Atomic Robo Volume 1

Atomic Robo made an impression on the comics scene last year the same way he does in this story; packed with action and pleasant surprises. From new publisher, Red 5 who seem to be picking their projects wisely, this series is the ideal gateway title. If you’ve been away from comics for a while with all the soap opera spandex stories, or the every increasing adult tales wrapped in seemingly child-like packages, then you need to do yourself a favour. You need to buy Atomic Robo Vol. 1. It will renew your love for the medium and give you faith in its future. Books that are simply fun and that can be shared with the whole family are a rarity on today’s stands. Robo is a new creation, yet he collates the best bits of pulp adventurers as well as the fun of early Savage Dragon and the actiony wit of Hellboy (the movie version).

We discover that Atomic Robo was created by actual genius Nikola Tesla in 1923 and has been serving the U.S government since then. He’s basically a one-man army. Like Captain America, but , y’know a robot, and with a sense of humour.

He fights Nazis (though they’re not referred to as such) giant ants in the Reno desert (possibly mutated by the growing field of “imaginary physics”), walking pyramids and more.

The stories are set up nicely as we go from the present where Robo and his team fight the weird monstrosity of the day, to times in years previous and learn of the friends he’s lost along the way. An ageless robot who’s passing 80 can not help but deal with real emotions and Clevenger show this side with a clarity equal to the humourous action. This book collects the first six issues, plus four extra short back-up tales by various artists, the covers of the issues, a gallery of Robo by even more artists and a look at the early concept sketches of the character from Weneger. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a two page look at Atomic Robo’s technically advanced components. All these extras just make a neat 180+ page book even neater.

Robo’s bickering Action Science League offer some humour but Robo’s the funny one of the bunch and has all the quips straight out of a cheesy 80s action film. Even real-life figures like Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking manage to make an impression as Robo ventures to Mars for the first time to aid NASA in their research (and finds the worst enemy man can face-boredom!) Artist Scott Weneger can draw character reactions, dark machinery, underground bases and scary creatures all with equal skill. His lines may seem simple, but don’t be deceived. It takes effort to make it look effortless and it is awfully pretty to look at. Coupled with writer Brian Clevenger’s fast paced script it all feels like a pulpy Bond film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Clevenger and Weneger seem to come from the same school as myself; the School of Saturday Morning Cartoons. They aced their class in action that makes you cheer and characters that make you smile. Now they’re the teachers. So sit up, and pay attention.

Station #1 Review

I saw a few interesting things today as I went to my LCS (local comics shop). Firstly, there were a few more people there than usual, which was fantastic. I guess most of them heard about the place from the Supanova expo. I love it when people discover comics for the first time. I firmly believe that there is a comic, or series, or writer, or artist out there for everybody. You just gotta find it. Secondly, I saw Supanova’s guest artists, Howard Chaykin and Joe Jusko there too, chatting it up with the employees and getting there photos taken. Topics discussed included TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno’s lactating nipples and Punisher War Journal’s Jigsaw story arc conclusion coming in September. (Click here for the alternate cover. You’ll go ape for it!) But comics are a minefield. Many of my friends feel initially daunted when going to the LCS for the first time. Where’s the latest Superman issue? What are all these surnames doing on the covers? What in the world is a TPB? It’s a confusing world. Well, fear not, I’m here to help. Starting from the review below, I’ll be attempting to guide you through the muddy waters of the comic book universe. Look for new pages, and a new category, entitled, New To Comics? for articles and reviews for the newbie. By the way, TPB is a Trade Paper Back, a hard cover collection of a previously published series, much like a DVD box set of a TV show you’ve seen before, but with extras and no ads. See, you’re learning already.

Space is a great setting for stories beyond straight sci-fi. Films like the original Alien, Solaris and last year’s Sunshine showed us that it isn’t always extra terrestrials that are the greatest threat. Paranoia and claustrophobia can play their part in creating terror too. With astronauts cut off from their loved ones and the strange sensation of zero gravity, normality is thrown out the window.

Station from relatively new publisher, BOOM! Studios’ continues this tradition. The first issue of a four part monthly series kicks things off with a bang. Well, not a bang really, but an immediate sense of desperation.

The international space station is a gleaming example of scientific advancement and a unified humanity. That is until the latest batch of multi-national astronauts take up residence in its cramped quarters.

It’s not long before Nicolay the cosmonaut is murdered. Not in a brutal manner, but certainly an effective one; rendered with such despair as he floats away. Dedicating two pages of almost blackness to this pivotal plot point works extremely well. Nicolay is captured by the endless space, and there is nothing his colleagues can do but watch his terrified face get further and further away. Nicolay’s death was, of course, no accident, and of all the people on the station, his work was the apparently the most earth changing.

As Dr Karen James, one of the astronauts remarks, “That’s the thing about being on a space station. There’s no place to hide. Everything comes to the surface sooner or later.” And it appears the murderer on board has only just begun their work.

Writer Johanna Stokes comes from TV, and her character work here is excellent. With only three issues left to tell this story, she has her work cut out for her, but she’s off to an intriguing start. At this point, the killer could be anyone. There are genuine chills here with a moody pace. Leno Carvalho’s artwork fits well in this context. Realistic in the style of Ultimates artist Bryan Hitch with a mix of 90s Aquaman penciller Jim Calafiore, with a good eye for the technical details of the station and the expressions of the increasingly desperate people aboard it. A whodunit in a floating sardine can is a brilliant premise. So far this series lives up to it.

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