I’m continuing my big pandemic reread – using graphic novels, collections, and single issues I’ve got in my apartment right now – with another hardback. Last week I talked about the second collected book of MIND MGMT issues, subtitled “The Futurist”. This week I needed something light and fun, so I grabbed a handful of Atomic Robo off the shelf.
If you’re feeling a bit cooped up and restless, call up your local shop to order yourself Atomic Robo V1, “Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne”. Written by Brian Clevinger, art by Scott Wegener (with color by Ronda Pattison and letters by Jeff Powel) the series jumps back and forth through time, telling different pieces of Atomic Robo’s first 83 years of existence. It has everything you’d want from a retro-style modernist comic: video game jokes (Megaman, Jenkins, etc.), Nazis, mummies, steampunk, Carl Sagan being awesome, Stephen Hawking being a bastard, and a wise-cracking intelligent robot swinging his way through it all. It’s sarcastically funny, it’s got a hipster sensibility that perfectly meshes with the crisp, clean art – exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to translate well to t-shirts and messenger bags. It made me happy, and genuinely happy is a little harder to come by these days.
But these are slim volumes, these Robo books, and if I’m going to get through every comic I own in the next few years I have to group smaller issues in these reviews. Which means I also get to talk about the second and third collections!
Vol. 2, Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War, collects the five-issue mini-series, complete with cover gallery, pin-ups, and bonus stories. It shows more of Robo’s adventures in World War II, introduces a plucky British heroine, and there’s some evil genius-designed weather cannons.
It also has a brief appearance by James “Scottie” Milligan, a Scotsman and a hero. He was Scott Wegener’s grandfather. (How cute is that?)
That the creators of this comic wrote in Wegener’s grandfather, in order to allow him to live again in Atomic Robo, is the biggest part of why I adore this book. It’s written and drawn by people who want to be a part of this world, so much that they will populate it with their favorite things, their joys and sorrows and loved ones. This is the one great power we have as writers and artists: the ability to remake the world in whatever image we want, to fix its flaws, to resurrect the dead, to make it right. When it’s done right, as it is in this case, even when it’s silly it’s breathtaking.
Vol 3, Atomic Robo and The Shadow From Beyond Time, combines AR with my other great love: HP Lovecraft. I did tell you they write this series just for me, didn’t I? Let’s start with the fact that “Tesla Heavy Industries” had, in 1926, a storefront office with “Science While You Wait!” painted on the window. Throw in the Tunguska blast, Howard P Lovecraft babbling like a mad man, Carl Sagan, lightning guns, tentacles, and … I don’t want to give away the rest of the story but if you like that sort of thing, this is the book for you.
Oh, and Robo’s wearing argyle socks. I’m just saying. <3
Notes and References:
- You can find all of my recent comics reviews here.
- If you’re in Ithaca like me, our LCS is taking orders via phone and email.
- The Robo folks are currently running a Kickstarter campaign for Atomic Robo and the Dawn of a New Era. I backed them!
- There’s also an Atomic Robo timeline, in case you want to know When Things Happen and Where To Find Them In the Books (but be warned: it’s got spoilers).