Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

November 26, 2013

TMoRP Day 22 – Saga by Vaughan and Staples

Okay, Saga.

I’ve been putting this blog post off for days. Partly because I’ve been both busy and exhausted, but mostly because I just don’t know if I can do this thing justice.

Saga is a monthly (-ish) comic from Image Comics by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist). It’s billed as an epic space opera, but the interplanetary conflicts, majestic science-fictional (and science-fantasy) concepts and larger-than-life characters are quite secondary to the romantic relationship drama of the two lead characters, Alana and Marko. She has delicate bat-shaped dragonfly wings and combat boots; he has curly ram horns and a magic sword. They are madly in love and on the run. They come from worlds that have been at war for so long that they now outsource the conflict to vassal states, such as that of one of the more colourful secondary characters, expectant-father Prince Robot IV.

As the series opens, Alana is giving birth to their (impossible) baby, a daughter named Hazel. Hazel narrates the story, presumably from sometime far in the future. Virtually everyone else wants to kill all of them, for defying the war, for engaging in forbidden love (or miscegenation, as most of society would have it) and for giving birth to a child who might possibly represent a path to peace for the galaxy.

There are bounty hunters, ghosts, magic, giant tree-spaceships, people with televisions for heads, trashy romance novels, horror, sex, violence, humour and (in the very first scene) the miracle of birth, complete with swearing and a sword fight.

Saga is a very adults-only book with a wonderfully operatic backdrop for the flight of the lovers – and their pursuit by mercenaries, super-spies, parents-in-law and murderous ex-lovers. Marko and Alana are great characters – brave, devoted and competent but also flawed and capable of exceedingly poor judgment – but the book is elevated by the many fantastic secondary characters, especially the relentless bounty hunter The Will (the profession of bounty hunter appears to confer singular titles, for some reason) and Izabel the dismembered teenaged ghost, who acts as Hazel’s baby-sitter. And Marko’s parents, who are senior figures in the Wreather military establishment. And Lying Cat, The Will’s pet/partner, who is an emaciated hairless cat who can tell when someone is lying. Lying Cat gets all the best lines.

Saga is beautiful. Fiona staples’ art is sumptuous. Just look at this cover:

Breastfeeding mothers are badass

Breastfeeding mothers are badass.

Vaughan has described Saga as being his vehicle for creating concepts that can’t be realised in television or movies, and Staples’ art more than delivers on the often bizarre grandeur and grotesqueness of the setting. A recent issue featured a for-want-of-a-better-term upskirt shot of a deformed giant’s scrotum, which was both a feat of remarkable technical drawing and easily as horrible as it sounds.

Oh, I should mention, there’s a lot of sex in this book. Some of it is just explicit but otherwise ordinary, but some elements like the existence of an underage sex-slave whom The Will attempts to rescue, is confronting and unpleasant and skirts the line into exploitation. It didn’t cross it for me, as the material is presented as objectionable by sympathetic characters and is treated without sentimentality. Your line may be drawn elsewhere. There was also a controvery surrounding the sneak-insertion of a gay porn money shot into a couple of panels in a recent issue. I found that pretty hilarious but again you may not agree.

This is a story about war, about love and about the strength of social and family ties in the face of unimaginable pressure. The dialogue is sharp, the art is breathtaking and the story is so bursting with potential that it could go anywhere. It’s clear (from the name and the setup) that Vaughan and Staples have every intention of making Saga a landmark SF&F epic to equal Star Wars or A Song of Ice and Fire. They might never achieve that lofty ambition, but based on what we’ve seen and the accolades rolling in – several Eisners and a Hugo, not to mention best-sellerdom – they haven’t fallen short yet.

Look, there are already two very reasonably priced trades (Saga Volumes 1 and 2) available, which I recommend without hesitation.

November 12, 2013

TMoRP 16 – Hawkguy!

Today I will be gleeking the hell out of a comic. I’m going to be doing a lot of that for this year’s Month of Relentless Positivity, because this seems to be an especially propitious time for good comics. So take that how you will.

Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, aka the guy with the bow and arrow in The Avengers movie. In the comics he’s not a super-cool government assassin working for Nick Fury (and/or Loki). No, in the comics he’s a two-bit criminal carnie with a bow and some trick arrows who FOR SOME REASON THOUGHT HE COULD TAKE ON THE AVENGERS. Give the guy some props for having brass cojones. Anyway, after he does a stretch in prison, he gets out, flies straight and eventually becomes a hero. And the leader of the Avengers. And the leader of the West Coast Avengers. And then he died for a few years until he came back as a mute ninja and – oh shit, I’m doing that thing where I overexplain comics continuity, aren’t I?

