REVIEW: Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Adventures #6

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The problem with a great comic artist like Atomic Robo co-creator Scott Wegener is that as a mere human, he cannot keep up with the avalanche of stories that tumble like a tsunami from writer Brian Clevinger’s pen. Rather than clone Wegener again (allegedly), the solution was to enlist other artist and create a spin-off comic to feature the shorter stories about Robo and his universe. But with increased production, can the same level of quality be maintained with so many cooks in the kitchen? Let’s find out, shall we?

ATOMIC ROBO PRESENTS: REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #6
Writer: Brian Clevinger
Artist: Various
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Colors: Matt Speroni
Editor: Lee Black
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Cover Price: $2.75

Previously in Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Adventures: Atomic Robo is a robot created by Nikola Tesla. Robo fought in WWII, then founded an organization to do science, battle monsters and save the world as often as possible. Having “grown up” in the Depression, fought in WWII and continuing to operate today, Robo is a lot like Captain America in personality, but with a large side of wise-cracking Spider-Man.

HE WAS TURNED TO STEEL, IN THE GREAT MAGNETIC FIELD

This issue is the sixth in a series of anthologies about Atomic Robo and his world. I’ll hit each story separately:

To Kill a Sparrow (drawn by Ryan Cody) is the sixth (of six) part of a story serialized in the previous issues and provides the climax to the tale and wraps things up well. Sparrow is now fully established as an action-hero bad ass. There’s just enough here that you don’t strictly need to read the previous issues to enjoy it. No Robo, though.

Philadelphia Experiment (drawn by Erica Henderson) is less of a story and more of an answer to the question: “if the urban myth about the Philadelphia Experiment were true, what would the government have done about it?” Cool idea but still no Robo. Hellboy will sometimes do short stories like this, more about an idea or feeling than plot or characterization. It can be a nice change-up in an anthology series like this, but I would have liked a little more: a plot twist, a character quirk, a Robo tie-in, or something.

Daedalus Project (drawn by Zack Finfrock) is getting more Robo-like, but no Robo. A group is sent to investigate a mad-sciencey base and mayhem ensues. The team is a generic bunch of grouchy white guys in suits (OK, one is a woman, but that only makes the skirt-suit even more ridiculous as action hero wear). It’s what you get when you try to combine Men in Black with BPRD in four pages. None of the characters stand out and even the robots/clones/explosions are bland compared with the high standards of the Robo-verse.

Leaping Metal Dragon (drawn by John Broglia) is another serialized story, this time with Bruce Lee, that has been about Robo seeking out Lee to help him cope as a robot in a human world. The insight into Robo’s pseudo-humanity in the midst of Kung Fu action perfectly captured what I love about Atomic Robo. The part of the story that we see in this issue is like the coda to the real story—like the part at the end of Star Trek where Kirk restates the moral and McCoy makes a joke at Spock’s expense. It is a cute little tag for the end of the story, but the problem is that I had to wait a month after the important part of the story to read it. Great for the trade but loses its power in the print schedule of a monthly.

Finally, A Bad Case of the Crabs (drawn by Zack Finfrock) is a quick little story that doesn’t do much but does it extremely well. It’s Robo and his fantastic world of adventure interacting and contrasting with normal people…in the context of a robot punching gigantic crabs. This ends the issue strong, giving me exactly what I want from an Atomic Robo comic.

SHARE AND ENJOY

The stories are drawn by four different artist, so the art is all over the place. Not bad, but not the consistent vision of co-creator Scott Wegner who draws the main title. That said, you should be able to find something you like. Ryan Cody uses a lot of blacks and dark colors to capture the darkness and tension of a Nazi interrogation while Erica Henderson goes with black and white to capture a historical, newsreel feel and keep the focus on the dialog. Zack Finfrock’s slightly cartoony style isn’t a perfect fit when he’s depicting serious tension, but is perfect for Robot-on-Crab punching. Finally, John Broglia nails the comic’s look of the 1970’s so well I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he traveled here to the future in time-traveling bell bottoms. (Ask your parents.)

THE BOTTOM LINE: DOMO ARIGATO, MR. ROBOTO

Even when not at its best, the world cannot get enough Atomic Robo. I give Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #6 four stars—if you have never read Atomic Robo before, make it three and a half stars (and hang your head in shame). It’s good on its own and great as the sixth of six issues.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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