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Monday, December 3, 2012

Atomic Robo and The Shadow From Beyond Time. Brian Clevinger (Writer), Scott Wegener (Art), Ronda Patterson ((Colours), Jeff Powell (Letters). Red 5 Comics (2009)

A glorious piece of romantic science fiction, a smart story with lashings of wit, great jokes and a really strong plot to drive it all forward. Opening in 1926, Atomic Robo, created by Nikola Tesla, is disturbed by the arrival of H.P. Lovecraft and Charles Fort seeking Tesla's help to repel an creature who is a threat to the Earth. Previously Tesla had stopped the monster, it had now returned. Atomic Robo manages to avert disaster while discovering that the problem had nor been solved as the monster exists outside of time and thus is everywhere all the time. Which is a considerable problem and as the monster makes a number of reappearances, the final solution to the problem is clever, dramatically satisfying and entirely in keeping with the rest of the book.
Brian Clevinger ability to twist the same basic idea into new and wonderful shapes is astonishing, there are two episodes with breathtaking guest starring roles by H.P. Lovecraft, Charles Fort and Carl Sagan, in each case they are both recognizably themselves and still utterly part of the Atomic Robo universe. The other two episodes with Telsadyne staff as the supporting players are just as smart and funny. The episodic structure is used with great care and the payoff is superb. At the heart of the action is Atomic Robo, one of the few robots with a fully functioning personality. The fact that Robo does not overshadow the rest of the cast is one of the great pleasures of the book, the good lines are shared about and that context just makes the mad science all the better.
The art by Scott Wegener is extraordinary, using just the eyes of Robo and an astonishing grip on body language, Robo is given a vivid life that matches the spirit he is written in. All of the cast age given a chance to shine and their expressiveness is just a the right side of exaggerated to drive the manic situations and extract the most from each one. The fine balance between the absurdly plausible and the nonsensical is held with flair.
Ronda Patterson's colours are the essence of vivid romantic science fiction, the art has energy and depth that capture the sheer joy of scientific adventure stories that involves monsters and explosions. Jeff Powell's lettering is a subtle force in the book, the special effect noises are perfect, they give an extra, very welcome dimension to the story. A great comic, an unalloyed pleasure.

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