(Totally deliberate in that case. I could not possibly resist mentioning the bit about his being dead and then a ninja, because COMICS!)

So, Hawkeye (2012) by Matt Fraction and David Aja (with covers and colours by Matt Hollingsworth and letters by Chris Eliopolous) is a standard Marvel monthly title. [1] Except that it really isn’t like any other superhero book I’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s still about Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton and his teenaged protege Kate ‘Hawkeye’ Bishop, who are both regular unpowered-but-hypercompetent hero-adventurers. Yes, the superheroics of the greater Marvel Universe do occasionally intrude at the edges.

But Hawkeye – affectionately known as Hawkguy, as pronounced by the writer’s young son – takes its tone cues not from the absurd power fantasies of the superhero genre but from grimy TV crime dramas from the seventies, in particular The Rockford Files. In this series, Clint Barton’s life as an Avenger occurs off-screen. Instead, the story focuses on his after-hours life in a worn-down New York apartment building, hanging with his working-class neighbours, wrangling with some menacing low-rent Russian mafia scumbags in sportswear (the always-fantastic “tracksuit Draculas”) and generally screwing up his love-life and other relationships.

The colours are muted just short of sepia. The covers are stunning works of pop-art design. The vibe is run-down, weathered weariness bordering on the fatalistic. Clint’s in a low place, and despite gangster shenanigans, sexy mayhem and the odd high-speed chase with turbo-charged muscle cars and exploding arrows, he’s getting more down with every passing issue. Kate is a rich girl with a snarky confidence and thrill-seeker’s joie de vivre who can see Clint’s mounting depression sapping the life out of her.

Despite Clint’s world-trammelled, downbeat optimism and Kate’s sometimes biting cynicism, this series is funny. Hilarious, even. Even in the grimmest situations – such as the issue set in the eye of Hurricane Sandy as it beats the hell out of coastal New Jersey – the sparkling sense of fun and glimmers of hope seep through the murk. Matt Fraction, one of my favourite writers at the moment (and rapidly ascending into the pantheons of my all-time favourites) is at his best here, showing a sincerity and humanity that bleeds through every panel.

Not being much of an art afficionado, my initial impression of David Aja’s art was to dislike the scratchy lines. I’m an idiot. Aja does more with the body language and facial expressions in a single panel than most artists manage in a two-page spread with forty superheroes punching each other. Moreover, the composition in this book is amazing. The pacing, from panel to panel, page to page and issue to issue, is so controlled it’s almost impossible to rush through it.

This is a book where you notice the panel layout, because it’s doing as much storytelling as the dialogue and the pictures. I couldn’t tell you the last time I noticed stuff like that while reading a funnybook. And you don’t see it because it’s obtrusive. You admire it because it’s teaching you a language that you probably never paid the slightest attention to before. It calls attention to the fact that it’s something that you can pay attention to. It doesn’t just teach you how to read this book. It skills you up for reading every other comic you will ever lay eyes on.

And hey, there is an issue shown from the point of view of Lucky, the one-eyed stray mutt that only hangs around with Clint because he offered him a slice of pizza, that is basically a one-issue revolution in graphic storytelling. I just don’t have the words for how good that single issue is, and yet it’s not even my favourite in the series. (That might be the one where loonie teenaged gang-boss Madame Masque secretly bankrupts and then befriends Kate Bishop so that she can exact a bitter revenge, or the one where Clint’s exes team up to stage an intervention on him only to decide he’s a shiftless bum who deserves everything he gets).

Look, there are two volumes out so far: “Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon” and “Hawkeye Volume 2: Little Hits”. If not for the fact that I will be recommending several other comics in the course of TMoRP, I would practically insist that anyone with an interest in superheroes, light noir or witty dialogue should immediately cease all delaying activities and get both books.

But also, that would be bullying. And that’s Not Okay.

 

[1] Actually, scratch that. Standard Marvel titles are coming out about once every three weeks these days – presumably so that the trade paperback collections can be assembled and released more frequently – but Hawkeye has a slightly slower turnaround. Let’s describe the release schedule as “at a leisurely pace”.

 

November 6, 2013

TMoRP Day 13 – Captain Marvel

There are a lot of Captain Marvels out there. Over the past eighty-ish years of superhero comics, it’s a name that gets trotted out with fairly routine regularity.

