A tale of a world in which machines have taken over most human occupations leaving people without a sense of purpose. No Spoilers Ahead
Written by Mark Russell
Illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr.
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Lettered by Steve Wands
In the near future machines have taken over. Seeing humanity as the biggest threat to themselves and the planet, robots are now in charge. Keeping humans content in a mostly meaningless existence that consists of mainly being pets in their own homes and the professions they’re still allowed to hold. At best this agreement is hanging on by a thread.
For as much as the machines claim to be the right ones to run the planet, there are cracks forming as they realize that their lives fall into the same ruts as any human’s. The story moves between a few set pieces. A national talk show hosted by two bots and one human, a family with extremely mixed feelings about their lives with and without their house bot and his life at home and at his job, and some looks at the greater scope of things, like Disney World. All of these ideas and moments come together in an incredibly funny, scary, and thought-provoking satire.
Using parallels to today’s heated politics and social differences, writer Mark Russell (“The Wonder Twins,” “The Flinstones”) crafts a script that is equal parts funny and bleak as hell. Using the talk show Talkin’ Bot as the propaganda machine for this story, we get a good look at how the machines quickly positioned themselves as humanity’s overlords. Not only has it been only a few years, but the control and brain-washing is some complete that most people see it as a blessing, rather than the quiet enslavement it truly is. Presented as an escape from being a cog in the capitalist gears, people are essentially imprisoned in their homes, what few jobs are still open to them, and other designated spaces in which their lives could be unceremoniously ended at any moment. We soon become aware that the lives of most machines isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. Razorball, the home bot of the Walters, feels the damning mundanity of it all. He goes to his job, comes home, and goes right to the garage to do, who knows what.
Russell examines and weaves multiple ideas and story threads that have been used countless times in science fiction over the last century, but twists it all together in an ingenious way. With each turn of the page we are pulling back each layer, searching for the center of this mechanical onion. Seeing the robots slowly begin to realize that they’ve mostly positioned themselves to be in the same place as any human, while having to take care of us is so darkly hilarious. Just like us, they too are afraid of getting replaced with something better. The robots with empathy chips either don’t know how to handle human-like emotions and thoughts, remove the chips, or like most of us, shove their feelings down and get on with their day. The parallels are numerous and so smartly incorporated into the story that you almost don’t realize it’s a jab at the machines and people until the moment is already upon you. The story comments on domestic abuse, police brutality and incompetence, capitalism, gas-lighting on grand political scale, and so-on. Aside from the ingredient of advanced robotics and artificial intelligence this story could be set right now shifting just a few key elements.
To flesh out this Philip K. Dick-ian nightmare is artist Mike Deodato Jr. (“The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Wonder Woman”) with his gritty detailing. This is a living, breathing, clanking future world that isn’t too far off from where we are currently. Sure the planet has been completely destroyed by climate change and we’re stuck living in giant domed city zones, but hey that’s right around the corner. Deodato really dives in to give us every little crack, crease, line in every panel. His character designs look like photographs that have been heavily over-developed. The shadows are over-powering giving everything a look of an inky film covering it all to give us that needed barrier between reality and fiction. The barrier is needed as his work does touch on a level of realism that is nothing short of uncomfortable. It’s all horribly beautiful and I hate it. The panel design in this comic is something to behold and investigate. No matter the scene, every panel is positioned and divvied up into segments, giving every page a voyeuristic point of view. What cameras, or ocular receptors or watching every moment? It’s a design layout that is both in your face and yet moves your eye in a subtle way to keep you injected into the story rather than worrying about the artists are directing you.Continued below
Colors and dark shadows are provided by Lee Loughridge (“Arkham Asylum: Living Hell”). It’s Loughridge’s color work that brings the full uncomfortable realism to the artwork as a whole. His palette captures the repetition, diversity, and randomness of true life. Amidst the heavy shadows and line work of the comic, he balances both a heavy, painted hand, and an oddly lightweight thinness to some colors throughout. It touches on that weird line between fantasy and realism. It’s a look that is becoming more common in many comics for mature readers, again stripping away the security blanket that long time readers may have been unknowingly clinging to for years.
In just twenty one pages, this premiere issue unloads an incredible amount of information and world building. However, the writing is done in a way that readers will quickly use their own beliefs, experiences, and knowledge of fiction, sci-fi and otherwise included as patchwork to fill in the gaps between the lines. We understand these characters and their circumstances no matter who we identify with. “Not All Robots” is a cutting satire that will slice through your id faster than a hairdresser bot accidentally lops off an earlobe.
Final Verdict: 8.5, Whether you laugh or cry; prepare to bow to, and find common ground with, our robot overlords.