In Review: Atomic Robo: Dawn of a New Era #3

A kidnapping underground, vampires, and a past threat returns to cause trouble for the Action Scientists!

The covers: Bernie looks as though he’s having a blast as he rides atop Dahlia. The look of joy on his face is infectious. And who wouldn’t feel the same if they were riding on a a futuristic robot in a lava tube? Pinks are heavy on this cover for the background and it’s the perfect color to make the doctor and his robot stand out. Pink isn’t used often for futuristic books, but it works superbly here. The artwork isn’t credited to anyone in the credits, so I’m going to assume it’s by interior artist Scott Wegener and interior colorist Shannon Murphy. Both have done an outstanding job. Overall grade: A+ 

The story: Dr. Bernard Fischer is trapped in an extinct lava tube and might be losing his mind. He wonders if he’s not lost in a spacetime loop like on Star Trek. He touches a side of the tube and a strong light emerges from it. Looking up he sees part of the ceiling’s rocky structure levitating. “This can’t be happening.” Glowing white pebbles fly about him. He realizes the lava tubes are millions of years old. That’s when a rocky hand emerges from the wall. It grabs him by the chest and pulls him in. He struggles, but cannot free himself from the strength of the creature. Both emerge in a different corridor with the rocky humanoid carrying Fischer. Meanwhile at Los Alamos National Lab, vampires have taken over the control room. Vik tells Lang to shut the door just as one of the large creatures rushes it. Infuriated, Vik pulls a fire ax from the wall to use against them. The pair are soon overwhelmed by the creatures and that’s when a familiar character appears. Writer Brian Cleveinger then moves to the new kids who are hatching a plan. There’s a quick check in with Robo’s son, who is getting answers from his father that could spell trouble in the immediate future. The arrival of the vampires and who saves Lang and Vik has Robo explaining how things have changed with this organization and that doesn’t make someone happy. The final three pages return to Bernie, who learns who has him, why it has him, and what its plans are. Wow! There’s a lot going on in this issue and its seems to be smacking the Action Scientists of the Tesladyne Institute around. I like the threat above and below ground and I like how Robo has to explain how things now work to the returning character. I like the humor, the action, and the characters in this tale, making it incredibly enjoyable. Overall grade: A+

The art: Scott Wegener’s art is always a blast to see. The first page makes Bernie’s trek underground neat with the personality of the scientist standing out by his joyful demeanor, but once the rocks wall emits a blast of energy that happiness is lost to things that shouldn’t be occurring. I love his jaw in the fifth panel on the opening page that shows his shock. The arm that reaches out to snare him is frightening and the two panels that show him being pulled into the rock startling. His emergence on the other side of the all begins comically, but takes a turn to the dramatic when his kidnapper is shown; note: I like how Wegener tilts the fifth panel on the third page to show how this creature has upended Bernie’s world. The sequence of events on Page 4 is funny; it should be deadly serious, but the second through fourth panels have a lot of humor. Lang is ready to kick some butt once she grabs that ax and she looks great! When the blood suckers emerge it’s like a wave onto the heroes and it looks epic. The final panel on 6 is a stunner and it’s really powerful. The new kids continue to win me over with just a glance shared among them. Robo’s son has a fantastic design, looking more modern than his father, but by having him wear a tee shirt the character is cemented as a teenager. And check out the cool way Robo answers a call — so clever! Pages 16 – 19 consist of a scene where the characters have to give information to one another. This could have wound up a boring taking heads scene, but Wegener moves the point of view around enough to keep the visuals interesting and when one character gets angry at what’s being said the tension increases due to the characters’ stance, such is in Page 18’s fourth and fifth panels and on 19’s third. The look of loss in the fourth panel on 19 is great and I was glad there was no dialogue; Wegener communicates this emotion perfectly. The reveal in the last panels on the page is cute and funny. The design of the taller character on 20 is awesome; it’s simple, but comes across as otherworldly, with the head being creepy-cool. The final page has a dramatic visual change that could end the quiet moments this series has had. Overall grade: A+

The colors: In addition to the artwork looking sharp, the colors on this book by Shannon Murphy are unlike any others in comics. The pinks and violets of the first three pages are an unusual choice for an underground chamber, but they give the setting a quirky feel that one could only find it they were a scientist. The reds that begin Page 4 tell the reader that things are dangerously wrong in the lab. Having the heroes dressed in greens and violets allows them to stand out against the white setting and the browns of the vampires. I also like how the vampires’ blood isn’t red, but violet, enhancing their supernatural tone. Clothing colors also allow Robo and his son to stand out in the clean light blue lab his child inhabits. I also like how Robo’s dialogue balloon is light blue and his son’s is light yellow, separating the pair from others. One key panel on page 13 has the background receive a harsh yellow when the child asks his father a seemingly innocent question. This could be some major foreshadowing. When the individual on the final three pages speaks, her dialogue balloons are given several pink shades to make them represent the setting. Very smart. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Jeff Powell’s work on this issue consists of dialogue, sounds, whispered dialogue, scene settings, Robo dialogue, and his son’s speech. The sounds are perfect matches for the actions occurring, with WHUNK and WOK! being my favorites. The scene settings are unique in that they are slightly stretched capital letters, looking like a font a scientist would use to mark something important. My favorite work by Powell in this issue is Robo and his son’s dialogue. Robo’s speech is in italics, a common way to communicate a mechanical sound to the reader, while his son is in a much more modern computerized font, which shows him to be more up to date than his dad. It’s a little thing, but it instantly creates character for the reader. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A kidnapping underground, vampires, and a past threat returns to cause trouble for the Action Scientists! This story is fanciful, scary, fun, and full of so much heart. I love these characters and their interactions with one another only increase my love of them. Even when encountering the improbable they rise to the occasion with a joy in what they do. The artwork is some of the best in comics today, with a style that’s unlike anything else on the market, making the fanciful nature of the science involved soar. The colors are even a joy: unlikely shades that up the spirit of this series considerably. This is a wonderful book that will make you smile as you thrill to these characters’ adventures. Absolutely recommended. 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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