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Hugh Likes Comics: Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era

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Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era #1
Written by Brian Clevenger
Drawn by Scott Wegener
Colored by Shannon Murphy
Published by IDW

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The Skinny: Atomic Robo returns with the most perilous action science adventure yet – Fatherhood.

I’m a sucker for mad science. Arcing Tesla coils, doomsday devices, snappy lab-wear and villainous monologues, give me the whole bit. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always found Clevenger and Wegener’s Atomic Robo so interesting. Being the robot son of Tesla himself, he is the very essence of pulp weirdness, but he constantly struggles to make sense of the world, be it through rigorously mapping non-euclidean spaces or just punching out his velociraptor arch-nemesis, Dr. Dinosaur. He’s the product of mad science, but for the most part he is trying to straighten the field back into something sensible.
This is very much the case in the latest issue, which starts a new story arc, and is a great place for new readers to jump on. Throughout his adventures, Robo has gone from pulp-style adventurer to solider to scientist to tech mogul. But this story puts him in a very different role, that of a father. Through a series of events, he is now the caretaker of ALAN, a networked AI from the 1950’s that has lost its memory, and is effectively a new person. The original ALAN was willing to destroy the world, but Robo has a chance to give it an education, and hopefully a different future.
Clevenger’s writing is as spot-on as it’s ever been, and Wegener’s art remains appealingly chunky. Fans of the character will find plenty to enjoy, and this is a great issue for new readers to pick up. You can find Atomic Robo and the Dawn of the New Era on Comixology or at your local comics shop. And if you like it, there are plenty of back issues to pick through for free over at Atomic-Robo.com.

Hugh Likes Comics: The Top 5 of 2013

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#5: Batman ’66: I like stories that go all-in. No pussy-footing around, not Super-Heroes-but-no-tights, which seems to be de-reguer, particularly at “The Big Two.” That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by this outing from writer Jeff Parker and artist Jonathan Case. They’ve returned to the source material of the ’60’s Batman TV show, complete with dancing and giant sound effect bubbles. The digital versions have a few more tricks up their sleeves to evoke the classic series. Batman ’66 embraces everything the New 52 disdains, and soars because of it.

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#4: Saga: Vaughan and Staples continued to knock it out of the park this year with Saga. The story of an ancient interstellar war cut with family drama, mercenaries, and the ways art can change a person make for a heady mix. The art remains evocative and controversial. Saga doesn’t pull its punches, but it isn’t crass, either.

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#3: Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur: There was little chance for Clevenger and Wegener to escape this list as well, with this nail-biting installment that puts Atomic Robo at the site of an impossible underground city, with shadow military agents storming his headquarters, and completely unstable velociraptor mad scientist Dr. Dinosaur sitting on a stockpile of stolen nuclear warheads. Atomic Robo remains funnier and smarter than it has a right to be.

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#2: Sandman Overture: We only got one issue of Neil Gaiman’s return to his seminal Byronic Dream King, but oh boy, was it ever a doozy. Filled with all of the gothic-horror elements that made Sandman great, and with exceptional art by G H Williams III, This comic is a rare treat for Morpheus fans. Hopefully, we’ll get to see it a bit more frequently in 2014.

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#1: Young Avengers: Sadly ending in early 2014, Young Avengers is a comic that knows exactly what it wants and goes right for it. Under the direction of comics super-team Keiran Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, the Young Avengers bring a little bit of their indie hit “Phonogram” into the Marvel Universe. “Young Avengers” pits focuses less on what it means or takes to be a superhero than it does the trials and tribulations of modern teenagers. After a poorly planned bit of magic use, a group of teens find themselves fighting against an magical parasite that draws power from how parents don’t understand teenagers. It is a fantastic high-concept very well executed. Unfortunately, for a teen book, there is a lot of backstory for these characters that just isn’t given. I’ve felt in over my head a few times, but I’ve loved the ride. Another plus in this comic’s favor is that it has possibly the highest collection of LGBTQ characters anywhere in ‘the big two,’ and handles them with then same excellent touch as earlier Young Avengers installments.

2013 No-Prize: Dan Didio continues to be comics’ greatest super-villain. He spent the year making sure no DC Comics characters have any fun on his watch. After denying the upcoming marriage of Batwoman Kate Kane, he went on to say that none of DC’s heroes should have a stable home life, and seems to be making certain of it. His crowning achievement this year: Creating an art contest for Harley Quinn #0 which included drawing the beloved children’s TV character naked, despairing, and about to commit suicide. After much outcry, the panel did not appear in the final version.

Honorable mentions:

X-Men: Teenage Mom Jubilee, enough time-travelers to stage a production of “Les Mis” and other crazy nonsense. Marvel seemed to focus on their movie-friendly characters like the Avengers in 2013, but there was still a ton of mutants out there, including an all-female team!

Edison Rex: Artist Dennis Culver gets the nod for designing not just a new set of comics characters, but an entire major publisher’s line-up of heroes and villains. My personal favorite: ROFL, an omnipotent extra-dimensional being using the form of a muppet Grant Morrison.

Subatomic Party Girls: Simms and Bowers had the stones to use the line ‘Do you realize we’re floating in space’ unironically. Props.

