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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne. Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Patterson, Jeff Powell. Red 5 Comics (2008)

A great concept and superb execution make for an outstanding comic whose light touch and sense of playfulness disguises the depth of skill and craft that support it. In 1923 Nikola Tesla, the nearly man of history to Thomas Edison, created a self conscious robot powered by nuclear technology, Atomic Robo. In 1938, in exchange for legal status as a human and an US citizen Atomic Robo launched a single handed attack on Helinsgard, a mad scientist working for the Nazis. This is the first adventure for Atomic Robo who sets up the first science adventure firm in the world dedicated to exploring and combating the wilder fringes scientific related threats to humanity with giant ants, self propelled pyramids being among them.
The potential for this to be a terrible mess of badly managed cliches is clear and the skill with the creative team avoid them and deliver a fantastic comic is breathtaking. They have captured the spirit of the action episodes of the Indiana Jones films where the extended action sequences are carefully choreographed to be as much about wit and humour as they are edge of the seat shocks. Atomic Robo has the smart and easy charisma that Indiana Jones does, he is funny, tough and makes terrible puns while beating up giant ants. The decision to clothe him properly, he is always in a trousers , boots and a t-shirt or a uniform is inspired, it removes him nicely from the normal super hero looks. The human cast of the book are not neglected, they are lively and opinionated, their discussions of imaginary physics is one of the numerous highlights of the book. There is a small section of the book where Atomic Robo reflects on how not growing old while your friends age and die is carried off without awkwardness or sentimentality. This comic is an undiluted pleasure.

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