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Advance Review: Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #1

In which Bill writes a review ahead of release for Red 5 Comics‘ new #1, Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X, and can’t figure out if “Advance” or “Advanced” is more proper, grammatically.

Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener are the new Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire, and I’ll tell you why.

Not actual size

Why did we enjoy Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and friends’ Justice League/International/America/Europe/Antarctica/With the Dragon Tattoo/Blueberry Pomegranate comics so much? For the laughs, yes, but also for the thrills, the characterization, and the distinctive, expressive art. We loved those comics because they could turn on a dime from comedy to horror, because, even though the cast included a bunch of hucksters and yuksters, they were good at what they did, which was saving the day, and because their personalities rubbed right off the page along with the inky newsprint. Atomic Robo has become the spiritual successor to those comics, and this first issue of his latest mini-series adventure– guaranteed to be one of the best first issues you read this month, in a month that includes at least 53 first issues with far more hype than this one– demonstrates that by giving us an issue with a bunch of folks (and a robot) sitting around talking, and turning it into the tensest page-turner of the year.

The premise is thus: Atomic Robo gets a phone call that a group of astronauts is trapped in orbit with seven hours to live, and Robo and his team of Tesladyne Action Scientists™ have to devise, build, and put into action a means to save them, with the clock ticking all throughout the story. Six impossible things before breakfast, with one put into action before time runs out. Meanwhile, an entire building goes missing in England, and everyone’s favorite, Jenkins, wears a kendo outfit.

Clevinger paces the script with metronome precision, a cross between Twelve Angry Men and The Right Stuff, with intelligent characters throwing theories around and getting to work– total competency porn. He cross-cuts with the adventures of two scrappy scientist characters first introduced a couple mini-series ago, who spend a couple pages investigating the missing building and spitballing about crazy theoretical science. Once again, Clevinger brings a firm sense of verisimilitude to the book, which grounds and contextualizes all the zany sci-fi concepts.

That’s not to leave out artist Scott Wegener, or Ronda Pattison, who colors directly from Wegener’s pencils.Yeah, this comic features cool scenes of jetplanes and rockets, but it’s the folks talking to each other which really sell the story, with something like a dozen characters all needing face-time. Wegener’s command of body language and facial expression sells every line of dialogue and creates the personality of each character, all done with a few sharp angles and a wide range of character design. At this point in their collaboration, Clev and Weg innately tune into each other’s wavelength– their best work comes when they work together, like synchronized swimmers or conjoined twins. Pattison and Powell are their back-up dancers, having mastered their subtle, overlooked art, complementing those on center stage.

I’ll be interested to see how many first issues this month actually pull off what a first issue needs to accomplish. Those shiny number ones need to introduce the characters, kick off the plot, and– here’s the thing– tell a complete three-act story in their own right, even if it’s part one of five. This issue of Atomic Robo, despite being in its sixth volume, does all of the above, introducing characters with hardly any exposition whatsoever and telling us all we need to know about them through their actions and interactions, which both respond to and drive the plot. Clevinger’s plots also use a fine sense of escalation, which means each passing issue will add more layers of excitement, adventure, and intrigue, as the story gets bigger as it goes.  Filler doesn’t exist in the realm of Atomic Robo comics; we’re never waiting around in the third issue for things to happen. We’re enjoying the moments presented to us and riding along with the characters as the situations they find themselves in grow bigger, crazier, and more intense– just like the ol’ JLI comics we can’t seem to stop talking about. Here’s hoping Atomic Robo lasts the test of time as well; it sure is a storytelling engine built to run forever.

The Atomic Robo series does for science what Indiana Jones did for archaeology– it turns the academic into the adventurous, and the impossible into the inspiring. Put this comic into the hands of your smart, bored children, and our space program won’t stay dead for long. And maybe we’ll get some robots and jet packs out of the deal, too, like the future we were promised.

Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #1 goes on sale this Wednesday at only the finest comic shops and only the most wretched hives of scum and villainy. Buy it, won’t you?

You too can follow @bclevinger, @Scott_Wegna, @rleep, @jeffcpowell, @red5comics, and what the hell, @billreads, on the Tweetbox.

11 Comments

I agree 100%. I don’t even need to read this first issue coming up. I’m a huge fan of this series, and hope these guys continue to make them for a long, long time.

Atomic Robo is a multi-media franchise just waiting to explode into cartoons, video games, live action films, pajamas, lunchboxes and the rest.
And it can’t happen soon enough in my opinion. Children deserve to be innundated with SMART comics like this.

Without a doubt, my favourite comic series of the last 5 years and always the top of the read pile. Can’t wait for this….

Atomic Robo is among my top 5 must-have titles (w/ Fables, Hellboy, BPRD, and Hellblazer). I discovered Atomic Robo accidentally and have been hooked from day one. Normally I trade-wait this series, but I preordered the monthlies for this arc you reviewed. I wanted to support this title b/c it’s one of the best out there. I’ll still get the trade. Then I’ll give the pamphlets to someone else to help spark more interest. I push this title to everyone I know.

Atomic Robo is far and away my favorite title currently published. I buy the monthlies, the trades, and the trades for my Nook ($3.99 for a full volume! THAT’S value for your money. Take that, DC, with your JL#1!). Anything I can do to support this title, I do.

One possible issue with turning Atomic Robo into a multi-media franchise is that Hellboy already exists. While it is a fun series, Atomic Robo *is* Hellboy, just with a robot instead of a demon.

Advance is correct. You are reviewing it in advance of its release, so it’s an advance review. If it were an advanced review it would be one that had progressed further than others, which makes no sense.

Atomic Robo NEVER disappoints. Never. Reading reviews is almost redundant at this stage, Comic of the Year All Years.

Billy, I thought the same thing, but while the two franchises are very similar, Robo is much more light-hearted when all is said and done. Much better material for kids. I think.

[…] Comic Book Resources At this point in their collaboration, Clev and Weg innately tune into each other’s wavelength– their best work comes when they work together, like synchronized swimmers or conjoined twins. Pattison and Powell are their back-up dancers, having mastered their subtle, overlooked art, complementing those on center stage. The Atomic Robo series does for science what Indiana Jones did for archaeology– it turns the academic into the adventurous, and the impossible into the inspiring. Put this comic into the hands of your smart, bored children, and our space program won’t stay dead for long. And maybe we’ll get some robots and jet packs out of the deal, too, like the future we were promised. […]

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