Our Underwear 11: The Super-Secret Vengeance of Atomic Robo’s Hell in Russia!

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In which I present the last week in review (aside from bad Marvel “event” stuff) but dispense with the device of numbering the discrete elements of this piece.

Best comic of the week: Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #2 (of 5)

Drop everything!
This cover is by the team that did the interior art. How delightfully novel!

Words: Brian Clevinger    Art: Scott Wegener    Colors: Ronda Pattison    Letters: Jeff Powell    Editing: Lee Black

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Here’s what a fan can find in Atomic Robo: Excellent art, snappy patter, good gags in the minutiae of background details, fidelity – and even fondness – for the world of science (caveat in next paragraph), near-unparalleled action set-pieces, stylistic bravery, and a self-contained universe that builds upon itself exponentially with each volume. I sincerely believe that the world of Atomic Robo is beginning to deserve comparison to Mike Mignola’s universe of [amazon_link id=”1593079109″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Hellboy[/amazon_link] and the [amazon_link id=”1595826726″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]B.P.R.D.[/amazon_link] in its scope and ambition. In fact, the most apt way to describe the Roboverse might be something like, “The Mignolaverse, but with physics and adventure replacing demonology and horror.” And that is HUGE praise.

The premise itself does need a comics-sized suspension of disbelief. It is: Nikola Tesla created a sentient nuclear-powered robot in secret a hundred years ago. Tesla has become THE go-to guy for steampunk sci-fi unlikelihoods. Off the top of my head, he is a deus ex-machina in [amazon_link id=”B000L212HC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Prestige[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1582406057″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Five Fists of Science[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1888963204″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]RASL[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”0785144226″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]S.H.I.E.L.D.[/amazon_link], and this. I think that [amazon_link id=”1888963204″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]RASL[/amazon_link] is the only one that gives him credit for both the [amazon_link id=”B000096IAC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Philadelphia Experiment[/amazon_link] AND the Tunguska Event. What the hell, go with it, Tesla invented sentience a hundred years ago, why not? You’d be a fool to miss this fantastic world but for that. You don’t want to be a fool, so that’s settled.

As this issue opens, our hero – Robo – is falling. Credit the cover with truth in advertising on top of its other virtues. Robo had launched into the stratosphere on a mere seven hours notice in a desperate attempt to save some astronauts… but his craft got creamed by a NASA satellite. So, this:

Robo falls
We've all been there, am I right?

Man. Look at that. The struggle and desperation to live explodes off the page pounds ya right in the viscera until what you have left is a totally pounded-to-hell viscera. Ouch! Do I even need to continue? Last week was a pretty flippin’ good week for comics, and this one was the best. You know what to do.

Best re-issue of the week: [amazon_link id=”B000WOVVC0″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]DC Comics Presents Superman: Secret Identity[/amazon_link]

Secret ID
Now, that is just lovely.

Writer: Kurt Busiek      Artist (pencils, inks, colors): Stuart Immonen      Letters: Todd Klein

On his Twitter feed, Kurt Busiek opines that this is among his very best work. He ain’t wrong, and considering that he has also written [amazon_link id=”1401229840″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Astro City[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”078514286X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Marvels[/amazon_link], and the Avengers’ [amazon_link id=”0785107746″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ultron Unlimited[/amazon_link] storyline, that’s saying something. It’s NOT a tale of Kal-El, the last son of Krypton. It is, instead, the tale of a young man who constantly gets teased with “Superman” references because his parents – name of Kent – misguidedly named him “Clark.” Oh, and when he’s seventeen or so, he becomes an actual superhuman. As J. Jonah Jameson might say, “What are the odds?”

But Busiek rocks the premise from honeymoon to Brigadoon, and Immonen does perhaps the best work of HIS excellent career – yeah, better than [amazon_link id=”0785144617″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.[/amazon_link]  or [amazon_link id=”1603090495″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Moving Pictures[/amazon_link]. The guys inspire each other to heights in this story that is NOT about becoming Superman, but about becoming a man. Except nowhere close to as cheesy as that sentence I just wrote. It’s about friendship and love and trust. And it’s about being a young man and getting captured by the government for the first time, and resenting it.

