Writer/Artist: Alex Sheikman
Colorist: Joel Chua
Publisher: Archaia Studios Press
Of the four issues of this initial Robotika mini-series, this is definitely the strongest and most entertaining issue. I’ll admit, going into this last installment for 2006, I had very low hopes for the story. The art is simply fantastic, and Alex Sheikman is definitely an artist to keep an eye out for, but I found the story to be flat and lifeless through the first two and a half issues. In Issue #3, there was a terrific dream sequence that seemed to give life to the series and to Niko’s character, but the issue ended with a fight sequence with some mecha-betsushikime (Gezundheit!), so I sighed closing the issue, thinking that Issue #4 (A) wouldn’t have any kind of substantial closure or revelation for the finale, and (B) would simply act as a showcase for Niko’s fighting prowess and Sheikman’s art. While some elements of Issue #4 resemble my predictions, overall I was pleasantly surprised by this issue, and I’m looking forward to the continuation in 2007.
The flashback sequence with the Master of Souls and the final confrontation with the Shaman in the Grove stand as the scenes that really juiced me up for this issue and the future of Robotika. When Niko and the pilgrims arrive at the temple of the Lord of a Thousand Whispers, this creature wastes no time in devouring the souls of his believers. However, Niko is left untouched, which causes the Master to attack. Niko quickly counters with his unreal fighting prowess (as Sheikman displays his unreal fighting pencils). After destroying the Lord, Niko witnesses butterflies emerging from the spewing protoplasm of the body, causing him to remember things he has been forced to forget, such as his creation, his attributes, and how his creator views his impact upon the world. Most importantly, it’s revealed that Niko has no soul, since he was apparently created rather than born. So this explains why his character is lifeless and unsympathetic most of the time! This revelation revealed that a lot of the details I thought unnecessary in the first two issues explained a lot about who and what Niko is. After the temple scene, we head straight for the haunted tree grove where the banished Shaman dwells. I knew, after learning about Niko’s lack of soul, that the Shaman would want to inhabit Niko’s body, but I didn’t know if Niko would go through with it or not. His decision was the right one to keep the story going into the next series, and I have to applaud Sheikman for crafting the revelations of these two scenes solidly together. Oh, and as a final stroke of brilliance, the last page of this issue discusses a combat trial involving a sword that apparently has a soul, which causes Niko to smile and leads us by the hand into the future volumes of Robotika. Plus, there is a six page back story featuring the origin of Cherokee, which presents yet another subplot for the future adventures. While there isn’t a clear cut resolution to the current storyline, Sheikman does a terrific job of constructing this final issue, giving me great hopes for the next four issues.
Unfortunately, there are still some elements of the final issue that mirror problems from the first three issues. Of course, there are Cherokee’s dialogue balloons, which I will simply say are infuriating (except for an amusing instance late in the issue when Cherokee and her dialogue go horizontal, clearly showing Sheikman’s listening to his fans). And there’s the price of Robotika: at 4 bucks a pop, it seems a trifle expensive for the amount of story inside. I only hope the collected edition is less than 16 dollars! However, barring these relatively minor problems, this issue is very entertaining and a must for fans of non-traditional sci-fi. I feel I have finally connected with all of the protagonists in this tale, as Issue #4 goes a long way to flesh out Niko, Cherokee, and Bronski. Plus, like all ASP books I have read so far, this book’s artwork is some of the best being produced by any publisher right now, and clearly gives Archaia high marks for quality within the business. Robotika is a book driven primarily by the strength of Alex Sheikman’s pencil, but he proves in this issue that he is a capable writer as well. Considering that English is his second language, this is a great feat for a worthy talent.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!