Saturday, June 16, 2018

Atomic Robo: Spectre of Tomorrow Collected TP Review

Writer: Brian Clevinger
Art: Scott Wegener
Colors: Anthony Clark
Letters: Jeff Powell

Atomic Robo is one of those creations of the indie scene that seems to of seen enough success that it has allowed the creators to continue to publish new adventures but never quite reaching the wider recognition that a lot of its fans (myself included) believe it deserves.

First published in 2007 Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger (at the time writing the webcomic 8-Bit Theater) and Scott Wegener tells the pulp adventures of Atomic Robo a self-aware robot built by Nikola Tesla who now runs secret science missions for the Government. Its equal parts fun and earnest.

Volume 12 of Atomic Robos’ adventures starts off mundanely enough, Tesladyne Institute are attempting to set up their new base of operations in the deserts of New Mexico, Foleys’ return from her first solo mission allows a straightforward introduction to each of the major team members for new readers, small snapshots summing up each of their personalities through honest interaction. Unfortunately all is not well at the new base, Robo has locked himself away in his underground lab and refuses to deal with the wider needs of the business, and so begins the B-plot that runs through this volume of Atomic Robo. Tesladyne are unable to continue construction of their new base because of the actions of the local Homeowners Association. 

The juxtaposition of the idea of a HOA against the kinds of super science businesses that are members of it (and there are only 3 members, Atomic Robo, Elon Musk and Richard Branson) could be an amusing idea, cutting edge technology prevented by monotonous rule making busy bodies, some of mankind's brightest minds held up by self inflicted, petty rule making, there's potential here for some laughs but throughout the course of this volume the HOA scenes drag and never feel like they have a definitive punchline to them, it always only seems to serve as something to keep Tesladyne busy while Robo and Foley sneak off on the adventure proper.

And that adventure proper is not lacking in its own problems, while the first two issues lay the groundwork for the mystery of people randomly exploding into robots, the action of this story never really kicks into gear until halfway through the book when Robo lands on Hashima island, for a book that revolves around its promise of old-style pulpy adventure, action scientists and Robo punching stuff the fact the first action scene doesn't happen until the midpoint of this book is a serious problem. The HOA and CERES and Robo playing with his drones all seem to bog this book down, draining it of the signature fun that I usually find in its pages. But once Robo lands on Hashima the book really picks up its pace, two previous villains from the Atomic Robo series return and while ALAN is explain well enough for new readers the far more interesting one, Helsingard could of done with a bit more fleshing out, Helsingard and Robo have a long history going back all the way to Volume 1 of the series and the back and forth between these two characters is as good as it's ever been, but I feel anyone who hasn’t seen Helsingard in the pages of Atomic Robo before might be left with more questions than answers at the end of this book.

Scott Wegeners’ art through the book is solid for the most part, the action flows nicely and the industrial setting of Hashima island has a good atmosphere too it. However the celebrity guest appearances of both Richard Branson and Elon Musk look off, something about translating them to the style of the book didn’t seem to work, Branson's signature beard has turned into a sort of stubble and Elon Musk has the wrong jawline.

Bits and Pieces:

While it may sound I’ve been harsh on the book in my review there's enough here for long-term fans of Atomic Robo to enjoy, new readers however may want to head over to where the entirety of Robo's adventures can be read for free to find out if this little slice of indie magic is for them.


1 comment:

  1. I do think some subtler bits of humour have been missed here and I found the HOA stuff amusing. For example, making SIR Richard Branson a petty rule stickler who got his cummuppance when his orbiter was hijacked by his friendly neighbour robot and Elon Musk only agreeing to help break the HOA rules deadlock but only after the threat by Lang and Vic to cancel the “sweet deal” rights to Robo’s father’s name badging his electric cars was amusing. Lang’s attempts at find ways to workaround Branson’s HOA restrictions, either by shotgun or somehow using the rules on sprinkler systems to make an outdoor toilet are also funny. So a 6.5 review is definitely too low.