As I read more and more of Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s Atomic Robo, it becomes less and less of a surprise that each subsequent installment ends up being very good. What does still catch me off guard, however, are the various different ways in which that quality is consistently attained. For the most part, the adventures of Robo are marked by a fun-loving tone that, though not completely giving itself over to comedy, still uses humor as a primary weapon. And while The Ghost of Station X#2 continues to toss out a few yuks, it’s also a wonderful example of Clevinger and Wegener’s versatility, mixing in greater parts dread and despair.
When we last left Robo, he had just been knocked out of orbit by a wayward satellite and sent plummeting from space back to earth. Needless to say, that whole affair leaves our mechanized hero in a bad way, and the bulk of this issue is devoted to the convalescent aftermath. Barely able to speak, much less roll off his usual bevy of witty zingers, Robo’s characteristic bravado and confidence (and thereby ours as readers) is temporarily shaken. Delivering a sharp jab to our emotions, the scenario simultaneously establishes the looming threat of a secret villainous plot. As that spirit of melancholy washes over the book, Wegener adapts his art to match. The images he conjures up of a dented and limb-losing Robo are actually fairly disturbing given the fact that the character is objectively a piece of machinery (although Wegener has been making him much more than that for quite some time). Equally impressive are the down and dejected expressions he manages to give Robo during the ordeal, the two-circles-with-a-line-through-them eyes conveying something other than their usual snarky attitude.
The issue also carries on a B-plot from the first issue involving a stolen building (yes, that’s right) that still doesn’t directly converge with the main story but promises to down the line. That’s not to say that Clevinger is planting obvious clues about the two threads’ linkage or that I’d even be smart enough to pick up on them, but the air of conspiracy he stirs up by the end of the book should have you banking on the fact that everything will tie together. It’s intriguing to speculate how a top secret research facility in England might relate to an elaborate plan to strike at Robo and his associates, and the amount of time I’ve already spent doing so is evidence that Clevinger has me right where he wants me. It’s also a promise that Atomic Robo is still the same rousing “science adventure” series that it has always been, even as this issue takes a slight turn for the somber. In many ways, Clevinger and Wegener are the anti-Big Two, invoking heavy emotion without forcing artificial darkness, always remembering that even serious comics can and should be fun.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found as @Chris_Kiser!