SID burn
Kind of a 'flames' theme to the images so far, eh? Hey, where's his weiner?

Honestly, I’m an ENORMOUS fan of what DC is doing in their reissues of their most fantastic work of the last two decades in this format, which splits the difference (price-point-wise) between monthly floppies and trade paperbacks. This $7.99 magazine does NOT, as it happens, have the entire series, just the first two issues. You’d never be able to tell. This is a must-own.

Also very good: [amazon_link id=”B005WD4VLO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Russia#2 (of 5)[/amazon_link]

BPRD Russia 2
Cover by Dave Johnson - hot damn tamale, last week was a great week for COVERS too, hanh?

Story: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi      Art: Tyler Crook      Colors: Dave Stewart      Letters: Clem Robins

“Every few years, [Mignola and cohorts do some totally awesome Abe Sapien stuff.] Then, five years later, they drop some huge callback on you letting you know WHY it all happened. ” – Me, 10/5/11.

Abe callback
Nailed it! (Okay, okay, The Abyssal Plain came out June & July of 2010. Still...)

Awesome series, awesome world-building, awesome excuse to toot my horn.

Scarface up there is the boss of Russia’s BPRD analogue. He got the job, so he says, because his having been dead for 40 years makes him a natural for paranormal type stuff. This issue demonstrates that he did NOT get the job because of his people skills. Beyond that, I don’t know what to say – what have you been doing with your life if you aren’t reading BPRD by now? You can’t see it, but now I’m slowly shaking my head in disappointment.

I’m digging this series too: [amazon_link id=”B005VSHFQI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Vengeance #4 (of 6)[/amazon_link]

Loki
Well, Loki there!

The credits are right there on the cover, cut me some slack.

Another lovely cover, this one by Gabrielle Dell’otto, and one that proves that a picture of nothing but a single character – not even so much as a background – can still be quite un-boring. The angle of the shot, facial expression, color choices, the medium itself (looks painted, I’d say) all add up to Something New on this cover. Actually, I dropped the ball this week and don’t have a Boring Cover of the Week, which is too bad, because I’m sure there must have been another cover of SOME comic last week with just a lone figure that just sucked. Wait, I’m being boring. Sorry about that!

This series is interesting – I still don’t know where it’s going, but I sure as hell want to find out. The forces of neutral continue to take on the forces of evil and, this issue, an uncharacteristically malicious Kid Loki – it doesn’t look to me like Joe Casey and Kieron Gillen are on the same wavelength with future Legionnaire Loki-Lad, but that’s no big whoop – he IS the god of chaos and mischief, after all. He’s earned the right to be mercurial.

Hey, I just heard a suspicious noise from downstairs, I’ll be right back.

 

 

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  1. Ahhh, I just hold myself to a ridiculous standard. I’m not doing this to be a comics reviewer – I aim to be a comics CRITIC, that’s a job that comes with a certain obligation to dwell within the world of IDEAS. I gotta add to the conversation, not the small talk, or else I feel I’ve wasted your time.

    Busiek IS pretty great – did you know he and Scott “Zot” McCloud were childhood friends? It is so. Did you know it’s 3 AM and I have to wake up at 6:30 to go to work? FUCK THIS SHIT! G’night, bruvah!

  2. Superman: Secret Identity is great. You are right about it being about “becoming a man”. Being an old fart the last two issues resonated with me the strongest but, yeah, the first two are pretty great. Kurt Busiek is taken for granted by comics fans. I know because I do it too.

    If you keep apologising we may have to make you an honorary Brit.

    My thanks and best wishes to you, sir.

  3. Hello! I’d like to point out to any newcomers here that this column is my WORST post of the eleven I’ve done here BY FAR. The other ten are MUCH funnier and each has far more cogent points as well. I stand behind everything I’ve said here, but I clearly (to me) was writing because I felt like I had to, NOT out of the joy of writing itself. If it helps, I am not wearing pants right now.

    Also, I have no idea why so many of my posts have the tag “container container” on them.