 

Hugh Likes Comics: The Top 5 of 2012

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Number 5:

Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific

Written by Brian Clevenger

Art by Scott Wegener, Colors by Nick Filardi

Atomic Robo” is a fun, smart action comic. The dialog sparkles, the art is bright and engaging, and the characters have a depth and grace that doesn’t get bogged down in ‘gritty’ melodrama.

This volume, set in the South Pacific after World War II, dealt with some heavy topics: the extreme determination of the Japanese Imperial Army, the discrimination faced by female pilots and mechanics in the second world war, and the abandoned stockpiles of ordinance and other deadly materiel after the conflict. It is a testament to Clevenger’s writing that the presentation manages to balance the slower character moments with dogfights, explosions, and mad science without any of the elements feeling forced or out of place. In fact, they support each other, lending the piece a sort of mad-cap gallows humor.

Number 4:

Edison Rex

Written by Chris Roberson

Art by Dennis Culver

Edison Rex is the story of a supervillain trying to make good. It is also a clever send-up of comics tropes and the industry itself. The series’s extremely flawed but charming protagonist is a fresh voice, and Roberson’s sharp wit, combined with Culver’s expressive figures and gorgeous sets, make this the comic your tablet was made for.

Number 3:

Skullkickers: Treasure Trove Vol. 1

Written by Jim Zub

Art by Edwin Huang

A massive collection of the first two trades, most of these comics came out before 2012, but the big collection came out this year, so it sneaks into this year’s list.

The mis-adventures of a human known only as “Baldy” and a Dwarf called “Shorty,” Skullkickers is an ultraviolent sword-and-sorcery buddy comedy. Equal parts Fritz Lieber and Marx Brothers, the pair struggle against fat werewolves, incompetent necromancers, and Disneyfied, but still incredibly deadly faeries. The main characters (I can’t quite call them ‘heroes’) aren’t discriminating. They’ll kill anything for 2 copper pieces. This series is over the top gory fun that manages to stay firmly on the side of slapstick. Zub’s dynamic writing and Huang’s art that makes the worst carnage downright pretty are the real saviors of this book.

Number 2

Wolverine and the X-Men

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Various Artists

I love the X-Men, perhaps in theory a bit more than in practice. There are some iconic runs and great stories, but often the comic focussed on the down bits: The losses, the tragedies, and the plight of being different in a world that hates you. The X-men were great, but they weren’t FUN. Aaron’s team is approaching the concept from a different direction, and he’s pulling it off masterfully. With a new batch of students and a brand new school, the X-men cope with keeping everything running with a skeleton crew of adults. The characters are changing, accepting more responsibility, and still having crazy adventures fighting pre-teen arms dealers, killer space biologists, and even the dreaded League of Nazi Bowlers. The series is filled to bursting with crazy comic book moments and high concept shenanigans, but it all works and the Aaron keeps the plates spinning. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

Number 1

Bandette

Written by Paul Tobin

Art by Colleen Coover

Bandette is an all-ages love letter to French comics, and hands down my favorite book of 2012. Coover’s digital ink-washed art is gorgeous, and unlike anything else out there today. Tobin’s writing is clever, funny, and gives you just enough of the mystery to leave you in suspense. And with a supporting cast of mysterious thieves, gruff police inspectors, and colorful villains, it can only get better from here.

You can find all of these comics on Comixology. Have your own picks? Leave a comment!

Hugh Likes Comics: Atomic Robo & the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #4

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So here’s a new little use for this blog: A new, short digital comic review every so often. I like comics, and love the Comixology app, so hopefully this will be something I can keep up with. And of course, spoilers to follow.

I’ve never really hidden my love for Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener’s Atomic Robo comics, and I’m enjoying their latest effort: Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific # 4.

Brian and Scott have been deconstructing the issues on Nerdy Show, so go have a listen if you want to hear them discuss it in their own words.

Being the penultimate issue for the series, and man, has that word been coming up a lot around here lately, this is the big reveal of our bad guys, Chokaiten. The reader has been getting hints of their story as Japanese WWII survivors, but now we get their whole master plan. They are a weird science division of the Imperial Japanese army that, rather than surrender, went dark and is now staging a revenge attack which might destroy the western United States, unless of course Robo and the Flying She-Devils, a crew of all-female air pirates with jet packs, can stop them.

I have really been enjoying this volume of Atomic Robo just as a pulpy adventure tale. I love the aesthetics of the She-devils, all of whom are based on real indie comics creators. Their base and tech really had the feel of being held together by twine and hope, but also had the feeling of that technical leap that WWII enabled.

The Japanese villains, however, go a bit to far and becomes a bit silly. For story purposes, I can accept the idea that their country surrendered but they didn’t. But, the idea that the Japanese government forgot where all their best scientists and pilots were hidden doesn’t make much sense. The very existence of this kind of secret project being conducted by the notoriously cash-strapped Japanese forces without getting cannibalized strikes me as unrealistic, and that’s all before the UFO fighters and their earthquake bomb.

“Flying She-Devils” is a lot of fun, but it isn’t as smart as the other Action Science adventures. I recommend a read, but don’t look too deeply. This one’s just for fun.