Atomic Robo and the Temple of Od (#1 – 5) – Brian Clevinger

3 out of 5

I am generally pleased with punch with any given AR story.  Every now and then, though, the formula feels a little off.  Even though this is the same team that produced last year’s Ring of Fire (Brian and Scott are the unbreakable duo, and Jeff Powell has been a longtime letterer on the book, but the colorist has flipped a couple times, recently to Anthony Clark), each aspect of the book has some hiccups they prevent it from being a tear-through-the-pages read.  Still some astoundingly hilarious and trademark compressed super sci-fi moments, but a lot of what’s built around that reads / looks like going through the paces somewhat.

We flash back to the late 30s, to what is essentially Robo’s second mission for the government: Rescue a zero-point energy researching physicist.  Which leads to… zero-point energy enabled bad dudes.  There’s a bit of spy work leading up to that confrontation that could’ve dealt with some expansion, but it does connect Robo with a familiar face, which is pretty cool.  Thereafter the story is mostly trying to figure out how to confront said zero-energy dudes, but then they don’t do all that much with the knowledge once obtained.  This isn’t an atypical Clevinger move, to set up a payoff, then deke to something underwhelming (but fitting, and generally humorous), its execution here, though, is part of the going-through-the-motions bit.

This applies to the bad guy – an overpowered mumbo-jumbo spouting crazy, though Clevinger tries to lampshade this (by now) cliche by having Robo comment on it – but even to Clark’s colors, which don’t find much pop in the desert setting, and Wegener’s art, oddly less frenetic than usual.  His timing and choice of shots is usually aces, it was just a hair off beat here.

…And this all seems like a lot of knocks, but the core spirit of the strip is alive and well, and that makes it fun to read, even if its not at its best.  The inclusion of some side-swapping bandits adds some good laugh-out-loud punctuations at points.

Robo is, very purposefully, designed to a formula.  So repetition is built into the shtick.  I’m fully confident there are plenty of great AR stories left to tell, but Od happens to be one of those rare instances where the formula arrives at something just okay.