Gizmo (#1 – 6) – Michael Dooney

3 out of 5

You know that friend who’s occasionally kinda cringey, who occasionally says the wrong thing, but who is ultimately such a nice person that you’re generally okay with these hiccups, and like being around them? Gizmo is that, in comic book form.

Dooney has art chops, clear from his contributions at the time to TMNT – a slightly more bubbly, but also “refined” version of the Heavy Metal / indie stylings of Eastman and Laird – and underlined further by his first solo book, Gizmo, as the artist was allowed to break out and indulge in his sci-fi / robot topical / subject tendencies, giving us really great character designs and a consistent line-up of fun settings and kooky ideas. But without some layout guidance, his page flow tends to suffer from over-crowding and a lack of clarity: we ping around between these ideas and scenes somewhat haphazardly, and action sequences tend to be hiccuppy, and crowded. Gizmo is also a “visuals first” story approach, stemming firstly from needing a justification for having humanoid robot Giz and his teddy bear partner fluffy flitting around in their talking spaceship, ‘Soto – I’m not sure we ever really get that justification, frankly – and then issue-by-issue reasonings for something else Dooney might want to draw. That’s not to say some of these stories didn’t arrive in the artist’s mind as semi-formed plots, just that it was probably hard to extricate that from “what do I want to draw?”, leading to adventures that are always interesting, and definitely inventive, but maybe not super well told. Generally speaking, Giz and Fluffy get involved in some confusion and have to laser-blast their way out, but that gets some spins: they help a crash-landed race fix their ship; get mixued up in a Space Ghost pastiche; are caught in a Wizard of Oz fantasy. And as Dooney gets more used to the book, the effectiveness of how the stories are told grows in all aspects: the artistry is better balanced; the plot vs. art divide becomes more seamless; even the lettering gets a lot better.

But it’s all still a little goofy, and trying-its-best, and occasionally makes you smile and roll your eyes a bit.