DC Comics have the Big Red Cheese version, the Captain Marvel who’s really a ten-year-old newsboy named Billy Batson who speaks a magic word given to him by an ancient wizard whose name is an acronym of six old gods who bestow their legendary virtues on a suitably heroic champion. Yeah, and he sometimes fights a super-genius bookworm who speaks through an old-fashioned wooden radio he wears around his body like an invertebrate Flavor Flav. That Captain Marvel – whose name recently got changed to Shazam, which is what everyone always calls the character anyway but seems like kind of a stupid name for him to call himself since that’s his secret word that he uses to transform between invulnerable superhero and slightly polio-afflicted juvenile, and I’m sure there’s a perfectly sound explanation for all that but I’ll never know because I’m fucked if I’m going to read more widely in the execrable DC New 52 universe – is dumb. Dumb costume, dumb Superman knockoff, dumb roster of villains.

I’m not talking about that Captain Marvel.

Nor am I talking about the first version of the character from Marvel Comics, the Kree space captain named Mar-Vell. His main claim to fame (at least to me, who came to comics in the late seventies and early eighties, after his heyday) was his death from cancer. It was the first major character death in the Marvel universe, and almost the only significant one (apart from maybe Gwen Stacey) that has actually stuck. Mar-Vell’s never come back, but his legacy – as a guy who flies around in a red and blue costume with yellow highlights, blasting this with his hand-beams, saving people from stuff – lives on the Marvel continuity.

There have been a few other Captains Marvel between then and now. Go skim the wikipedia entry, because honestly most of these characters, with the exception of Monica Rambeau (who took the name but otherwise doesn’t have much to do with the alien Kree) and Noh-Varr (who is a Kree exile and is currently starring in the Young Avengers, about which I will probably rave before too long), aren’t really that important or good.

The Captain Marvel I like – the current Captain Marvel – is Carol Danvers. Also known for most of her time as Ms Marvel but also as Binary, Warbird and probably half a dozen other names I don’t know about. Each eclectic identity came with a different implausible and borderline-porny costume, with the only unifying feature being her trademarked hip scarf (a distinct if impractical accoutrement for any superhero outfit).

Danvers, an Air Force officer who picked up her powers back in the 60’s in an encounter with the original Mar-Vell and some Kree bad guys, has about the most convoluted and horrible back story in comics. Over time she has lost her powers to the mutant Rogue, been experimented on by the Alien-knockoff aliens the Brood, been kidnapped and impregnated by an interdimensional sociopath (then later that somehow never happened), and she’s been an an Avenger and an agent of SHIELD and sometimes a Guardian of the Galaxy and –

oh, look, forget all that. It’s the usual comics bullshit. Some of her backstory is great, some is unbelievably awful, and much of it is banal and forgettable.

Carol Danvers is among my favourite Marvel characters, but I’ve only come to that conclusion relatively recently. She’s been on the periphery of my awareness, mainly as Ms Marvel – but c’mon, that’s a pretty terrible name, right? Anyway, I don’t think she really started clicking for me until I began reading Brian Bendis’ vast run on The Avengers. Danvers, as Ms Marvel, is a constant presence in that book – still off to one side and in the shadow of the bigger players like Iron Man and Captain America. And in fact it’s the Civil War event that brought her to the foreground in my mind. While I have very mixed feelings about the Civil War storyline’s ham-fisted, authoritarian triumphalism, it was at least interesting to the Marvel roster of characters decide which side they were on. As a a SHIELD-adjacent serving military officer, she unsurprisingly picked Iron Man’s government-registration side and was immediately put in charge of hunting down everyone who refused to sign on.

(I’ve just realised that I’m going on a bit. Hard habit to break when talking about comics. You always feel like you need to explain the context, which means delving into backstory. No. No no. That’s a rabbit hole, deep and full of poisoned baits! Long story short, she eventually learned to be a leader as well as an arse-kicker).

Anyway, finally after nearly four decades of playing second-row to a dead character, Carol Danvers is now Captain Marvel, with her own title courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy. The first two collected volumes are available now, and I recommend them unreservedly. While the first volume combines a time-travelling, alien-bashing romp with serious themes about women in the military and relationships between women of different generations, the series really hits its stride with the second volume.

“Down” features Monica Rambeau, the first woman to take the name of Captain Marvel (though she also frequently abandons it for other generic superhero labels like Photon). I love their sassy, sarcastic interplay and the fact that their bantery rivalry does not paper over the fact that they are friends who will call each other on their shit. It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air from the trope of catty, spiteful female friendships that have plagued comics for a long time.

