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I have read the best comic I have read this year (so far)

Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #2 is out today, from Red 5 Comics, at your finest comic shops, opium dens, and hoosegows. You’re going to buy it. Here’s why:

This is actually the first panel of the story

When was the last time something that called itself the “World’s Greatest ___” lived up to its own hyperbole? Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X labels itself the World’s Greatest Science Adventure Magazine!, and brother, it earns every syllable. This comic is, as we say in the business, “the business.” It put a delirious grin on my face after a long, upsetting day, which probably says enough, but I’ll yammer on for several more paragraphs anyway. By the way, this comic book periodical was written by Brian Clevinger, drawn by Scott Wegener, colored by Ronda Pattison, and lettered by Jeff Powell.

In my review of the first issue, I talked the series up quite a bit, but while I thought that first issue was better than any other first issue I read in September– and I read something like 55 of them– it still wasn’t among the best of the best, as far as Atomic Robo’s standards are concerned. #2, however, is. Last time I wrote about the series I mentioned the sense of escalation that comes along with the comic, as “each passing issue will add more layers of excitement, adventure, and intrigue, as the story gets bigger as it goes” (Reed 2011). That’s certainly true of this second issue, which opens with the most badass opening I’ve seen in any visual medium for years, introduces us to new aspects of the central mystery, teases us with the inner workings of Robo himself (literally) while simultaneous riffing on RoboCop (how they resisted tossing in a “I f—ing love that guy!”, I don’t know), and manages to be funny, sentimental, and thrilling, usually all at the same time, certainly at least in groups of two. This is a comic that features exchanges such as “We’re gonna rip the wings off as-is.”/”We can worry about the wings later” and “I’ve got Director Bolden on the line.”/”Patch him through to my head”. It sings. Well, it hums. Like the inside of the TARDIS.

But, hey, I talked about the writing a lot last time. Let’s talk about the line art, the colors, the letters! This comic doesn’t look like most of the comics you pick up. Sure, the art occurs sequentially, and in panels, on pieces of paper, printed with ink. It’s not, however, filled with unnecessary splash pages (even the big splashes have more than one panel!), it doesn’t have characters posing with their ass in the reader’s face (except for that one bit with the Robutt), every character looks distinctive, scenes aren’t drenched in one turgid, brown color, and random words are not printed in bold. You’d think that would be a basic level of quality in comic book art, but it’s not, so we must praise it.

This is actually the 40th panel of the story

We’ve also talked before about Wegener’s crispy, expressive art, but in this issue, he gets to draw Robo being shredded by re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, and he also gets to instill a sense of character and sadness into a roasted sidearm. The scenes at Tesladyne look sleek and shiny, and the scenes at Station X look cluttered and crumbly, but their senses of space are the same. The panels, and the characters, feel open and airy, aided by Pattison’s colors, which don’t overpower the linework, but enrich it with a slightly subdued but still expansive color scheme. The only scene bathed in a single primary color lasts four panels, and it does so because the single primary color is diegetic to the scene as well as emotionally supported by the narrative. The colors, like the comic, are bright and approachable. Fluorescent, but not in that way that makes my skin look all translucent, like I’m some kind of vampire. Powell doesn’t just know where to put the balloons, but all the letters are in the right order, too. Oh, and he makes for a fine addition to the supporting cast.

Atomic Robo is a comic that’s fun and exciting, charming and sweet, electric and invigorating. It’s perfectly paced, lovely to look at, and it may even cure gout. I’m not recommending it for you to buy– you are going to buy it. That is a science fact.

If you are a person who is on the Twitter, you should follow @bclevinger, @Scott_Wegna, @rleep, @jeffcpowell, @red5comics, and some schmuck named @billreads.

16 Comments

I’ve always wanted to get into Atomic Robo, but for one reason or another I’ve never actually done it.

I like that each arc is treated as a separate volume though. Maybe this one is the perfect jumping on point for me.

I can not talk Atomic Robo up enough. You will be hooked Cuda.

I’d be reluctant to give GHOST OF STATION X the nod over Waid, Rivera, and Martin’s reboot of DAREDEVIL, but that just means that “the best comic I have read this year (so far)” is a class of two, not one.

