July 19, 2012

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Atomic Robo Presents: Real Science Adventures #2 and #3

 All Stories Written by Brian Clevenger
Illustrated by Various Artists
Red Five Comics

The anthology of short stories featuring Atomic Robo and characters from his vast and imaginative world continue in these two issues of the extremely enjoyable comic from one half of the Robo team.

I'm a sucker for Atomic Robo since I read a FCBD offering a few years ago See, a good issue with an entire story does work, publishers!), and I love anthologies, so it's no surprise that this second title works extremely well for me.  I like that it emulates Marvel Comics Presents, too, in that there are certain stories that are ongoing while others are short one-and-done ideas.  This is not really designed for anyone new to the character, but for those of us who have read all six prior volumes and are chomping at the bit for volume seven to come out monthly, the additional material is extremely welcome.

In issue two, the WW2 adventures of Artemis and Sparrow continue, as a deadly chase ensues that leaves our heroines in a precarious position.  The opening to this story was very strong, but I admit that this chapter reads just a bit too much like filler to get to the next point.  On the other hand, while the Bruce Lee team-up has a more serious tone, its point of the need for Robo to gain patience is a key character moment.  The Robo here is a bit off-model visually, with a greater use of shadow than Scott Wegener applies.

The two one-shots are fun, but don't quite capture the magic of the Dr. Dinosaur story in issue one.  Monster Hunters involves an attempt to get the Yonkers Devil, complete with a Simpsons dialogue Easter Egg and fun, romping action that ends with sinister possibilities.  Clevenger is quite good at hinting at possible future problems for Robo, and I love how he just slips this one in.  The second features Robo at his sarcastic best, as he complains that the ghost of Rasputin (summoned by arch-rival Thomas Edison) has badly-timed the attack--Robo has finals in the morning.  There's a great echo of another geek-cool property as Robo takes down the Mad Russian in the most explosive way possible.


 While issue two was fun, I liked the stories in issue three a lot better. The Artemis and Sparrow opening is a lot stronger, with some great panel work that sets up the bait and switch.  Clevenger does the period dialogue quite well here, using slang without it feeling offensive.  Our Bruce Lee story is also progressing nicely, echoing the idea behind many martial arts movies without feeling like a direct copy.  I love the cheerfulness of Clevenger's Lee, and it makes me wish Lee himself were alive to be the aging mentor in real movies.


Christian Ward wins for weirdest official portrayal of Atomic Robo in the closing story of issue three, giving him a trippy look and feel that's almost Sam Keith-like, but with a better handle on overall anatomy.  The art fits the mental battle that occurs and I thought the conceit of the conflict was ingenious.  


It would have been my favorite, except that the other short is a team up between Nikola Telsa and everyone from Annie Oakley to George Westinghouse, as they battle across the skies in high-stakes aerial action.  The cameos are perfect for the time period, right down to the final one that closes it down.  Moving quickly and as intricately as a Rube Goldberg device (if it were aided by multiple human actors), Clevenger's script is one of his best, aided by animated-style artwork and brightly colored panels.


Atomic Robo Presents:  Real Science Adventures is a great companion book and something I look forward to seeing each month in the weekly comics list.  If you've been hesitating on this one but are a fan of Atomic Robo, don't!  It's every bit as good as the main series and expands the fun into corners that the flagship title cannot go easily.  This series gets my highest recommendation for Robo readers and anyone who just liked good old fashioned fun comics.