(W) Brian Clevinger (A) Scott Wegener (C) Shannon Murphy
Atomic Robo is getting old.
I don’t mean that as a judgment: Atomic Robo is still as fun as ever. But it’s now been around since 2007 while the titular hero, built by Nikola Tesla in the 1890s, is pushing 130 years.
And Dawn of a New Era #1 does feel like a shift for the series. It’s lost none of the charm of its predecessors, Brian Clevinger continuing to show us why he was one of the few sprite webcomic writers to go professional. But much like Robo himself, now drawn by series artist Scott Wegener in dad-like brown slacks and blue workshirt, the comic’s slowed down, more mature. Ready to have kids.
Literally, it seems, as the main plot has Robo teaching his “son,” Alan (an A.I. activated by British mathematician Alan Turing), set alongside the establishment of an education program for future Action Scientists at the Tesladyne Institute (Atomic Robo’s School for Gifted Youngsters, that sort of thing).
The shift is reflected in the pace, something the IDW’s description jokingly alludes to:
No more sci-fi catastrophes for Atomic Robo. This is now a quiet series about the charming antics and sitcom misunderstandings that happen at a boarding school for future Action Scientists. Also, Robo’s hiding a secret AI son in the basement… Bye!
While I have no doubt there will be fantastic sci-fi catastrophes to come, previous volumes have been more action-heavy, sometimes starting in the middle of an action set-piece, whereas AR:DNE‘s first issue is all establishment and compelling dialogue. Robo waxes philosophic with Alan on the history of science, new students start their training under former intern Elizabeth Foley, and recurring Action Scientist Bernard Fischer begins exploring the lava tubes of Jornada Del Muerto.
But something’s wrong with those tubes. Or is something wrong with Bernard? And there are secrets buried beneath Tesladyne’s White Sands bunker facility, ready to be uncovered by curious young minds…
Honestly, it may be a bit slow for kids. If you’re looking to share the Atomic love, start them on some of the more fantastical yarns in the back catalogue (freely available online). And I’ll also admit that if this were a writer I had not read before, I would be less interested. But Clevinger has the chops to bring a plot together and there’s enough ominous foreshadowing to get excited for the next issue.
Let’s see where things go wrong in Robo’s “quiet” new life.