Atomic Robo #1
“The Will to Power”
Writer: Brian Clevinger
Artist: Scott Wegener
Colors: Rhonda Pattison
Letters: Jeff Powell
Cover artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Price: $2.95 US
As I read the background text in the inside front cover of this issue, describing the title character and his history, I was struck by how much the character has in common with Hellboy. The main difference between the pair is that Hellboy has supernatural origins, while Atomic Robo’s foundation is to be found in history of science and science-fiction. As I delved further into the comic, I found that the similarities hold true, save for the fact that the creators here play things up much more for laughs. If anything, Atomic Robo is reminiscent of another Mike Mignola project. It’s rather like The Amazing Screw-On Head Light. The simpler tone of the art is in keeping with the more irreverent side of the property as well. I can’t say that Atomic Robo is the most original comic book I’ve stumbled across, but it is entertaining. Hopefully, future issues will bring more ambitious and original plots while preserving the property’s comedic appeal.
It’s 1938, and the world is on the brink of war. The United States may be three years away, but the government still has an interest in putting a dent in the Nazis plans. That’s why they recruit Atomic Robo, the world-famous artificial man created by legendary scientist Nikola Tesla. Bullets just bounce off of him, and he’s packing some futuristic weapons that can outblast just about anything an enemy army can throw at him. He bursts into a hidden German base in the Himalayas, and his timing is perfect, as the commandant undergoes a bizarre operation that promises to transform him into a being of limitless power.
Wegener’s artwork is something of a cross between the styles of Jim (Stupid Comics) Mahfood and Michael Avon (Powers) Oeming, who provides the cover artwork for this book as well. Fans of such artists as Mignola and Vasilis (Last Call) Lolos will appreciate Wegener’s work here as well. He employs sharp angles and a simple design style to craft a goofy but interesting world of adventure and oddities. The design for the title character conveys personality surprisingly well despite the character’s nature as a mechanical man. Wegener’s art does fall a bit short when it comes to backgrounds; they can be sparse at times. The colors throughout the book are bright, which suits the goofier elements in the plot and script. I especially enjoyed the brilliant blue tones employed to convey Atomic Robo’s glowing eyes and the eerie power that the villain possesses by the end of the issue.
Promotional information I’ve received from the publisher indicates writer Brian Clevinger’s main claim to fame before this project is a webcomic entitled 8-Bit Theater. I don’t really have a lot of free time to delve into the world of webcomics onto of printed fare as well, but this much is clear: Clevinger makes the transition from the digital format to the more traditional approach to comics quite well.
The writer also gets points for offering up an accessible script, and he’s doesn’t sacrifice much space for exposition in order to make it work. The background included in the inside front-cover title page tells the reader just about everything s/he needs to know about the title character. Mind you, there are enough references in the script itself that one would have little trouble following the story. The action later in the book is a lot of fun, and I like that the ending promises more Nazi villainy and weirdness to come later.
The strongest element in the book is the title character’s attitude. During his meeting with the U.S. army bigwig, he exhibits a little bit of arrogance. He’s so self-assured and sarcastic, one can’t help but enjoy his attitude in the face of blowhards and bad guys. Other robot-type characters such as this one have been portrayed as child-like in demeanor or cold and distant. I rather enjoyed that Clevinger avoiding some of those cliches with this new character. 7/10
Note: This comic book is slated for release in October.