“Should an intense young man, or a wild-eyed gentleman ever approach you and mention the word “Tunguska”, I want you to shoot them.”

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I didn’t realize my birthday and Christmas arrived on the same day this year, and I was even more surprised to discover that both of these major holidays fell in the last week of April.  Someone must not have told Hallmark about the change, but at least Red 5 remembered to send a gift in the form of Atomic Robo: Shadow Beyond TIme #1.

atomicrobov301cover.jpgIf you have been following the Major Spoilers site for any amount of time, or have been a faithful Major Spoilers Podcast listener (and I know who you are), then you know I fell in love with Atomic Robo from the very first moment when the Tesla created automaton appeared on the page and started talking smack about Stephen Hawking.  While I ran a bit hot and cold on the second series, the first issue of this latest volume looks to be a return to greatness as Brian Clevinger brings two more historical figures into the series.

Being a robot, it comes as no surprise that Atomic Robo would bump into figures throughout time, but what readers know about history suddenly gets turned around into something quite hysterical.   Such is the case when H.P. Lovecraft and Charles Fort come a calling, looking for help from Tesla regarding the 1908 Tunguska incident.

For whatever reason, it seems that anytime Lovecraft comes up in a story, the writer ends up referencing The Horror Out of Space.  It’s a good story, but not the greatest in the Lovecraft library.  In this issue, the story is hinted at, as Tesla, Fort, and Lovecraft attempted to stop an alien invasion by using Tesla’s famous death ray tower to send the creature packing.  In Clevinger’s hand, Fort ends up spinning a fantastic story about how the ray appeared to kill the creature, but was also responsible for the incident in Russia.

Fort (the guy who kicked off research into anomalous phenomena, and where we get the term Fortean from), spent the next 20 years trying to figure out what exactly happened, and unfortunately, discovered the creature was just shifted out of time, and it’s here to destroy the world.  With Tesla out of the picture, it’s up to Fort and Robo to stop the horror.

But what of Lovecraft?  Let’s just say his head kind of explodes into a giant mess of teeth and tentacles – yup, the monster is inside Lovecraft.  This is certainly a different take on the madness that plagued Lovecraft, as instead of dreaming up the weirdness, he lives it out in this story.

Typical of the previous series, there are plenty of references to huge moments in history, features cameos by historical figures, and ties it up nicely with superb humor.  The opening pages of Lovecraft and Fort pounding on Tesla’s door and interacting with Robo are classic as Clevinger quickly develops the two writer’s characters in a side-splitting routine that could have easily been done by Abbott and Costello.

I dinged the previous series for using the same horizontal layout of pages throughout the series, and Scott Wegener continues that approach here, but this time, I don’t mind it as much.  That’s probably because Wegener mixes up the angle and focal length within the frame to make the images come to life.

Fans really waited too long for this new series to arrive, but thankfully it looks like REd 5 Comics have everything under control, as life without Atomic Robo on my pile of must read comics is a really really sad one (even more so than having a stack of must read comics next to the bed).  The well paced writing, art style, character design, and color scheme all come together in this pulpy tale about pulpy characters, earning Atomic Robo: Shadow Beyond Time #1 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

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For those of you who are looking for something completely different, I really think you’ll enjoy Atomic Robo a great deal, and it really deserves to be in the top 10 comics sold for the month.

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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4 Comments

  1. Josh P.
    May 1, 2009 at 6:44 am — Reply

    Did you know that the horizontal 4 panel page is a result of Scott Wegener learning storytelling from storyboarding books? Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

    • May 1, 2009 at 7:06 am — Reply

      I did in fact know that. I believe I mentioned it during one of my previous reviews, and being from a video/film background knew the look.

  2. John I.G. the second
    May 5, 2009 at 9:26 am — Reply

    Story boarding books, hmmm.
    I really would hope this means they’re anticipating movie deals, for awhile I thought he started doing this for the Iphone, but I figured that was unrealistic.

    The thing about this layout, is it’s really good because you don’t notice it, somehow, your eyes keep moving and reading and seeing everything, without noticing that you’re reading big squares. I must say though I liked the smaller more typical layouts in the original series, it sped things up on the page, while slowing down the overal issue, so the tasty goodness would hang around a bit longer.

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