COMICS: John Reviews “Atomic Robo Vol. 2: Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War” by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

Atomic Robo Vol. 2: A.R. & the Dogs of War

Atomic Robo Vol. 2: A.R. & the Dogs of War

There are few comics currently on stands – mainstream or indie – that I recommend more highly than Atomic Robo.  It is the ray of hope in what Bill Willingham referred to as “The Age of Superhero Decadence,” a rare combination of laugh-out-loud humor, pulse-pounding action and clever characterization. Clevinger and Wegener continue their spectacular work from volume 1, crafting a story that draws inspiration from a fantastic variety of sources – everything from their relatives’ real-life war experience to Saving Private Ryan, with echoes of Hellboy, The Iron Giant and Indiana Jones.

Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War takes place before the events of Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Telsadyne, and chronicles Robo’s involvement in the final days of World War II’s European Theater.  Initially sent to disable Hitler’s new experimental super-mechs, Robo quickly discovers that The Fuhrer (and his deadly subordinate, General Skorzeny) has even more dangerous Sci-Fi weapons up his sleeve.  It’s up to Robo, The Sparrow (the most beautiful and deadly woman in the British Army) and a surly sergeant named Scottie to shut down Skorzeny’s operation and save the world, provided they don’t “shut down” one another first!

The Sparrow, Britains top secret agent.

The Sparrow, Britain's top secret agent.

Clevinger’s writing talents continue to impress, and Robo’s dialogue is as riotously funny as ever.  Somewhere between Spider-Man’s snappy banter and Indy’s gruff bluntness lies Robo’s attitude and charm, and his quips have a natural, organic quality about them that may remind readers a bit too much of what they wish they’d say if they were in Robo’s steel shoes (like one of my personal favorites, “I’m going to shove this [Jeep] so far down his cockpit he’ll have to open his glovebox to use the bathroom!) The pleasant surprise in this volume is how many of the other characters have clever bits of their own, even bit players that rarely are featured for more than a single page.  The overall plot is clever and amusing, and both creators show a respect for history that many of this era’s war-related popular fiction enteratainment does not (I’m looking at you, Battlefield and Call of Duty series…)  More than many other books, I recommend that you read the introduction before you dive into the stories.  Both creators give heartfelt and genuine dedications to loved ones who served in WWII and helped to make them the men they are today.  It really adds a level of emotional depth to the scenes of Robo and Scottie working together toward the end of the story.

Robo and Scottie are here to kick butt and chew gum, and Robo doesnt have a mouth...

Robo and Scottie are here to kick butt and chew gum, and Robo doesn't have a mouth...

Artist Scott Wegener continues to refine his already stellar artwork, surpassing even the fantastic illustrations of Volume 1.  Robo’s war uniform is priceless (especially the entirely unnecessary helmet) and the action scenes explode off the page like artillery fire.  The human cast is far more memorable in this volume as well, with both Sparrow and Scottie each exuding more personality than the entire crew of Tesladyne.  It will be a shame if they don’t appear in future volumes.  Ronda Pattison’s colors are also more impressive here than in volume 1, which is doubly impressive given the muted color palette so frequently used for a WWII setting.  I’m willing to bet that every time a project of hers is completed, Dave Stewart feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.  Red 5 Comics’s trade paperback printing quality seems to be substantially better than for its periodicals, which makes this volume a must-buy for anyone who noticed a drop in quality of the floppies (as I did.) Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War truly is at least as much of a delight visually as it is textually, if not more.

Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War is a fantastic action-comedy comic with both heart and soul, a World War II story with enough variations on the theme to provide even the most jaded of readers with an enjoyable new experience.


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