2 out of 5
While I’m 100% positive that Atomic Robo’s fanbase is just growing, which should mean that plenty of people will have very positive things to say about how Brian Clevinger’s and Scott Wegener’s creation has been evolving over the years, the last couple of arcs have been a slow side downward, for me, embellishing elements that are not personally preferred. I noted this with the last storyline as well: that despite a purposeful effort to make AR a series of standalone arcs (which is why numbering of the collected volumes have been retroactively removed), there’s a mixed-message uptick in plot carryover from book to book, which has made Clevinger write in a rather underwhelming, nothing-huge-seems-to-happen fashion – we’re collecting plot threads and kicking them down the road – and that Wegener’s wielding of a pleasingly boxy but energetic art style has been boiled down to something that feels too simplistic. I criticized it as being a thumbnail approach before, and here, it’s very webcomic-y. Not that webcomics can’t have detailed artwork, but as many are focused on weekly output, they often do not, favoring simple silhouettes and spot color backgrounds, and that’s where we are here, as well. Characters fall in to one or two different models, and all have the same cool and bemused expression (and tone to their dialogue, for that matter). Excepting maybe a character who’s return initially made me incredibly excited… until it fell under the weight of the “let me refer back to things that happened before in a casual manner that makes it unclear if you’re supposed to care or not” writing style.
There are things that occur in this volume that, previously, would’ve amounted to breezy fun – vampires; science fiction caves – but here just feel like clutter; B-stories while we’re waiting for an A-story that never happens. And frustratingly, every now and then Brian will deliver a damningly awesome piece of text that exemplifies the ‘common language take on hefty sci-fi / psychological concepts’ that used to make Robo such a standout – a thinking man’s robot-punches-dinosaur comic – see Robo’s many conversations with the ALAN AI he’s raising throughout this volume – but again, it’s then backed up by too many scenes that are rather padded overall. Perhaps not trying to fit everything into a five or six issue arc might help?