By Clyde Hall. With Atomic Robo, you always learn something about the real world, and always have fun doing it. Atomic Robo and the Spectre of Tomorrow launches a Robo adventure set in 2017 that remains true to both precepts.
Brian Clevenger is deft at writing characters to life, layered and nuanced, including our mechanized hero. No matter what time in Robo’s life we find him, his basic personality is consistent. In the modern day of this tale, despite his achievements, the tech surrounding him, and world-saving adventures, he’s the same regular guy. Like a robotic and slightly salty Tom Hanks.
In response to new and ongoing threats that surfaced during a period of his absence, Robo is establishing his new Tesladyne Institute in the badlands of New Mexico. With construction behind schedule and toilets that don’t work, his Action Science Team faces their own challenges in the relocation. It’s a solid image of Tesladyne’s realigning with the 21st century, roadblocks included.
Bureaucratic roadblocks, mostly, and this time not just the secret government cabals or politicos with agendas. Instead, the threat that lives next door raises its ugly head, instead: HOA. As a concept, it breathes. How often have we faced formidable struggles like a serious health threat, or a career-changing work crisis? And how many times as we navigate those dangerous waters with care and determination are we blindsided by a neighbor complaint that our grass is too tall? Or do we discover our license plates are expired? During great personal battles, the little things provide the worst hurdles. The same is true for Robo.
There are several interactions between an Intern returning from a successful, world-saving mission who finds her Tesladyne colleagues either too busy with their own projects, too upset with building contractors, or too oblivious to grasp that she now considers herself one of Them. Anyone in the work force can commiserate with her situation; ours just likely aren’t as funny as hers.
We are also treated to the fortunes of a former Tesladyne employee trying to engage in scientific pursuits and solutions, only without all the action. It’s an interesting scene, and rings true. Atomic Robo Action Science might not be the venue for all who seek to make the world a better place. But the door is open for her to return, and it looks like she may be dragged through it before the series ends, quoting Michael Corleone all the way: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”
Spectre of Tomorrow #1 is a building issue, not an action extravaganza. I expect this; Robo story chapters don’t always drop the reader directly into a fray. They court patience to set up the Big Bad before our hero goes after it full tilt. That said, this issue would not lend itself well as a jumping-on-point for new readers. There is a very brief ‘Where the Story Is Now’ intro, but overall, it’s taken for granted you’re a returning reader. But if you are a reader who has come back for more, you’ll find that Atomic Robo has provided a warm welcome.
Written by Brian Clevinger.
Art by Scott Wegener.
Colors by Anthony Clark.
Letters and design by Jeff Powell.
7.5 out of 10