COMIC REVIEW: Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures Volume 1

Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures Vol 1 TPWhat riotous recompense results when our robotic renegade rules an anthology of robo-related retellings?  I had previously jumped into this series with a review of #3 (HERE) and looked forward to checking out the collected edition.

This anthology of Atomic Robo spin-offs features 13 stories including the Free Comic Book Day 2012 issue, varying in length from a handful of pages up to the length of a full issue. All of the stories are written by original series writer Brian Clevinger, with various artists putting pictures to his words.

This gives a lot of different opportunities and combined with Robo’s age you’ve got huge potential for storytelling and it’s interesting to see what Clevinger has done with this.

I found the results interesting if not consistently great. Some of the stories feel like they’re a single scene extracted from a larger story and whilst being left wanting more is probably a good thing, I was also a little frustrated, which isn’t. Leaping Metal Dragon is the longest of the stories collected, and was in multiple parts in the individual issues, and whilst a crossover with Bruce Lee is cool I’m not sure it warranted a fifth of the entire book when only given tantalising hints of stories like “Most Perfect Science Division.” I did like seeing Lee teaching Robo that strength isn’t everything, but ended up feeling that the wrapper story set in Tesladyne Island was more intriguing.

Tesla’s Electric Sky Schooner is top of the tree, a fantastic adventure starring Robo’s created and a (dare I say) League of heroes such as Annie Oakley. The art by Gurihiru leaps off the page, particularly as it follows a monochrome “Philadelphia Experiment.”

“To Kill a Sparrow” and “Once Upon a Time in China” are also stand-outs. The former is all-out WWII action and doesn’t even feature the merest mention of Robo himself, while the later is a poignant reminder of how many lives Robo must have touched across his long existence.

The brevity of some of stories got in the way of storytelling , this might just be because I didn’t “get” the ending of the opening story, Bloop, which started me on a sour footing. Four pages is a frighteningly small amount of space within which to tell a tale and I can’t help but feel a shorter Bruce Lee story which allowed for a few extra pages elsewhere may have helped.

At times it feels like like there are underlying hints at a larger story and this may well tie directly back into events in the main Atomic Robo series that my comics-addled brain is unable to recall. “The Dark Age” is the low point of the book for me. This is a painfully heavyhanded commentary on 90s comics’ excesses which seems to be trying to make a point about the current state of the industry as well.

The series covers, which are collected within along with some preproduction sketches, are fantastic. They each have a pulp feel and reference classic material such as Dick Tracy, combined with faux-ageing of the colours they really are great.

As with any anthology, even with the same writer throughout, there are going to be bits you like and bits you don’t. In this instance I enjoyed the book but not as much as I’d hoped to, and probably less than any of the individual Atomic Robo trades…however those are stories that set a very high bar.

Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Dave W

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