Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Reviewed by: Joe Mossman
There’s no longer any question in my mind (and there shouldn’t be in yours) that Brian Clevinger’s Atomic Robo is awesome. The question is how you like the big guy and his near-encyclopedic world of pop conspiracy theories and varied cast of supporting characters delivered. Do you want it in small, compartmentalized doses, or as one comprehensive feast? In other words, do you like popping Timbits, or do you prefer a big greasy donut?
Real Science Adventures (the first issue of which I reviewed a couple months back) is basically Atomic Robo served Timbit-style. It works like this: regular Robo artist and co-creator Scott Wegener takes a break, allowing guest artists to step in and give life to Clevinger’s writing. Two of the five tales wrap up storylines that began in RSA #1, To Kill a Sparrow, drawn in a moody, high-contrast style by Ryan Cody, and Leaping Metal Dragon, drawn in a much more colorful, high-saturation ‘70s style by John Broglia. What’s interesting is that only two of the shorts, Dragon and A Bad Case of the Crabs (artist: Zack Finfrock) actually feature Robo. Sparrow’s title character is a tough female spy who infiltrates a Nazi base in World War II; Daedalus Project (Zack Finfrock again) is about a group of Men in Black-like, Mulder-and-Scully-ish agents attacking a base full of robot/clone/cyborg/mech things; and Philadelphia Experiment, drawn in black-and-white by Erica Henderson, is about…uh, the Philadelphia Experiment. If somehow you’ve never heard of the Philadelphia Experiment, Google it…it’s pretty spooky. Probably nothing weird really happened…but maybe it did.
These comic shorts are consistently enjoyable, if not as strong as the longer, Robo-focused stuff. I don’t know if I particularly like the overall format of five or six mini-tales instead of one big one (to use another food analogy, they’re little appetizers that just make you hungrier for more meat, more stuffing) but the quality is definitely there. The Philadelphia short is more about exploring that idea of What If… in Clevinger’s signature intelligent, matter-of-fact way. Sparrow is a cool-as-ice female action heroine in the classic Ripley style. And while Daedalus’s black-suited agents don’t have much personality, there is potential gold to be mined from them. The two actual Robo stories carry all of the character’s humour and charm, especially the short-but-sweet A Bad Case of Crabs.
The brevity of the stories is kind of annoying (in a good way, I suppose, in that it only makes you want more) and newcomers to Robo’s universe should probably start with the full issues. Established fans, though, will find a lot to love.