Today I want to talk about Robotika.
Seemingly alone among Internet commenters, I didn’t like it.
But then, I never liked Heavy Metal much, or Frank Miller’s Ronin either.
To be honest, Robotika confuses me. How can someone not know what their influences are? And yet Robotika seems not to know. I have seen that faceless supreme sexless samurai before, just as I’ve seen the alien/available mercenary woman of the wastes before, who talks in a language that’s easy to understand, but hard to decompose.
And am I the only one who recognizes this?
Well, that amazes me.
Then again, that’s what Archaia is all about, it seems: riffs, and not thinking so hard about them that you spoil the magic. For all the explanations of and enabling details about Robotika‘s world, it’s not an extrapolation but a jump: it’s a universe that our own universe implies, but doesn’t require…it is, in the best tradition of 1980s dystopian adventure, the product of a vacuous shimmer between our world and its, the product of a particular species of imaginative inference. Fantasy, of course, with the trappings of comic-book science fiction. It’s allegory, I guess, or anyway it’s not not allegory. And I’ve seen it a hundred times, I think. Maybe more.
But maybe it knows this: things happen fast in it, refreshingly fast, as fast as an ex-Marvel Jim Starlin story — the samurai buries his holy sword in the floor by the end of issue #1 (which knocked me out, by the way), his brilliantly-covering rice-paddy hat is gone in an accidental stroke in issue #2…he becomes symbolically sexual, and symbolically impotent, and smiles about it (like I wanted Matt Murdock to!) two panels later. And meanwhile we have a new character who eerily mirrors our speechless, sexless, self-destructive master: who’s had his eye removed, and replaced, in a horrible backup-feature scene, but who’s somehow become the long-haired, laughing, apparently freely-emotional favourite character who’s sure to die in an issue or two.
Except, he doesn’t.
Die, that is.
At least, not in the issues I’ve got.
God, I hope he lives, though. And he may: everything is disjointed, here, defeating expectations. It seems the reader is supposed to come on, step up, accept disunity one second after unity has been established, rotate, adapt…but, this is just four issues! How can this world be what it wants to be in so short a time, how can it put us readers through the necessary changes in time to pay off? Well, it won’t do that: one senses the beginnings of a large, large plot, and in backup-features the logic of the world that’ll support it is explicated as much as it perhaps will ever be…although, this being Archaia, one knows there will be more background still…but then, will the extra background be enough to delineate the world, really? This isn’t Artesia; everything is extremely muscular, quick, lugubrious, gestural. We’re not told what the background pattern is supposed to look like. The mercenary-woman is maybe the most talkative of all the characters, the narrator not excepted; but, she says things that are far too complicated, and too dull, to read quickly. A premonition sets in, and it’s not a good one. My advice to the cartoonist is to not translate for our barbarian woman exactly, but have what she says be a simplistic pidgin: because how it is, is frustrating. Everything’s like getting over a big shoulder. I wonder if I will ever be rewarded for it…if I even can ever be rewarded for it…
And then, unexpectedly, that captivating sideways panel! Well, now I’m not sure. Maybe it is a good idea…
Okay, but let’s get analytical. The first thing in this story is a sort of wondering about a climax, which is defeated; the second thing in it is plunging into a world that’s as it is, and accepting it, no matter how bizarre it is…and climax is defeated here as well, even though our infallible samurai most undoubtedly kicks some serious ass. But then, did we really think he wouldn’t? Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter: this is a learn-on-the-fly Miyazaki-model world, as far as one can tell, and the author knows we don’t understand the rules yet. But, we’re understanding something, I think. East, West, North and South…we’re in a classical science-fiction world of compartmentalized qualities, as zodiacal as any Jack Chalker novel, and it seems clear our protagonist is fated to overcome in each zone. But, is that all that’s going on here? Four issues, again: it doesn’t really seem enough, for what our local auteur means to say. And, indeed, it isn’t. Whatever there is that need to get said, must wait on the next four issues.
Or, am I just hopeful?
Or, has the author/artist successfully communicated to me, subliminally, that there’s something shocking coming up?
I haven’t yet addressed the last backup feature, in which we’re strongly invited to wonder about our hero’s origins and responsibilities…but it seems to be of a piece (in a way) with the thrust of the four issues, in that predictably he’s had things stripped away from him. And I guess I’m intrigued by the idea: how much more will he consent to lose, before he gives up absolutely everything? How will he change, and/or stay the same, before the inevitable detonation of his return to his Queen’s palace?
Or, will he return at all? Maybe, just possibly, it’s a different detonation that the author plans…
Well, I don’t really think so, although that would be nice. However, that I even wonder about it means I rate this comic: wait and see.
I don’t think I’d buy more of it…well, my pocketbook is pretty drained with the other Archaia books I’m buying, isn’t it?…but I’d definitely devour my friend’s copy if he bought it, and eight issues down the road…well who knows…?
So on now to The Killer, where I know exactly what I’m supposed to think. And again, I’ve seen this before. But, how much is Archaia knocking me out? Everything they do is something that I’ve seen before, and yet they find a new way to make me care, every time. And here’s a story about a hit-man which would be cold if it wasn’t so feverish…too often even the story about the professional killer is a fantasy story, with the assassin just sprung full-blown from the head of Zeus, just whoever he is, no high-school graduation picture, no old girlfriends…a vacuous jump, if you will, into a tired old plot of toughness and coolness…
This guy’s different, though. I don’t like him. I don’t hate him, either; but I don’t like him. I think I maybe empathize with him a little, although (as no doubt it’s supposed to be) that empathy constitutes an unpleasant jolt…but like is out of the question.
God, I hope this isn’t made into a movie maybe starring Robert Duvall or something. Or Steve Buscemi. Or Charlie Sheen.
It probably will be, though.
Well, good for Archaia in that case, I guess. But I really don’t have much to say about The Killer, except it’s grabbing me. I look forward to his disintegration, like the guy in that old Jack London story about lighting the fire. I just hope he lives long enough to finish telling me what he thinks.
Well, Guy, you knew I wouldn’t have as much to say about these ones as I did about the others, right? I’ve been particularly skinny with The Killer, but the truth is I just like it straight-up, and so what should I say…however I hope to make up for this reticence next time, with my review of Journey Into Mohawk Country…