Check out Captain Marvel. She flies planes even though she can fly under her own power. She has a more messed up personal history than almost anyone in comics. She punches dinosaurs because they’re there to be punched.

And while her costume is now more practical and less swimsuity than ever before, they kept the sash. Because, hell yes.

 

October 22, 2012

MRP Day 20 – Rucka on Writing

Filed under: comics,the month of relentless positivity,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 10:57 pm

Greg Rucka‘s one of those powerhouses of modern comics writing. Not quite as big a name as a Morrison or a Bendis or (shudder) Geoff Johns, but one of those utterly reliable writers whom you can depend upon to produce work anywhere between satisfying and exhilarating. His early works like the British spy drama Queen and Country and the Antarctic murder mystery  miniseries Whiteout  [1] remain some of my favourite non-mainstream titles, and since then he’s racked up a list of credits and well-deserved awards as long as your arm [2].

I mention him here today for two particular reasons, though I could cherry-pick anything from his Batman-adjacent cop drama Gotham Central (co-written with Ed Brubaker, about whom I could also rave enthusiastically) to the holy-shit-it’s-really-good Batwoman: Elegy to his recent action-adventure novel Alpha [3].

You probably get the sense that I like Greg Rucka’s writing, and I’ve seen no more than a small fraction of his career body of work. So when he offered a piece of writing advice to a somewhat-daunted NaNoWriMo noob last week, I (along with a lot of people inside my attention sphere) took notice. It’s succinct, and it’s useful. Moreover, I’m using it. There was one specific suggestion in there that helped me to pick apart the serious mental block that I’ve been carrying all year over my novel. I understand what I need to do to fix it now. Arguably without this very short article I might have continued squinting helplessly at a nearly-but-not-quite-there manuscript for months or years to come.  As he rightly notes, it may be of no particular value to you in your writing – no writing advice is ever universally applicable [4] – but it certainly helped me. So I owe Rucka for that one.

The other thing I can do is throw a shout-out to his current twice-weekly webcomic project (with long-time art collaborator Rick Burchett) Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether.

Now certainly you, like me, may well be disposed towards the story on the basis of that name alone, and it would be disingenuous of me to dissuade you from pursuing that urge. Go check out the first arc “A Dance of Steel” – but having done so, let me offer a suggestion, which is that you immediately read the second arc as well. The first is an amusing extend duel scene featuring the eponymous heroine stealing something from an airship run by some Prussian-looking dudes. It’s all very “sa-ha!” and “have at you, varlet”, but a little light on for narrative depth. The second arc, “The Easterly Call”, which introduces some old West-style bounty hunters, appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with what has come before.

That’s why you might then roll straight into the third arc “The Blind Leading the Blind”, which starts tying the two plotlines together. It’s also about where it becomes apparent that Rucka has a big story planned for this strip, and that he is in no particular hurry to tell it. There’s clever, delicate worldbuilding going on behind the showiness of witty sword duels atop airships and the steam-powered shootouts in dusty western streets. It’s an approach to storytelling I’m attracted to, even as it baffles me. For comic creators and those interested in such, Rucka posts the script for each page-sized episode, including dialogue and stage directions for the artists. It’s generous and instructive. At times it borders on revelatory, providing insight into thestorytelling tricks he hides in plain view. For a completely different insight into a great storyteller’s techniques, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Also, swordplay and gunfights – what more could you possibly demand?

 

[1] Both of which at more than ten years old suddenly make me feel my age, for some reason.

[2] I acknowledge that my assumption here that the reader has not suffered catastrophic bodily dismemberment is highly ableist.

[3] Which is an action-adventure story about a Delta Force operator finding new and inventive ways to kill terrorists at a Disneyesque funpark, which would already have my money if I were not currently reigning in my frenzied ebook purchasing impulses.

[4] Although one that must come close is “A writer writes, always” from that seminal examination of the psyche of the frustrated novelist Throw Momma From the Train, a film I recall in unsettling detail for something I haven’t seen in about twenty years.

October 18, 2012

MRP Day 17 – Marvel Graphic Novels Collection

Filed under: comics,the month of relentless positivity — lexifab @ 4:12 pm

If you have happened to go into a newsagent sometime in the last few months – which I want to emphasise is something I nearly never have cause to do – you might have noticed they are selling a series of hardcover graphic novel collections of classic Marvel superhero stories. [1] This is one of those deals where, in theory, you pick up a new instalment every week or fortnight or month until – 50 or so iterations later – you’ve collected the whole set and have a smart-looking conversation piece for your bookshelf. In practise what happens is that you miss a vital issue here or there and you spend weeks scouring eBay so that you can spend a crippling sum to assuage your completist packrat tendencies.

