Well, well…what a pleasant surprise.
After reading my occasionally less-than-flattering review of some issues of Robotika I got my hands on a year or so ago (?) — though I still fear I may not have been sufficiently flattering about the parts that impressed me! — the author/artist, Alex Sheikman, was kind enough to ask me to review the relaunch of Robotika soon to emerge from Archaia Studios, scripted and co-plotted by David Moran, with colours by Joel Chua.
And, what a difference a year or so makes!
I’ll tell you this: it’s truly gorgeous stuff, and it’s all about the framing. The framing, and the close-ups, and the action. Admittedly, the story seems a bit slight at times, and I’m not sure something wouldn’t be lost if the reader wasn’t already familiar with the DIY Heavy Metal mash-up that was Robotika v.1…truthfully, though, it’s hard to care much about that, when pages have as much pop as this. No offence meant to Mr. Moran’s perfectly natural dialoguing skills, but I would imagine I’m feeling his contribution as a scripter much more strongly in a visual sense: Alex’s vastly-grown skill as a storyteller is surely what we have to thank for the pictures, of course…for the wonderful way that stops and starts of time are communicated on the page, and space is cut-up, distorted, cooked at 375 degrees for half an hour and then served nice and piping-hot on a square plate with some sort of hand-made chutney…but as a guy who makes his living by collaboration (and also as a guy who’s been fortunate enough to see a Robotika: For A Few Rubles More script), I have to say: it’s good to have a friend who can put up some proper scaffolding for you, too. It’s good to have a prep cook. Not at all to underrate David’s scripting, as I said: CG sounds natural and also recognizable as herself, and that’s a career in any league…but the main thing’s about pace. And brother is there some good pace here, in fact the pace is the second-most very engaging thing on the page here, and far moreso than what you might find (say) in your average superhero book which — it’s awful to say — is made up by today’s version of the Old Pros. And very good they are on theory, too…
But I think Alex and David could take ’em in an actual dust-up.
There’s some visual verve here. You folks won’t recognize it, I swear. The sputtery start our artist had back in Robotika v. 1, some things a-poppin, others lying a bit flat on the page…it is all full of pop here. And why?
It’s the close-ups.
That’s where the action is; you won’t find a single close-up in this Robotika that doesn’t make you jump, laugh, nod, throw up the Ozzy hands…in fact if the book has a flaw, it’s that the real action is only in the close-ups. Long-view compositions are incredibly static, I would guess by design…because there are very few medium-shots in this book, and it’s by that device that the eye is always being shocked. Everything is framing, did I say that already? The close-ups actually look like they are mere arbitrary segments of a much bigger and more claustrophobic picture, and sometimes the frame is dropped and sometimes it is pushed-in…sometimes it jostles for position with other, nearby frames, and sometimes it seems distended, busting at the seams from the volume of stuff that’s inside it. Of course part of the credit there must go to Joel Chua’s astoundingly peppy colouring…take a bow, Joel! Good Lord, somebody snap this fella up! (uh, hold on, he’s already been snapped, hasn’t he?)…that crowds and charges every panel with a density that’s awful rare…why it’s practically still mooing when it comes to the table. Sixty-four pages, and they all gleam, and not only do you care what happens, you also get that pleasure all-too-elusive these days of caring what’s happening…so let me give this book my highest praise, which is that it caught my interest, and once it caught it held it, and I was not bored, and it was a pleasant half-hour, worth the time spent…
And sometimes I even gasped, or laughed, or threw up the devil-horns.
No, it isn’t up there with the greatest of the great. It isn’t up with what the hypertalents crap out in their sleep, either. But you know what, fuck that shit: these are young guys, working on their craft, and they’re growing by leaps and bounds, and we get to see it. And is it the most pleasantly surprising relaunch I’ve ever seen? Actually it is…because that these guys give a damn about what they’re doing practically bleeds through on every page, and you can’t mistake it. Hey, it actually wasn’t my cup of tea, when you get right down to the brass tacks…!
I loved it, though. Would Buy. Will certainly follow if I get the chance. And I totally want to see this team do a space-opera comic, one of these days. This is a bit of punk rock, here…lotsa energy.
Lots of promise, too.
Out third week of June. Rush thou to the comic-book store, and flip through it on the rack to see if you like it. Well, what higher recommendation is there, than that?
Nice job, fellows. Keep up the good work.