I love the Dr. Dinosaur issue from Free Comic Book day a few years ago. Dr. Dinosaur even had a hilarious twitter feed. I got the first 3 trades after reading that. I enjoyed the first volume, but was underwhelmed by the second two. I guess it’s hard to maintain the quality of the Dr. Dinosaur issue. Was that issue ever resolved? This post has made me consider ordering the next trade. Anyway, comics are better with Dr. Dinosaur.

There actually is a direct continuation of the original Dr. Dinosaur story in Atomic Robo v4, “Other Strangeness.”

But if you were underwhelmed by Carl Sagan shooting a Lovecraftian beast from beyond spacetime with a lightning gun, I don’t know what to tell you.

Atomic Robo is the best comic you’re not getting.

Everyone needs to read this book!

Atomic Robo is the comic I most look forward to reading, and the creative team has yet to disappoint me. Share this book with your non-comic reading friends who enjoy adventures like these!

I’m glad other people enjoy this series, but just to provide some validation for others not reading it…

I read an Atomic Robo story in a FCBD book a couple of years ago, and was absolutely stumped to detect any appeal whatsoever in the thing.

So if you’re not reading Atomic Robo, maybe you’re actually okay after all.

Maybe, Wraith, maybe. In this wide universe I suppose it’s possible for an upstanding, decent person to dislike Robo. But just out of curiosity was that FCBD The Yonkers Devil, with the horned beast and the smokestack bit? If so it’s the least Robo Robo story by a mile IMO. No colors, no stakes, a cast of two, lots of downtime, and a baffling crossover with a RL friend’s character who wound up never flying. Few of those things are true of *any* other Robo story. It was a weird, detached little experiment all around.

Obligatory link: You, whoever you are dear reader, can read all the FCBD stories and some of the B-sides for free-no-login-or-anything at writer Brian Clevinger’s site http://nuklearpower.com/atomic-robo

Oh yeah, sandwich eater’s thing. If you liked Vol. 1 but not 2 or 3, I’d say 4 is for you and 5 probably isn’t. 4 returns to the gonzo, wacky independent adventures format of Vol 1. 5 tells a story in one time and place like 2. In my opinion it’s more successful than 2 because it has much more (any) non-fight personal interaction and character development, but that’s my best guess at what you may react to. Note that Vol. 3 only sort of fits this model; to me it feels as…varied…as 1 or 4, and I regard it as exemplary Atomic Robo.

I’m totally turned off by the art, if it’s anything like the sample panel posted above (panel 40). Poor draftsmanship, no depth to the panel, no personality to the inks, weak coloring, and even the lettering is dull as can be.

Don’t today’s artists ever attend drawing classes? No matter how good the story might be, I just can’t suffer this kind of art.

Words fail me, Nigel, really. I’m hoping that’s a parody.

Bill, I guess underwhelmed is not the right word. I just didn’t like volumes 2 and 3 as much as volume 1. I feel like they didn’t live up to the constant hilarity of the Dr. Dinosaur issue. I wasn’t particularly interested in an alternate history WWII, and I’m experiencing Lovecraft fatigue. It seems like there are a lot of comics coming out based on or inspired by Lovecraft’s work.

Hypocee, I agree that there is almost no characterization of Atomic Robo’s teammates. They’re kind of just there. In the first 3 volumes I couldn’t tell them apart except for superficial things like race and gender. Atomic Robo and Tesla’s characterizations were awesome though. I love the bits about the Tesla-Edison Rivalry.

Anyway, Atomic Robo is still loads of fun, and I didn’t mean to imply that it’s not a great comic.

Just for the record I was applying that little cheap shot solely to Vol. 2, where we spend almost all our time either hitting things with jeeps or sniping at enemies and frenemies – and even that’s arguably a stylistic choice driven by themes of being adrift in war and hierarchy. On the whole, though they have gotten better with practice as they should, I think the characterization in AR started out plenty strong. I mean, quite aside from Jenkins, Lang, Koa, Ada, Ben, Bernard, Louis, and Emma, I feel like I know Virtually Nameless ’60s Tesladyne Guys better than, say, Robbie Robinson just from that one issue.

Dude punching Nazis, giant monsters eating time, talking dinosaurs, Undead Edison, giant ants, ancient Egyptian robots, and super sentai science team!

That is what I call having fun.

Huh. I had wires crossed. Yonkers Devil’s a B-side, not an FCBD.

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