Ahem.

In this instance though, I know there are going to be gaps in my collection, because I already have some of these stories – the first one, for example, is the first volume of J.M. Straczynski’s run on Amazing Spider-Man, all of which I have [3] and I see that an upcoming volume is  the first part of Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men [4]. But overall there’s a lot of stuff in this collection that I am looking forward to getting.

The covers are a handsome black affair with a centrepiece drawn from the best cover in the series, the spines are painted so that when the whole collection is put together they form a portrait of probably everyone in the Marvel Universe, and there are helpful essays inside explaining the context of the stories and some of the subsequent events. Handy if your comic continuity awareness is patchy, as indeed is mine. And at twenty bucks for a hardcover, they are good value.

When I found the Wikipedia entry for the series and saw that it had the full listing of titles, I tried very hard not to look ahead and spoil the surprise of what’s coming, but I did notice two things that inflicted some trauma on my modus positivitus [5]. One – I was kind of hoping that, based on his appearance in the masthead, there might be at least one volume featuring Luke Cage (aka Power Man) who – along with his (white, billionaire, industrialist) buddy Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist) – rose above an origin as a quick cash-in on the popularity of blaxpolitation and kung fu movies in the 70’s to occupy a compelling moral corner of the Marvel Universe. But I don’t see his name anywhere, which is annoying.

Two – there is one – one! – title which features a solo female character. Don’t get me wrong, I am fond of She-Hulk and agree she deserves her place in the spotlight, but seriously, people? In the space of a 60-volume series you couldn’t find more than one spot for a leading woman? No Black Widow? No Spider-Woman? No Wasp? No Scarlet Witch? No whatever-Carol-Danvers-is-calling-herself-this-week? Not even Jean (yawn) Grey? I realise that most of these characters don’t get their own solo titles, but this ain’t a good look, Marvel. C’mon, boys, pull your socks up.

(On the other hand, it is hard not to squee with delight to note that the next volume is Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier, which resurrected Bucky Barnes as a Russian sleeper agent with a bionic arm. I acknowledge that I am part of the problem).

 

[1] You might equally have noticed similar collect-them-all-one-month-at-a-time promotions going for classic Agatha Christie murder novels and a DC Heroes chess set. [2]

[2] The DC chess set is completely ruined by the presence of Hush, the stupidest comics character since Paste Pot Pete.

[3] Except for the final volume “One More Day” which I cannot bring myself to pay money for because it is such flawed and gutless reset-button copout bullshit. But look at me, editorialising.

[4] Which is magnificent if for no other reason than elevating Kitty Pryde to the status of hardcore kickarse legend that she has long deserved.

[5] To execrably coin the faux-Latin phrase.

October 14, 2012

MRP Day 14 – Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse

Filed under: comics,the month of relentless positivity — lexifab @ 1:21 pm

Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos’ Cow Boy is the story of Boyd Linney, a bounty hunter in the old west hunting down his criminal kin. Boyd is ten years old, pragmatic and wise beyond his years, simmering with anger and inexpressably sad. He’s trying to atone for his family’s sins against society at large by bringing them to justice one by one, starting with his deadbeat father.

So okay, this is not a happy story, but it is rather beautiful. Boyd’s tough, determined and resourceful – but he’s also a ten-year-old kid who would like to live a normal life. He’d rather that life was not a constant stream of disappointments and betrayals from the ones he loves, but that’s just how things are.

Cosby’s dialogue is weary and laconic, but witty and drenched with charm. Eliopoulos’ art is a simple cartoonish style that my limited artistic vocabulary suggests is what Walt Kelly or maybe Berkeley Breathed would come up with if they were drawing Lucky Luke. But comparisons aside, the art is a delight – visually appealing [1] and with a measured command of pacing and facial expressions that tell the story as effectively as any of the dialogue.

The first book of Cow Boy is out in a smart and attractive hardcover volume (thanks to Emma-Jean who bought me a copy for my birthday after I couldn’t even remember what it was called) but you can read the whole story so far for free online. I recommend the hardcover though, because it’s very reasonably priced and each chapter is separated by a mini-story by a guest writer-artist team. One of those stories has a penguin.

