In the wake of last issue’s revelation, Atomic Robo’s on the outs with his “father,” and is now training under bona fide mystery man Jack Tarot.
I know it’s only February, but this book is already a high contender for my favorite mini-series of the year. Clevinger’s deft handling of these characters and their emotionally genuine interactions is artfully done. This is the sort of book that comic fans should show to the uninitiated and say “Look! Comic books can be relevant! Comic books can be art! Comic books can be quality literature!” But here I am gushing. There’s the actual issue itself to examine.
We open with an intense discussion between Robo and Tesla, intersperced with flashbacks to Robo versus a giant steampunk monstrosity. The contrast of the physical violence with the emotional intensity between what is essentially father and son makes for a powerful opening.
It’s the relationships in this series that lend the story so much strength. Robo and Helen are a cuter couple than Spidey and Mary Jane (Too soon, I know). The chemistry between them evolves naturally and feels genuine. Even the human/robot sexuality thing avoids feeling creepy somehow.
Meanwhile, Tesla and Tarot are all business, and it’s interesting to see how Robo swaps out one father figure for another. Tarot’s growing acceptance of Robo over the course of the issue is a great mirror for Tesla’s throwing himself in to his work to cover up his loneliness in Robo’s absence. Actually, the reunion between Robo and Tesla near the end of the issue is one of the most tender, touching scenes in recent memory.
Scott Wegener’s art is a great compliment to Clevinger’s very human story. His thin, rigid lines aren’t overly detailed, but still convey everything needed to provide a sense of the place and tone. His ability to convey location without insane levels of detail is incredibly impressive.
This is not to say Wegener ignores detail altogether. His ability to draw people is amazing. His Atomic Robo is amazingly expressive using nothing more than his hands and eyes. Helen is an absolute vision (again, that kiss? Hot stuff). Jack Tarot is immediately identifiable as heroic, and Tesla exudes intelligence and somberness. Perhaps the biggest testament to his ability to tell the reader about characters is the very last panel. It’s a shot of Thomas Edison, and his eyes alone betray a coldness befitting the villain of this piece.
Again, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I was blown away by Atomic Robo: Deadly Art of Science, and you should run to your local comic shop and grab yourself a copy as soon as possible.