‘RoboCop: Citizens Arrest’ is more tragicomic satire than cyberpunk badassery
By Mickey Rivera. 1987’s RoboCop was legendary for its dark humor and epic futuristic violence. A bizarre long-shot idea as far as movie studios are concerned, the movie successfully opened the door to mainstream consumption of dingy cyberpunk action aesthetics. It has been more than 30 years since the movie’s release, and RoboCop is still an unmistakable icon representative of our collective disdain for skeevy corporations and classism.
Taking place 30 years after the events of the first movie, RoboCop: Citizens Arrest revisits Detroit and its corporate overlords. A sleek young tech entrepreneur swoops in to buy Omni Consumer Products (or OCP), and quickly begins development of a mobile crowdsourced policing app that allows the public to report anything they think is or should be illegal (to be investigated and enforced by automated police robots that roam the city and are vaguely reminiscent of old school robot hero ROM).
Murphy, having regained his memories and freed himself from OCP’s control, has moved to a house in the city’s outskirts. However, before he has a chance to build his life back up, a reformed and upgraded OCP police force raids his house and reprograms him. What exactly they’ve done to Murphy is unclear, but he seems to have lost his will and his purpose. Despite being a Detroit celebrity, Murphy sinks into depressed stupor. He’s spotted by a Metro police officer at, of all places, a bar. Five years later, the officer sees Murphy again, this time in his own neighborhood. Taking it upon himself to investigate what happened to the legendary RoboCop, he sneaks into Murphy’s house and faces him one on one.
Writer Brian Wood’s take on RoboCop is more of a tragicomic satire than an action comic, and depending on your personal proclivities this may be great. His portrayal of the down and out RoboCop is both sad and a little funny. The idea of RoboCop getting sloshed at a bar after being stripped of the programming that made him a hero is straight out of Superman III, where the caped crusader drowns his sorrows in Johnny Walker Red. There’s a lot of moments like that in RoboCop: Citizens Arrest. The metrosexual founder of the R/Cop mobile app is a hairy-chested send-up of a stereotypical silicon valley entrepreneur, but R/Cop app itself speaks to real life concerns of privacy and future of surveillance. Elsewhere, we follow the antics of a robotic police officer as he politely beats the daylights out of a random citizen and intimidates little girls.
The dark humor in Citizens Arrest nods at the original RoboCop movie’s pessimistic jabs at consumer culture and labor politics. But Jorge Coelho’s cartoony art style sets off in a different direction than the gritty realism that’s typical of other RoboCop stories, and Doug Garbark’s colors keep things bright. Wood and Coelho aren’t going for a bad-ass story about a bad-ass robot. Our hero, stripped of his heroic programming, unable to so much as touch his trademark pistol, is a shell of his former self. There’s not much room at this juncture for heroics, and so the bitter joke that is RoboCop’s Detroit dominates. It’s not cyperpunk badassery, but it’s entertaining.
Ultimately, if you love the dark humor aspect of RoboCop, and don’t care too much if your Alex Murphy is more Murphy than Robo, you’ll be into Citizens Arrest. It’s a satirical take on our socially bankrupt and mobile world.
Written by Brian Wood.
Illustrated by Jorge Coelho.
Colored by Doug Garbark.
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire.
6.5 out of 10
Check out this five-page preview of ‘RoboCop: Citizens Arrest’ #1, courtesy of BOOM! Studios!