevance to his tales that some other supernatural comic book tales fail to carry. Actual Church Cardinals and Luciferic Anti-Christs are so much more fun, and at times more controversial (which is great), than phony stand ins (Marvel Comics’ Mephisto anyone?) to see brought to life in the pages of The Magdalena. Marz doesn’t shy away from portraying ideas that many Christians hold sacred as a part of his tales either. If there is a “True Cross” there must have been, in the world of The Magdalena at least, a “True Christ.” I love these types of stories that mix real world religious beliefs with fantasy world myth and magic. It sometimes takes some guts to actually portray a “real” (to many) religious deity or figure fictionally, and intelligently.
Series artists Nelson Blake II and David Marquez continue to bring The Magdalena to sharp and crisp life with their sharp pencil lines and think inks. Character’s faces sometimes look rather stock and not very unique, but their action sequences are top notch and they do manage to beautifully detail The Magdalena’s outfit with the proper religious iconography and symbols. They also manage to create some solid architectural realism in their backgrounds that capture the setting and locales effectively.
So while The New 52’s Voodoo might need a “change of direction,” Marz’s The Magdalena is still headed in the right one. Forget Voodoo, read The Magdalena instead for a truly intriguing and solid story.