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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Atomic Robo
Atomic Robo wiki
Atomic Robo: Last Stop (animated short)
STAPLE!
Daytripper
Morning Glories Volume One: For A Better Future
Dungeon Quest
Recent Books of Interest
Daytripper by Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá (Vertigo)
Daytripper Twin brothers Moon and Bá beautifully recount the life of Brás de Oliva Domingos, crafter of obituaries and son of a world-famous Brazilian writer. The lavishly illustrated chapters relate important epochs of his life, each ending with his untimely and shocking death. Emotionally wrought and expertly told, the lyrical Daytripper breathes new life into the tired slice-of-life format and emerges as one of the best graphic novels of the year.

Morning Glories Volume 1: For A Better Future Written by Nick Spencer Art by Joe Eisma (Image)
Morning Glories Volume 1: For A Better Future A synthesis of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and an Orwellian nightmare, Spencer and Eisma reveal the diabolical realities behind the Morning Glory Academy, a prestigious prep school. Six brilliant students from different backgrounds join the school, encountering all sorts of weirdness: ghosts, torture, mind control experiments, and murder. Spencer deftly relates the teenage pathos and chaos as events unfold. Eisma's clean draftsmanship and realistic rendering ideally bring life to this intriguing story. Much like the above-mentioned Buffy, the creators manage to make the truly terrible palatable and even enjoyable. Morning Glories Volume 1: For A Better Future offers an interesting take on the oft-told tale of teen angst and anguish.

Dungeon Quest, Book One and Book Two by Joe Daly (Fantagrpahics)
Dungeon Quest, Book One
Dungeon Quest, Book Two

Millennium Boy, Steve, Lash Penis, and Nerdgirl grab their weapons and journey on a mystical quest to recover the missing parts of the Altlantean Resonator Guitar and to return the borrowed penis sheath to prophet and poet Bromedes. Using role playing game tropes as a template, Daly, creator of the acclaimed Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, illustrates the often twisted reality of the contemporary slacker with little subtlety but from a fresh perspective. Littered with violence, inappropriate sexual innuendos, misguided bravado and infused with hilarity, Dungeon Quest (of which two 136 page volumes are available) promises a uniquely entertaining graphic novel experience.

The Pulptastic Adventures of Atomic Robo

In 1923 the visionary Nikola Tesla unveiled his greatest invention: Atomic Robo, a robot with automatic intelligence. Over the next eight decades, the metallic marvel along with his allies investigate and battled para- and extra-normal phenomenon. If this is news to you, then clearly you have yet to experience the fascinating creations of Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener.

Published by Red 5 Comics, the duo first introduced their hero in the Eisner award-nominated 2007 six issue series Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne. Writer Clevinger and artist Wegener quickly established the hallmarks of their creation. In the very first adventure, Atomic Robo engages in a clandestine 1938 mission for the US government. After being dropped while hidden inside a bomb casing from a plane high above the Himalayas, Robo confronts Nazis and meets his archnemesis Baron Heinrich Von Helsingard, an evil scientist who, at different times throughout the series, is a brain in a jar, a mechanoid killer, and even undead. Littered with humorous quips and often farcical situations, the lighting fast action recalls the best of the 40s serials and 50s science fiction.

  Atomic Robo: Now, keep in mind that giant ants are impossible, so this whole situation shouldn't even be happening."

Adventurer: Robo?

Atomic Robo: This is just -- you can't have giant bugs. They'd crush themselves.

(Image of giant ant eating a car.) Adventure: But do they know that?

Atomic Robo: Probably not, no.

 

Clevinger and Wegener expertly mix the esoteric and the common. In the brilliant third volume Atomic Robo and the Shadow Beyond Time, H.P. Lovecraft and Charles Fort, former adventurous cohorts of Tesla, meet the youthful Robo. The odd pair require the absent scientist to once again help them defeat "the vast impossible horror of the universe." Apparently the trio encountered the terrible multi-dimensional being back in 1908 at the Tunguska River, Siberia. Fort predicts the alien will reappear later in 1926. Though I doubt he meant exploding a few moments later out of Lovercraft's skull. Throughout the volume in tales set decades apart, Robo encounters the creature. Each story chronicles the ongoing maturity of the robotic scientist and his relationship with his varied and interesting supporting cast.

The cast of Atomic Robo, an entertaining group of ne'er-do-wells, intellectuals, and action heroes, feature both fictional and historical characters combined seamlessly into a cacophony of geeky goodness. Chief among them are Robo's greatest allies: The Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne. Using Tesla's many and varied discoveries, Robo formed the Tesladyne corporation to investigate and confront the odd and unexplained. He handpicks the team of associated scientific adventurers. The lead story of the fourth volume involves a job interview amongst yet another invasion of creatures from the vampire dimension. In another tale, perhaps the only non-scientist in the group, its resident warrior/psycho, and the most popular supporting character from the series, Jenkins joined up with Robo after the hero rescued him from the terrors in the vampire dimension. Other allies include popular astronomer and alien expert Carl Sagan, and the World War II-era female super agent Sparrow.

The legendary enmity between Tesla and Edison transferred unto Robo and continued until the eve of the 21st century. There is the ongoing feud between Robo and world famous theoretical physicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawking, which led to the infamous Martian prank. Dr. Dinosaur, a psychotic, mutated dinosaur who loudly and persistently claims to be a time traveler (but probably not), challenges the metal marvel and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne on several occasions.

  Atomic Robo: No. No you did not travel through time.

Dr. Dinosaur: Of course I did. I'm a genius!

Atomic Robo: But mostly you're insane.

Dr. Dinosaur: Am not!

Atomic Robo: Listen. Let's assume, just for the sake of argument, that time travel is possible.

Dr. Dinosaur: It is!

Atomic Robo: Anyway. The Earth spins at over one thousand miles per hour. It revolves around the sun at sixty-seven thousand miles per hour. The sun orbits the Milky Way at a speed I don't know off the top of my head, but it's huge. The Milky Way hurtles through intergalactic space even faster than that. If you traveled just one second through time, you might still be within the circumference of Pluto's orbit when you die in the cold vacuum of space.

Dr. Dinosaur: Bah! Behold the pulpy fruit of my vastly superior reptilian intelligence! (Image of Dr. Dinosaur firing a machine gun.)

 

Far more than a bunch of clever ideas and witty rejoinders, Clevinger and Wegener use their excessive talents in crafting an original and engaging story that moves beyond its inspirations. Clevinger's often nonlinear scripts and well-timed action combined with intelligent humor propel Atomic Robo beyond your average adventure strip. Wegener's cartoony art serves as the ideal compliment to Clevinger, supplying the near perfect facial expressions and required dynamism.

I'm not alone in my inclinations. There is an Atomic Robo wiki, The Fictory is developing an animated incarnation, and numerous positive reviews abound. Plus, Clevinger and Wegener appear as special guests at the 2011 STAPLE! (March 5-6, Austin TX).

Here's to what I hope to be another eight decades of Atomic Robo excitement!


Atomic Robo, Volume 1 Atomic Robo, Volume 2 Atomic Robo, Volume 3 Atomic Robo, Volume 4


Copyright © 2011 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century. He can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.


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