[1] Kids could read this, because although the melancholic subject mater is tragic, it is still about a kid wearing a cowboy hat, riding a horse and shooting at bad guys with the cutest firearm in modern fiction. It might raise some hard-to-answer questions about bad parenting models though.

October 9, 2012

MRP Day 9 – Atomic Robo

Filed under: comics,reviewage,the month of relentless positivity — lexifab @ 10:56 pm

Atomic Robo is the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Science Adventure Comic (!), and if there’s any competition for that title at all, it’s wa-a-a-a-a-a-y back in the dust somwhere. The brainchild of Brian Clevinger (writer) and Scott Wegener (artist) [1], Atomic Robo is the two-fisted action-packed adventures across the twentieth century of Nikola Tesla’s robot son, the eponymous brawny Brooklyn pug.

Atomic Robo is more-or-less an all-ages book that celebrates science, explosions, ingenious dinosaur masterminds, fiendish Nazi brains-in-jars, interdimensional horrors, resolving issues by punching them really hard (and then trying other branches of science when that doesn’t work) and amusing depictions of some of the twentieth century’s most beloved science communicators [2]. The series jumps back and forth across Atomic Robo’s 80+ year lifespan, in no readily apparent sequence [3]. Volume Two, for example, depicts his adventures fighting Nazi super-scientists during WWII, but Volume Three spans decades in his battle against a time-shifting lovecraftian (literally) horror, and Volume Five is a gangbuster-noir tale of vigilante justice in 1930’s Chicago.

Robo is (depending on when the story is set) a charming, plucky lad desperate for adventure, railing against a dull and overprotective parent, or a wise-cracking adventurer who can’t take war seriously, or a weary cynic who has lost a lot of friends but still carries on helping others and fighting the good fight, possibly because he no longer knows what else to do. But there’s no boring angsty whining – Clevinger never weighs his hero down with tedious soliloquies about death, immortality or man’s inhumanity. [4] In any incarnation, he’s lovable, mischievous and noble; he’s sometimes sarcastic, often dorky and always cheerfully willing to switch between thinking and punching as the situation demands.

The creative team promises, amongst other things, no angst and no filler issues, so the entire series – which currently runs to six collected volumes as well as a nearly-complete couple of side projects [5] – barrels along with square-jawed exuberance, slowing down only long enough for the characters to fling theories at each other about the problem at hand before diving back into the mayhem. The supporting cast comes and goes with the passage of time (and the dangers of being involved in hair-raising chaos) though there are a few who appear regularly enough to become more than names and faces.

The fun of Atomic Robo is in the big, wacky pulp ideas and the sheer fun the creators have in finding ways for things to blow up. The art has a striking cartoonish style which uses shadow to great dramatic effect. It’s very reminiscent of early Mike Mignola (and his Hellboy is clearly one influence among many), which puts it squarely in my “yes, please” box. And I have to give him props for being able to depict an amazing range of emotion in the movement of Robo’s metal eyelids, which slide across otherwise-blank blue lights.

Clevinger’s dialogue is witty (“This is a grenade. I hope my clumsy robot fingers don’t do something clumsy. Oops.”) and the characters are smart, even when their situation is ridiculous (“They can’t be this large. It’s mathematically impossible. That really bothers me.”)  The action is great, the science is – well, the bits that are implausible are at least consistently so – and the whole thing is just a huge amount of wide-grinned fun. I defy anyone not to adore the sinister malevolence of the mentally unstable Doctor Dinosaur, say, or young Robo’s attempts to ingratiate himself with the  masked crimebuster Jack Tarot.

I got my digital copies of Atomic Robo through Comixology, where they are startlingly cheap [6][7]. I can’t recommend enough that you do exactly the same.

[1] Plus the usual crowd of tragically under-celebrated contributors to colours, letters, editing and suchlike. I feel bad for not including them in the review, but I know sod-all about the intricacies of what they do. Sorry folks.

[2] Constantly-exasperated early-70’s Carl Sagan alone is worth the price of admission for the entire series.

[3] A timeline of the entire series,  info-locked to avoid spoilers for stories yet to be told though amusingly teasing their titles, is available here.

[4] The closest it comes is when Robo laments “The hardest part is that I’m 83 years old. I do a great Jack Benny, but no one really gets it any more.” Killer line.

[5] Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific and Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures

[6] if subject to the rather unfortunate DRM-soaked terms and conditions at that site.

[7] Trade paperback versions are also available through Amazon and such).

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