In Review: Atomic Robo: Dawn of a New Era #1

If you're not reading this you're missing out on one of the most wonderful books created.

The cover: A bust of Atomic Robo is looking to the right and splits open down the middle to reveal a cut away of gears, computers, containers, and stairs: his interiors represent the new Tesladyne Institute that constitutes the “Dawn of the New Era” that’s in this series’ title. Robo is his usual blue colors, his interiors are gray with pink and blue highlights, while around the title character are shades of pinks to make his blues pop. A very clever Regular cover by, I’m assuming, Scott Wegener and Shannon Murphy. There’s also a Variant cover by Thom Zahler. This has Robo sitting under an apple tree and an incident occurs that happened to Isaac Newton, although the apple is assisted by someone surprising. This is a very cartoony take on the title character and I love it. I would buy a comic if Zahler was the artist. Overall grades: Both A

The story: At the Tesladyne Institute at Jornada Del Muerto in New Mexico, Robo is looking at some schematics as he’s asked questioned by an AI he’s created. The small box says it has decided on a historical figure to research: Isaac Newton. Having some business topside, he says he’ll swing by the library to pick up a book for the AI. In the sun he comes across Elizabeth Foley, who says she’s up to running the place herself, though what happens behind her shows she might have an issue or two. Meanwhile, the “New Kids” are settling into their quarters: Margot Rajavi, Olivia Mendoza, and Ben O’Maley. They’re wondering what happened to the lights. This leads to a discussion that they were warned about the construction and that the facility was delayed when “a bunch of old Cold War stuff was found.” At the Jornada del Muerto volcano Robo delivers Dahlia, and exoplanet explorer robot, to assist Dr. Bernard Fischer as he explores the volcano on his own. This issue, written by Brian Clevinger, sets up several story possibilities: the AI, the facilities incomplete, what the skills of the New Kids are, what was discovered during the facility’s construction, and what Bernard will find. Clevinger does a good job introducing the New Kids and what their purpose will be at the institute. The characters are built up really well for the reader, with the relationship between Robo and the AI interesting, the New Kids discussing what they expect of the Institute, and Bernard talking to the mute Dahlia. It’s only the first issue, so anything could happen but there are two other threads that seem to be the more important: Bernard’s journey and what is revealed on the last page. I’m so ready for more! Overall grade: A+

The art: Scott Wegener’s art is a style unto itself and is instantly identifiable once seen. I love his visuals. Robo is a slick designed character, with his incredibly expressive eyes, which says much since he has no mouth. Wegener’s style for technology is outstanding. The book opens with a panel showing the institute from the distance and it looks so cool: it’s streamlined and seems incredibly practicable and possible. The second panel introduces Robo at a hand touch screen, and what he’s looking at is a cool tease for the book’s concluding image. The AI is a tiny box that looks just a titch smaller than a computer tower. Its size makes it seem young, which is reinforced by its questions. On Page 2 Foley is introduced and she looks smart and funny with the actions that occur; plus the repetition of two panels of Robo add to the humor. Based on the way they are drawn, Margot comes across as the most optimistic of the New Kids, Olivia is the thinker, and Ben is the strong one. I’m already smiling back at the book every time Margot smiles because she just makes me feel happy when she beams. The vehicle that Robo travels in looks great and the design of Dahlia is excellent: she’s obviously a robot, but she looks as though she could exist and she has a personality. The settings also look terrific: the institute is futuristic, though absolutely possible, and the caves stellar. The outfit that Foley wears on page 14 is fantastic, with the design simple, though with one element that makes it slightly futuristic. The final panel is a WOW! moment for the reveal and the design. The look of Wegener’s art is unique and constantly has one pausing in the reading of the book to examine every inch of the panel, because it just feels as it there’s more just out of sight. It’s a joy to look upon. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Another delight of this book are the colors by Shannon Murphy. The colors on this book are as unique as the artwork. This book is just soothing to look at because of its colors. When I think of New Mexico, I think of harsh colors, but in the first panel when the institute is shown the sky is an ultra blue, the sands are a cool tan, and the institute is a passive gray. It’s not what I expected. Going into Robo’s workshop the colors are violet based to make it a cool temperature, it’s an interior space, and it’s a futuristic color. When Robo speaks his dialogue balloons are a light blue, to show he’s not human, while the AI’s are yellow, visually showing he’s not as advanced as Robo. Foley has got a killer color for her hair that I truly love. When the New Kids are shown on Page 3 Murphy uses beautiful browns and pinks to create the darkness. The cave’s interiors are sumptuous shades of pink. Dahia is an eye catcher with her yellows in this environment. The final panel is the brightest of the book for the amount of whites and grays that increase the technology shown. Murphy is acing this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, AI speech, Robo’s dialogue, dialogue, character identifiers, sounds, and Dahlia’s sounds are created by Jeff Powell. I have to applaud every letterer that differs characters’ dialogue slightly to make them stand apart from humans. Powell makes the AI’s speech look very electronic, while Robo’s is slightly italicized from humans, making it just different enough. The character identifiers for the New Kids are big, making them stand out. I really enjoy when the letters contribute as much to a book’s visuals as the art and colors. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Though Atomic Robo has been around for some time, this is the perfect jumping in point for new readers. All the characters are smoothly introduced and several story threads begun. The visuals are unique and entirely engrossing. The same can also be said of the colors and letters. This is the perfect comic book and if you’re not reading this you’re missing out on one of the most wonderful books created. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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