Box of Comics: Atomic Robo, Dinosaurs vs. Aliens
In which Bill writes a sonnet
and gets a bee in his bonnet.
Lest you know not my love of this comic
Thence turn the page to which contains my blurb;
My words, they flow ever hyperbolic
To sing the praises of this book superb.
The witty prose of Brian Clevinger
E’er brimming with clever intensity;
Pencils sharply drawn by Scott Wegener
Oft swimming through sequential density.
Slick soupiness of Nick Filardi’s hues
And crisp exactitude of Jeff Powell,
Enliven affable robotic blues,
Evacuating my trembling bowel.
Ne’er find you a more glorious tableau
Than this of She-Devils and their Robo.
I thought about writing an Italian sonnet for this one, as the work itself produces a turn in the third act, albeit a disappointing one, but I could not muster the energy to do so. That seems fitting, as this “graphic novel” starts off promising enough but completely borks the finish, coming off as rushed and incomplete.
Grant Morrison writes from an idea pitched to him by Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld, who gets his name above the title, but even to the most devoted of Whorrisons, the book reads as one of the Scottish author’s lesser works. For one thing, the story ends with an abrupt “End of Part 1″ about 56 pages into this supposed 96 page graphic novel. It seems this book is merely an opening salvo to a series (unlikely) or a prelude to the movie version this little hardcover serves as the proof-of-concept for (unlikelier, considering it looks like it would be the most expensive movie ever made). The remainder of the book contains sketches and script excerpts, as well as introductions from both Sonnenfeld and Morrison, the one from G-Mozz exuding painful sarcasm.
Narration from the story comes from one of the invading alien conquerors, setting the tale up as an allegory to manifest destiny and invading white European forces obliterating the Native Americans. The dinosaurs have communication, culture, and even clothing in some cases, and we see a tough old Tyrannosaurus Rex fight its way to the top of the food chain, only to come into contact with a force from a few rungs further up. It’s not exactly subtle.
The art, by Mukesh Singh, does indeed sing in the opening two “chapters,” with finely whittled pencilwork and what I assume are digital inks and colors from “Liquid Studios.” Some panels were clearly drawn large and then shrunk down in Photoshop to fit on the page, however, giving it that hyper-detail that can be worrying to the eye. There is some fantastic dinosaur-on-dinosaur action in this first half reminiscent of the visceral thrills of Morrison and Quitely’s We3, both in the animal nature of the violence and the way panels cascade down the page. The image above-left, which I ganked from Newsarama, is one-half of a particularly cool double-page spread.
For most of the book, the art is the real champion– that is, until we get to “Chapter Three,” when there’s a sudden artistic cliff dive, as if someone realized the book had to be at the printer much sooner than anticipated. The pencils turn looser, the inking gets brusque, and the coloring loses the detail and sublety of the earlier chapters– in essence, it loses that loving feeling. You can see an example in the image at right, which I purloined from Wired. It’s as if a completely different artist was called in to pinch-hit late in the game. The art becomes further lax with each page-turn, and as Morrison is a writer who gets better with good art (as he doesn’t finalize the words on the page until the art is finished), the story becomes blunter to match the pictures. And then, of course, it just stops dead and fills the rest of the page count with backmatter.
As a 20 dollar hardcover, I don’t recommend it, even if you pick it up at half-price like I did. It is about as fun as that Cowboys vs. Aliens movie. Let’s hope the inevitable follow-up, Zombie Pirates vs. Vampire Aliens vs. Abraham Lincoln, will be better.
I will now accept replies in the form of haiku.