COMICS: John Reviews “Atomic Robo Vol. 1” by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne

Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne

Red 5 Comics is run by likely-misunderstood geniuses, and one needs to look no further for proof than in their flagship title, Atomic Robo.  Deep in their super-secret subterranean labs, webcomic author and sprite-artist Brian Clevinger (of 8-Bit Theatre fame) and rising comics star Scott Wegener – together with Eisner Award-nominated colorist Ronda Pattison and legendary letterer Jeff Powell – have created the biggest breath of fresh air in independent comics of the past two years.  Their creation, dubbed Atomic Robo, blends sci-fi elements with classic serial matinee adventure and 21st-century (occasionally snarky) wit. As with any strikingly original work, there is always an urge to describe it by comparing it to existing entries in the genre(s.)  Here’s my attempt:  Combine a loose version of Hellboy‘s premise with Raiders of the Lost Ark-style plot and action,  mix in a healthy dose of Kevin Smith movies or Mystery Science Theater 3000 for snappy dialogue, and feature a lead that is equal parts Spider-Man and Short Circuit‘s Johnny Five (though his aesthetic design is probably closer to The Iron Giant in army fatigues).  Starting to get the idea?  Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words:

I minored in Imaginary Physics!

I minored in Imaginary Physics! They said it was a waste of time...

The story of Atomic Robo is as follows (taken from Vol. 1’s back cover):

In 1923, Nikola Tesla’s career is in its twilight until he unveils a robot with automatic intelligence – Atomic Robo!  Granted full American citizenship in return for his participation in a top secret military operation in 1938, Atomic Robo goes on to found Tesladyne – a think tank dedicated to exploring the fringes of scientific inquiry.  After decades of dealing with all manner of weirdness, Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne have become the go-to defense force against the unexplained.

In the pages of Volume 1, Robo and Tesladyne battle super-powered Nazis, giant ants, killer pyramids, cyborg Nazis, computer viruses and extradimensional vampires.  Hilarity ensues.

In an age when parents refuse to buy the latest issues of Batman or X-Men because the content is too scary and upsetting, Atomic Robo is one of the few comics that both kids and adults can enjoy.  Okay, maybe not all kids, but certainly ages 9 and up.  Clevinger’s humor runs the gamut from visual slapstick to wry, sarcastic dialogue and everything in between.  There are snark-fests and explosive battles with giant monsters, often in the same panels!  What’s even more surprising is the almost Spielbergian amount of heart that the book displays in its rare quiet moments, when the characters’ sentimentality and humanity (simulated or otherwise) feeks like a warm reflection of Clevinger & Co.’s love for the project.  This was a labor of love by all involved, and it shows.

The series is nearly as stunning visually as it is conceptually.  Scott Wegener’s lines have a cartoony level of clarity and cleanliness, yet what seems so simple on first inspection reveals subtle nuances upon repeated viewings.  Ronda Pattison’s colors are such a welcome blend of vibrantly bright and subtly layered that they give Dave Stewart’s impeccable work on books like The New Frontier and The Umbrella Academy a run for their money.  Even the lettering stands out as clever and striking, which is impressive since it is an element that usually fails to register at all on my visual radar.

If you love action and adventure that makes you feel like a kid at the comics shop (or at the movies) again, if you think comics have become too dark and dreary for their own good, or if you just want to enjoy a story that combines sci-fi action, humor, and heart, Atomic Robo is for you. Make sure you order your copies of subsequent issues in advance, though.  Word is spreading fast, and Atomic Robo is flying off the shelves at comic shops across the nation!

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2 Responses

  1. […] I guess John over at Wit War just recently discovered Atomic Robo. But that’s cool. I love it when new people find us. […]

  2. […] young adults.  I couldn’t believe how many great books are on there!  Highlights include Atomic Robo, The War at Ellsmere, The Umbrella Academy, Joss Whedon’s run on Runaways, Ed […]

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