Vandroid #4 (of 5) Review
A good-looking story, in a retro 'Heavy Metal' vein.
Murder as motivation and some ugly retro gender politics.
An attempt to save a kidnapped friend, the machine/man known as Vandroid has been captured by the nefarious R&D Gang. Can he bust out before they wipe his drives? Your Major Spoilers review of Vandroid #4 awaits!
Writer: Tommy Lee Edwards and Noah Smith
Artist: Dan McDaid
Colorist: Melissa Edwards
Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Daniel Chabon and Jeffrey Mariotte
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Vandroid: “To secure more trioxidyne themide, Vandroid deletes a gang of crazy barbarian bikers with extreme prejudice. Back in Chuck’s garage, he discovers a trio of unfinished robot babes called the Vanettes, along with more data on his past… or lack thereof. While putting the finishing nuts and bolts into his sexy new teammates, Vandroid gets a call from Keener, who’s been taken hostage by Dick Daniels and the R&D Gang. Now, they might just wipe our hero’s hard-drive…”
VERY 80s HEAVY METAL (IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE)
When Rodrigo first reviewed Vandroid for the Major Spoilers Podcast a couple of months ago, I knew it was something right up my alley. The comic purports to be an adaptation of a lost 70s action flick, but feels very early 80s to me, with a peculiar Messiah allegory at its center. Vandroid is an artificial intelligence, created in the image of his creator, Chuck, after being betrayed by his own friends in the name of the almighty buck, and as this issue opens, he is in the hands of his worst enemies, who have wiped his disks clean and prepared to reboot him for their evil bidding. Things go quickly wrong for the R&D Gang, though, as Vandroid’s boot disk kicks in, and his original programming brings him back to consciousness. “Greeting and salutations, peckerwood!” cries the cybernetic hero, as he leaps into action with a little swift and blinding violence. As he makes his escape, Vandroid is pleased and surprised to find his own van roaring in to extract him from enemy custody, thanks to girlfriend Crystal and the Vanettes. Once home, our hero is once again surprised to find that Crystal knows the truth about Chuck’s death and Vandroid’s existence as cybernetic copy, but she considers him a miracle who has returned her beloved to her after death…
THEN THE PLOT WENT WRONG
There’s a lot to process in any issue of Vandroid, and this one is no exception, but thanks to Dan McDaid’s art, it’s a very interesting ride. Vandroid himself is a hulking rounded things straight out of a Richard Corben story, while Crystal is a lovely vision (as are the Vanettes, though they get no lines and serve mostly as set dressing here.) Many bits and pieces are in play in the second half of the tale, as an old friend returns with a big gun, Vandroid’s perfume-drinking gets analyzed and Big V discovers that R&D were able to copy his hard drive, and now know everything there is to know about his specifications. There is one big moment that I don’t care for in the issue, as Crystal loses her life in a crossfire (immediately after bedding Vandroid and declaring that she loves him), making for an awkward note in a comic that’s otherwise pretty interesting. As the issue fades to black, we’re setup for a big climactic fight scene to wrap up our “movie”, while Vandroid prepares for revenge on the man who was Chuck’s best friend and the company that murdered him. It’s a climax that I want to read, but not as much as I want to read more of the supplementary material that backs up the story, an investigation into the making of the ‘Vandroid’ film, which describes the making of the doomed feature and the tortured production process that eventually torpedoed the flick. I really hope that there’s a TPB, so that I can read more of that, as well.
THE BOTTOM LINE: LIKE ROGER CORMAN’S MACHINE MAN
It’s a quirky comic, reminding me of the best of 80s black-and-white boom, but with a peculiar sensibility about it, combining cyberpunk with muscle car grindhouse movies, and (mostly) nailing the landing. While I’m not thrilled with Crystal’s murder as a plot point, I’d be a little bit more accepting if the other female characters in the book were more than just cyborg eye-candy. Still, Vandroid #4 does keep up the central conceit, and makes its bemulleted main character sympathetic and fearsome all at once, and McDaid’s art is fun throughout the issue, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. I like the elements of throwback exploitation movie, and enjoy how well they coalesce into a unique and bizarre story, even with portions that troubled me…