Waiting For The Trade – Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo and the Shadow From Beyond Time

Writer: Brian Clevinger
Artists: Scott Wegener, Rich Woodall, Lauren Pettapiece
Colourists: Ronda Pattison, Lawrence Basso
Letterer: Jeff Powell

Collects: Atomic Robo: The Shadow From Beyond Time #1-5

I came late to the Atomic Robo party having only picked up volume 1 when I was in the US earlier this year (a review of which can be heard on WFTT Ep82), since then I’ve picked up both Vols 2 and 3 and with the fourth volume hitting the comic shops recently I thought it was time I pulled my finger out and got caught up.

This volume of Atomic Robo deals in the main with the intrusion into our dimension of the titular Cthulu-esque monster from beyond our universe. Due to the nature of the threat and his exceedingly long shelf-life Robo find himself battling this creature periodically across most of the 20th century and into the past decade. This playing with time and an evolving character in Robo is one of the best features of the book. By making Robo such a human character and pretty much ignoring his mechanoid nature Brian Clevinger makes him way more interesting that he would have been as a “Destory all humans!” type robot. In fact other than his resilience and longevity I don’t think Robo’s robotic form is referenced directly in the book at all. One tiny example of this is that when Robo leaves a note at a shop he has handwriting, it would’ve been so easy to make it a “printer font” but the creators go so far as giving him a signature, brilliant.

Another aspect of the story-telling with Robo is its use of real-life characters, I won’t go into everyone who’s in this volume as that might spoil a surprise or two but not only do we have a repeat appearance by Carl Sagan (and whilst I’m not overly familiar with Sagan it seems like a very respectful, and fun, portrayal) but Dave & Barry from Geek Syndicate also make an appearance…although truth be told, if it was based on those two real individuals they’d probably have still been running at the point they appear!

It’s an intelligently written story. For example I found myself railing in the first few pages at the characterisation of a character, he seemed to be too stereotypical but shortly thereafter the plot revealed why he was behaving that way and it made perfect sense…I had a real “ahhh you got me” moment. Also I find Robo to be a book that makes me want to read with a notepad to hand, or preferably access to Google, and not in any bad way. The use of real individuals and both real and pseudo-science is fascinating and just like when reading greats such as Planetary I find myself wanting to go and look into the topics that are touched upon.

Artistically the book remains strong with Wegener drawing the main series and the other artist’s above providing backups which are also collected. Wegener’s ability to squeeze emotion out of two blue orbs with straight “eyelids” is truly a marvel.

If you’ve not read Robo then I heartily recommend it. It’s the book I wish Hellboy was and has a sense of playfulness and adventure right up there with B.P.R.D. and the very best pulp action.

Rating:

Reviewer: Dave Williams

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